It’s been eight years since Seattle made it to the Super Bowl. While that may feel like eons for the average fan, it’s not that bad, especially when you compare that waiting time to what some of the other teams around the league have been dealing with.
In their own division, Seattle doesn’t even have the longest wait of all time. Arizona took 42 years to make it to their first Super Bowl in 2008. They have been a part of the NFL since the 1930s and were an established team when the first Super Bowl took place in 1966. Seattle waited 29 years for their first Super Bowl, second in the division. San Francisco waited 15 years for their first Super Bowl, Los Angeles waited 13 years. Los Angeles has the longest gap between Super Bowl appearances at 20 years between their first appearance in 1979 and their second in 1999. San Francisco is second, waiting 18 years between their fifth appearance in 1994 and their 6th in 2012. Seattle’s longest gap between appearances is currently 8 years, while Arizona’s is currently 14 years.
Outside the division, things get a little bleaker.
The Jets haven’t returned to the Super Bowl in 54 years, not since their league-altering victory in Super Bowl III. They have been back to the conference championship game four times since (1982, 1998, 2009, 2010) but went home in defeat all four times. The Chiefs went to Super Bowls one and three in 1966 and 1969 and didn’t get back for 50 years when they won the 2019 Super Bowl.
The Titans and Chargers appeared in one Super Bowl in the 1990s but have not made a return trip yet. The Chargers got back to the AFC Championship game in 2007 but did not advance to the Super Bowl. The Titans made it back to the AFC Championship game in 2002 and 2019 but lost both chances to get back to the Super Bowl. It’s been 28 years for the Chargers and 23 years for the Titans.
Las Vegas (2002), Dallas (1995), and Buffalo (1993) all have been waiting at least 20 years for their next trip. It’s been at least 30 years since Minnesota (1976), Miami (1984), and Washington (1983) have made an appearance. Cincinnati just completed a 33-year round trip, appearing in their second Super Bowl in 1988 before finally making it back in 2021.
Consider this – there are 32 teams in the NFL, and 28 of them have appeared in the Super Bowl. There are four teams (Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, and Jacksonville) who have never made it that far. Cleveland and Jacksonville have both played in a conference championship game, while Houston and Detroit hope to make it that far one day. Seattle once went 22 years between conference championship games, and it took them 29 years between their first game in 1976 and their first chance at a Super Bowl in 2005.
Going back to Super Bowl One in 1967, the average gap for teams to make it to the Super Bowl and return is 10.7 years. So if Seattle makes it in the next two years, they will be ahead of schedule. Getting there is half the battle, and if a team loses, it could be a decade or more before they get back. Seattle lost in 2005 and made it back eight years later, and made it back again the following year. They are in year eight now, so they are still doing better than the majority of the other teams out there. It stings to wait so long for another chance, but they have had pretty favorable opportunities, making it to three Super Bowls in nine years between 2005 and 2014. A fourth trip inside 20 years might be nice, but it could also be a tad unrealistic.
Complicating matters for Seattle is their tendency to hover in the early rounds of the playoffs in years they don’t make it to the Super Bowl.
After their loss in the Super Bowl in February of 2006, they did not make it past the divisional round of the playoffs until their Super Bowl run in 2013. Seattle has only appeared in four conference championship games in their history – 1983, 2005, 2013, and 2014. Their first championship game in 1983 was in the AFC, so Seattle has not made it to the conference championship in the NFC unless they advance to the Super Bowl. That’s impressive, but let’s hope the current drought does not advance past eight years, even if it doesn’t mean a Super Bowl berth.
Seven years after their defeat in their first Super Bowl appearance following the 2005 season, Seattle was on the road to being a contender again. The year was 2012, and they had the pieces in place to go from one of the worst teams in 2011 to one of the best in 2013. It would all come to a head in February of 2014 as they won their first championship in one of the most lopsided Super Bowls ever. They would return to the NFL’s biggest game again in February of 2015, but they lost a one-score game. They have not made it past the divisional round of the playoffs since.
The 2005 and 2014 teams were eerily similar in both roster construction and what happened shortly after. The 2005 team lost in the divisional round the next two seasons, missed the playoffs in 2008 and 2009, had a wild victory over the defending champion Saints in 2010 and missed the playoffs again in 2011. The team was broken up in 2011, and the rebuild was on.
The 2014 team lost in the divisional round the next two seasons, missed the playoffs in 2017, lost in the wild card round in 2018, advanced to the divisional round in 2019, lost in the wild card round in 2020, and missed the playoffs in 2021. This brings us to the present and unknown territory. Seattle is eight years removed from their last conference championship game, but they are coming off a losing season, and they have never made it to the playoffs, let alone advanced beyond the divisional round the following year after posting a losing record the season prior.
When the team decided to press the self-destruct button in 2009, it took three years to get back to the playoffs. Most rebuilds take a minimum of three years, and Seattle was right on track. They even had a Super Bowl championship in year four and a chance at another in year five. What has happened since has been equally entertaining and frustrating for fans who expected the team to get back to the Super Bowl in a few years after getting to two in back-to-back years.
Dynasties tend to get to at least three Super Bowls in ten years, and Seattle accomplished that, making it to three in nine years. What they do now could be uncharted territory only the New England Patriots have accomplished, with a dynasty spanning multiple decades. But we might be getting ahead of ourselves; Tom Brady never went more than four years between appearances. That’s not a fair expectation since Brady is the most decorated QB of all time, but that’s the expectation regardless. Get to the Super Bowl within a few years, and get back within another few. Most teams and players cannot support those expectations, and we’ll see if Rusell Wilson and Seattle will be any different.