As a research exercise, I decided to compile playoff appearances from across the league for the decade 2010-2019. Here’s the breakdown. The teams in bold won the Super Bowl. The teams italicized lost the Super Bowl. And some, you’ll notice, did both.
8: Seahawks, Packers
6: Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Saints
5: Broncos, Bengals, Colts, Eagles, Falcons
4: Panthers, Vikings, 49ers
3: Lions, Cowboys
2: Bears, Rams, Cardinals, Washington Football Team, Bills, Chargers, Titans, Giants
1: Jaguars, Raiders, Dolphins, Jets
0: Bucs, Browns
Thoughts on the numbers:
- 13 teams made the postseason five or more times in this ten-year span. They won nine Super Bowls, with the Pats taking three. This league is about sustained success – getting into the tournament as often as you can and then getting hot in January.
- The only team to appear in the postseason less than five times this decade and win it all were the 2011 Giants at the backend of the Eli Manning success train. This team also won it all from a wildcard spot. But there is no weirder team in NFL history than the Giants under Tom Coughlin and Eli.
- The storylines are something to consider when looking at these numbers.
- The Texans have six appearances but often they found themselves barely winning a terrible AFC South.
- The Saints failed to reach a Super Bowl during this period but suffered several gut-punching, borderline-impossible losses in the postseason. (The Saints are proof that it’s hard to NOT get the Super Bowl when you’re in the playoffs this often.)
- No theory is 100% provable in the NFL but it’s pretty easy to discern that consistency from the quarterback position equals consistently being in the tournament. Of the 19 teams that made the postseason three times or less over the decade, only one – the Lions – had stable quarterback play over that entire period. (It’s what makes Detroit’s failures under Matthew Stafford so depressing for their fans.)
- It’s not news but Marvin Lewis was just a bad playoff coach. You can understand why the organization hung onto him for as long as they did. But you can also understand why they ultimately had to say goodbye.
- The teams at 4 playoff appearances are a clear line of demarcation. They are teams that have pieced together the quarterback position over the decade. They are proof that you don’t necessarily need a frontline QB to be a good franchise but you’ll need one to climb above that level.
What’s the Point?
Winning Super Bowls is terribly hard.
Getting into the tournament as often as possible is the only surefire way to increase your likelihood of winning one.
Getting solid, consistent play at quarterback is the clearest path to playing football in January yearly.
Everything the Bears do this off-season must be directed towards this goal. Get the quarterback. Get relevant.