SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Every year the Super Bowl hangover gets brought up to the team that lost out on the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And every year it gets pointed out how teams rarely get back to the big game.
Only eight teams in NFL history have gone back to the Super Bowl the season after losing it, and just three have won it.
Which confirms the idea: Winning the Super Bowl is hard whether you played in the game last season or not.
That's also why only eight teams have ever won back-to-back Super Bowls, including four times before 1980 when teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers all had dynastic runs.
A repeat champion hasn't happened since 2004, when the New England Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles the year after outlasting the Carolina Panthers. The current gap between back-to-back winners is the longest in league history.
So, Patrick Mahomes, are you worried 46 of the 54 winners of the Super Bowl didn't win it the year before? And the last time there was a repeat champion you were 8 years old?
Of course he isn't.
He just won a Super Bowl and the Kansas City Chiefs have as good a shot as anyone to win it in 2020. And the same could be said about the 49ers, who are returning 18 of 22 starters and didn't lose any of their coordinators from last season's runner-up (though secondary coach Joe Woods will be a tough act to follow).
Point being: the Super Bowl hangover isn't something NFL teams are concerned with, and it doesn't sound like it's a big deal in Santa Clara ahead of the new season.
The 49ers have been dealt bigger obstacles, like trying to get back to elite form despite having a truncated offseason that included the cancellation of the offseason program and holding just 14 padded training camp practices and zero preseason games.
Out of concern for the pandemic, many players have isolated themselves from their family members, including Richard Sherman, Raheem Mostert, Laken Tomlinson and Tevin Coleman, who considered opting out. Players, like much of the general public, have been confined to their homes or the team hotel.
But it hasn't dulled the excitement for the new season and the team's chance at redemption from the fourth-quarter collapse to the Chiefs. "Unfinished business" is becoming the tag line heading into the year.
"That's our motto and that's what we believe in," Mostert said Monday. "But at the same time, we're looking Week 1 against the Cardinals. That's our main objective right now."
Many 49ers players have mentioned the intensity of walk-throughs during the ramp-up period before practices could even began. New left tackle Trent Williams laughed when asked about the intensity of walk-through sessions: "I say it was (like) a game."
The challenge for any team with long-term goals is avoiding the immediate task. This week, the 49ers open the season against the Arizona Cardinals, who finished last in the NFC West in 2019 but have a potential star quarterback in Kyler Murray, who gave the 49ers fits as a rookie, and added star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
"We can't necessarily get ahead because as soon as soon as you start getting ahead, that's when you lose focus and lose sight of the actual goal is, to win the championship," Mostert said.
Added Tomlinson: "We understand that there is no chance to get there unless we win. We have to win this game (each week). The only thing that matters right now is this game. Everybody feels the same way about that."
Mostert said he recently had a one-on-one conversation with head coach Kyle Shanahan, who picked his brain about the morale of the team. Shanahan showed players film of the Super Bowl during camp, but the "unfinished business" motif is coming from the players.
"I said, 'Coach, look, honestly, our whole thing is we want to get back there. ... You just draw those plays up, be a great coach like you've been doing, and we're going to take this thing a long way again. We're here for the ride,' " Mostert said. "He looked at me and said, 'Yeah, we're definitely in this, the coaches feel the same way.' "
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