The Rams’ Super Bowl hangover: How Los Angeles’ 2022 record compares to worst seasons by a defending champion

The Rams‘ Super Bowl hangover: How Los Angeles’ 2022 record compares to worst seasons by a defending champion

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The Rams’ competitive window never looked particularly wide open. Los Angeles went all-out in recent years, trading away a myriad of draft picks for experienced veterans like Matthew Stafford to capitalize on a chance to make a run at the Super Bowl.

And it paid off. The Rams defeated the Bengals in Super Bowl 56 to claim the second title in franchise history. And with preseason odds of +1120, according to Pro Football Reference, it looked like Los Angeles could be in a good position to make a run at repeating with this veteran core for another year.

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That window has closed, at least for the repeat efforts. The Rams dropped a 24-12 game against the Packers in Week 15, falling to 4-10 on the year with three games left in the season. The loss officially eliminated Los Angeles from playoff contention.

Winning back-to-back Super Bowls is among the more difficult achievements in sports. Only eight teams have accomplished the feat. But it’s one thing to miss the Super Bowl as a reigning champion and another thing altogether to miss the playoffs entirely.

MORE: 2022 NFL Power Rankings: Reviewing all 32 teams after Week 10

How rare is the Rams’ dreadful 2022 campaign? The Sporting News takes a look at some of the worst seasons after winning the Super Bowl.

Worst follow-up seasons for Super Bowl winners

The Rams’ 2022 performance is an outlier compared to past reigning champions.

Dating back to the merger, there have been 42 reigning Super Bowl champions that had a winning season the next year. Only six had losing seasons and only four broke even at .500.

The Rams’ slow start made it seven losing seasons for reigning champions. But that’s not all. The 4-10 record for the Rams through 14 games is by far the worst record ever for a reigning champion, and one more loss would clinch the worst season for a reigning champion by total losses. Two more losses would be needed to make it the worst season by winning percentage.

Here’s a look at the all-time worst seasons by reigning Super Bowl champions:

Super Bowl seasonTeamNext season record
2021Rams4-10 (.286)
198149ers3-6 (.333)*
1998Broncos6-10 (.375)
2002Buccaneers7-9 (.438)
1987Redskins7-9 (.438)
1980Raiders7-9 (.438)

*1981 was a strike-shortened season

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The 1982 49ers had the worst-ever season for a reigning champion by winning percentage with a 3-6 record after beating the Bengals in Super Bowl 16. However, the season was shortened to nine games by a strike.

The Broncos set the record for the most losses by a reigning champion, but they had some issues the next season that led to the poor season. Denver sustained major personnel losses with the retirement of John Elway, a season-ending ACL tear to leading rusher Terrell Davis four games into the season and an injury to star tight end Shannon Sharpe. As a result, the hampered offense ranked 18th in points scored and 14th in total yards.

The rest of the teams that ended their follow-up season with a losing record finished just a game under .500.

The Rams have certainly had their own injury woes, as Stafford hasn’t played since Week 11, and Cooper Kupp has been out since Week 10. The offensive line has been a near-constant revolving door of different lineups and the running game has never gotten going.

However, even by Week 11, the Rams were already looking to be well out of the playoff picture, sitting at a 3-7 record.

Can the Rams make the playoffs?

The loss to the Packers officially eliminated the Rams from any chance of reaching the playoffs. It marked only the 16th time a reigning Super Bowl champion missed the postseason.

There is also room for more history with how this season has unfolded. Assuming the Bengals, who are a win or Jets loss away from clinching the playoffs, secure their bid to return to the playoffs, it will be only the 11th time in NFL history the champion misses the playoffs and the loser makes it back.

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