Third time the charm for Rex Ryan and the NY Jets? Don’t Count on it

History shows that the chances are slim for a pro football team to make a third consecutive conference championship game. After the New York Jets made it to two consecutive AFC championship games, I wrote about how slim their chances were. Turned out I was correct.

My article from 2011 was originally published at:
If you haven’t heard by now, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan has, yet again, gone on record saying that the Jets will win the Super Bowl.

For the past two seasons, the Jets have been on the doorstep of the Super Bowl, losing in the AFC Championship game in 2010 to the Indianapolis Colts and in 2011 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There have been quite a few teams over the years that have been “knocking on the door” of the Super Bowl one year and then “banging on that door” the next, but failed “to kick the dang thing in.”

Just ask Bum Phillips, although Bum said it with a bit more color. Phillips’ Houston Oilers teams of 1978 and 1979 may have been denied a Lombardi trophy, or perhaps two, as they lost consecutive AFC championship games to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Cleveland Browns, under Marty Schottenheimer, lost back-to-back AFC title games in 1987 and 1988 in heartbreaking fashion to John Elway and the Denver Broncos in games that became known as The Drive and The Fumble. Two years later, Cleveland again made it to the AFC Championship Game in 1990, only to lose to the Broncos again.

The Browns haven’t been that far since.

Don Coryell’s high scoring San Diego Chargers teams of 1980 and 1981 made back-to-back AFC title games, losing to the Oakland Raiders and then the Cincinnati Bengals. Coryell never got that far again.

The 1970 and 1971 San Francisco 49ers knew Super Bowl doorstep frustration, losing consecutive NFC Championship Games to the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers wouldn’t return to the NFC title game for a decade. Then coach Bill Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana led the Niners past the Dallas Cowboys in 1982 in the game that became known as The Catch.

In fact, it’s not unusual for a team to lose three consecutive conference title games. The Oakland Raiders lost three consecutive AFC Championship Games in 1974, 1975 and 1976 before finally winning one and making it to the Super Bowl.

The Los Angeles Rams teams lost three straight NFC Championship Games from 1975-1977 and another in 1979 before finally making it to the Super Bowl in 1980.

Most recently, the Philadelphia Eagles, under head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb, lost three straight NFC Championship Games from 2002 to 2004 before finally winning one.

It remains to be seen if the Jets will be as hungry during this regular season as they were last year. The NFL isn’t like the NBA or the NHL, where just about every team makes the playoffs and one can coast during the regular season.

Any lack of intensity for even one or two games by the Jets could result in an upset, and could be the difference between home field advantage in the playoffs and even making the playoffs.

So this is a memo to Rex and New York Jets fans: You may think your team is due to get to the Super Bowl after getting so close two years in a row, but don’t count on it.

Photo credit: Marianne O'Leary via /  CC BY

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

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