Only six teams who finished the previous year as the runner-up have made a run to the Super Bowl the following season. The 1971 Dallas Cowboys, 1972 Miami Dolphins, and 2018 New England Patriots claimed the Lombardi Trophy after losing the previous year. While the early 90s Buffalo Bills lost on all three occasions they made it back to the Big Game after getting there the season prior, and the 1974 Minnesota Vikings and 1987 Denver Broncos each came up short in their second of back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl.
The good news is that only two of the previous 10 runner-ups missed the playoffs the next season. The Niners are deep enough to get back to the postseason. But, if they want to have the opportunity to play in the final game of the season again in 2020, they will need quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to take another step in his development. He finished 2019 with a 69.1% completion rate for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a 58.8 QBR.
Looking over the 10 Super Bowl losing quarterbacks before Garoppolo, most signal-callers were able to bounce back the next season. It’s easy to see why when looking at the names on the list. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, and Colin Kaepernick were all able to lead their teams back to the playoffs the following year, with only Brady finishing the job.
Cam Newton and Jared Goff weren’t so lucky. Each of their franchises regressed after their Super Bowl appearance and missed the postseason the following year.
Let’s look at how each of the quarterbacks on the list did the year after losing in the championship game.
Manning (lost 2009 Super Bowl to the New Orleans Saints)
2009: 68.8 completion percentage, 4,500 yards, 33 TDs, 16 INT, 80.7 QBR, 90.0 PFF grade
2010: 66.3 completion percentage, 4,700 yards, 33 TDs, 17 INT, 71.6 QBR, 87.2 PFF grade
Roethlisberger (lost 2010 Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers)
2010: 61.7 completion percentage, 3,200 yards, 17 TDs, five INT, 67.4 QBR, 86.8 PFF grade
2011: 63.2 completion percentage, 4,077 yards, 21 TDs, 14 INT, 68.3 QBR, 75.2 PFF grade
Brady (lost 2011 Super Bowl to the New York Giants)
2011: 65.6 completion percentage, 5,235 yards, 39 TDs, 12 INT, 73.8 QBR, 88.1 PFF grade
2012: 63.0 completion percentage, 4,827 yards, 34 TDs, 8 INT, 77.2 QBR, 90.5 PFF grade
Kaepernick (lost 2012 Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens)
2012 (started seven games): 62.4 completion percentage, 1,814 yards, 10 TDs, 3 INT, 63.9 QBR, 73.6 PFF grade
2013: 58.4 completion percentage, 3,197 yards, 21 TDs, 8 INT, 67.3 QBR, 67.3 PFF grade
Manning (lost 2013 Super Bowl to the Seattle Seahawks)
2013: 68.3 completion percentage, 5,477 yards, 55 TDs, 10 INT, 79.0 QBR, 92.5 PFF grade
2014: 66.2 completion percentage, 4,727 yards, 39 TDs, 15 INT, 72.6 QBR, 79.5 PFF grade
Wilson (lost 2014 Super Bowl to the Patriots)
2014: 63.1 completion percentage, 3,475 yards, 20 TDs, 7 INT, 69.7 QBR, 73.1 PFF grade
2015: 68.1 completion percentage, 4,024 yards, 34 TDs, 8 INT, 68.6 QBR, 83.5 PFF grade
Newton (lost 2015 Super Bowl to the Broncos)
2015: 59.8 completion percentage, 3,837 yards, 35 TDs, 10 INT, 61.4 QBR, 83.9 PFF grade
2016: 52.9 completion percentage, 3,509 yards, 19 TDs, 14 INT, 47.1 QBR, 68.5 PFF grade
Ryan (lost 2016 Super Bowl to the Patriots)
2016: 69.9 completion percentage, 4,944 yards, 38 TDs, seven INT, 79.6 QBR, 91.1 PFF grade
2017: 64.7 completion percentage, 4,095 yards, 20 TDs, 12 INT, 67.1 QBR, 90.0 PFF grade
Brady (lost 2017 Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles)
2017: 66.3 completion percentage, 4,577 yards, 32 TDs, eight INT, 70.6 QBR, 92.9 PFF grade
2018: 65.8 completion percentage, 4,355 yards, 29 TDs, 11 INT, 68.4 QBR, 90.7 PFF grade
Goff (lost 2018 Super Bowl to the Patriots)
2018: 64.9 completion percentage, 4,688 yards, 32 TDs, 12 INT, 63.6 QBR, 85.5 PFF grade
2019: 62.9 completion percentage, 4,638 yards, 22 TDs, 16 INT, 48.5 QBR, 72.4 PFF grade
No one care argue that Garoppolo is on the level of future Hall of Famers Brady, Manning, Wilson, and Roethlisberger, who all put up about the same numbers coming off of their Super Bowl losses.
Kaepernick was able to carry-over his success from the 2012 season due to a stacked roster, and the fact that the NFL took some time to figure out the read option. He regressed in 2014 after the 49ers were decimated by injuries, and the league began to make him beat them with his arm.
Newton had a down year after the 2015 season due to inconsistency in his decision-making, and his physical abilities began to diminish after taking a ton of hits throughout the year. The Panthers’ defense was also awful in 2015, which contributed to Newton’s numbers sagging.
Ryan and Goff are interesting comparisons for Garoppolo. Ryan was without Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator, resulting in his numbers coming down across the board. It’s difficult to duplicate an MVP season —such as Ryan had in 2016, his second with Shanny running the offense— but his stats have dipped since that magical season.
San Francisco has the talent around Garoppolo to avoid a Los Angeles Rams like-collapse in 2020. Rams’ head coach Sean McVay abandoned the run-heavy game plan we saw in 2018 with Todd Gurley taking a step back, and the added responsibility seemed to put too much pressure on Goff for him to handle.
The 49ers are dealing with injury issues to their offensive line, and the wide receiver position remains a question mark, especially if Deebo Samuel takes a while to fully recover from his Jones fracture.
Garropolo has the benefit of not having to rehab before the 2020 season —as he did leading up to 2019— and with him going into his second full year as the starter with Shanahan calling plays, I expect his numbers will be better this year.
How do you think Jimmy G’s stats will look in 2020 compared to last season?