The Super Bowl Experience

With all the media analysis of the Super Bowl, there are a few important factors that I’m surprised no one has
picked up
on:

  • 1. The Eagles have a receiver by the name of Terrell Owens who
    is pretty good. The thing is, he had ankle surgery a few weeks ago and it’s not clear whether he’ll be healthy
    enough to play in the big game. This is an overlooked factor that is worth keeping an eye on.

  • 2. I did some extensive research and unearthed the following fact: most of the Patriot players have a lot of Super Bowl experience, while most of the Eagles players don’t have
    any at all. Here’s the way I see it. The Super Bowl is not like a typical game; you might even call it a circus
    atmosphere. Now try and stay with me here. The players are under extra scrutiny from the media and there are a
    whole host of distractions to deal with. It seems to me that the team that has more experience dealing with
    these distractions would have a significant advantage in the game. I find it odd that no one else is talking
    about this.

Alright, time to get serious. Let’s talk about that second one.

We’ll go through the last 20 or so Super Bowls and find the ones that pitted Super Bowl experience vs. a lack
thereof. As a rough first cut, I’ll define a team to have Super Bowl exerience if they played in one of the two
most recent Super Bowls.

  • 2003 – New England vs. Carolina: the team with Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 2001 – St. Louis vs. New England: the team without Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1998 – Denver vs. Atlanta: the team with Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1997 – Green Bay vs. Denver: the team without Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1995 – Dallas vs. Pittsburgh: the team with Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1992 – Buffalo vs. Dallas: the team without Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1991 – Buffalo vs. Washington: the team without Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1987 – Denver vs. Washington: the team without Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1984 – Miami vs. San Francisco: the team without Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1983 – Washington vs. Oakland: the team without Super Bowl experience wins.

I realize that Super Bowl experience is not a binary concept and that my two-year rule is arbitrary. In particular,
you can throw out 1984 and maybe 1987 and 1991 if you like. The rest of them are clear cut. What is far from clear
cut is that Super Bowl experience is worth anything.

Ah, but Belichick is a master; it’s the coach that’s the key. OK, Here are all Super Bowls since 1980 where a head
coach who had (head) coaching
experience in the big game squared off against one who didn’t.

  • 2003 – Belichick vs. Fox: the coach with Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1999 – Vermeil vs. Fisher: the coach with Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1997 – Holmgren vs. Shanahan: the coach without Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1996 – Parcells vs. Holmgren: the coach without Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1994 – Seifert vs. Ross: the coach with Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1992 – Levy vs. Jimmy Johnson: the coach without Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1990 – Parcells vs. Levy: the coach with Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1989 – Reeves vs. Seifert: the coach without Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1988 – Walsh vs. Wyche: the coach with Super Bowl experience wins.
  • 1982 – Shula vs. Gibbs: the coach without Super Bowl experience wins.

Again, no evidence that experience is helpful.

Understand, I am not making the case that experience doesn’t matter. I’m simply searching for evidence that it does
and failing to find much. I’m a null hypothesis guy in general, and I don’t see any reason to switch in this case. Everyone except Bill Belichick seems to assume that the experience is an advantage for the Pats (although what else is he going to say?). As far as I’m concerned, the burden of proof is on them.

Not that this is worth anything, but generating these lists alerted me to some similarities between this game and the 1997 Packers-Broncos tilt. The Broncos, like the Eagles, had been the best team in the weaker conference for a few years but had failed to make the big game. The Packers, like the Patriots, were the defending champs, had a genius head coach, and were a team without stars except for their quarterback. I was not particularly a fan of either team, but if I were forced to name one, I might call that 1997 Super Bowl the most exciting one I ever watched. I hope this one is similar.

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