Secrets to Super Bowl teams' success

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Adam Caplan

Adam Caplan is our newest NFL reporter/insider at He has spent the past 10 seasons covering the league, specializing in player personnel, injuries and contracts.


Success leaves clues.

That’s a mantra which NFL teams have used for years. It has been said for many years that the NFL is known as a copycat league.

But why have 10 different teams represented the NFC in the past 10 years while only five different teams have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl?

Coaching Stability

Let’s take it just one year further. Take a look at the coaches who will have represented seven out of the last 11 Super Bowl appearing teams for the AFC.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has made four appearances in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will be making his second, next Sunday.

Notice a trend?

You would think other teams would notice this obvious trend.

In the NFC, only five out of the past 10 Super Bowl participating head coaches is still with the same team.

The Seattle Seahawks, who played in Super Bowl XL, are on their third head coach in the last three seasons.

Coaching stability and continuity is an obvious key in the success of those teams that continue to get back to the Super Bowl.


The one common trait shared by the AFC teams that have appeared multiple times in the Super Bowl over the decade is the same player has been behind center.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be making their third appearance in the Super Bowl over the last six seasons. And the one constant behind center is Ben Roethlisberger, who will be making his third start in the big game.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made all four starts during the team’s four Super Bowl appearances.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning started in both Super Bowl appearances for the team.

While all three of those AFC quarterbacks are still with their teams, only three out of the 10 NFC Super Bowl team quarterbacks are still with those teams.

Kurt Warner has retired (he played with two different NFC teams). Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who started Super Bowl XXXIX, was traded last year to the Washington Redskins. Former Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman has bounced around with two other teams since starting in Super Bowl XLI. Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who started Super Bowl XXVIII moved on to the Cleveland Browns last year. Former New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins has played on two more teams since he started Super Bowl XXXV.

The teams that continue to change their quarterback have little success returning to the Super Bowl.

Again, it’s all about stability.


No matter how good your head coach might be, he can’t win without good players. It’s just not going to happen at any level without top notch talent on both sides of the ball.

When you examine the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers over the years, you can see why they are always competing for the Super Bowl crown.

Out of the players on their current 53-man roster, only 12 were not signed or drafted by the Steelers originally.

And four starters were lost earlier in the season due to injury. So, in reality, 45 players projected to be on the Steelers roster this season were either drafted or signed by the team originally. That’s great drafting and evaluation of talent.

But the Steelers aren’t the only team that understands how to build a roster.

The other Super Bowl participant in this year’s game, the Green Bay Packers, also have drafted well.

38 out of the 53 players on Green Bay’s current roster were either drafted or originally signed by the team. And nine out of the 15 players on injured reserve were either drafted or originally signed by the Packers. And many of those players would be playing a key role this week for the Packers had they been healthy.

So the mantra remains the same.

Stability is everything in the NFL.

Tagged: Patriots, Redskins, Steelers

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