Kurt Warner, who had walked off the Super Bowl field defeated before, says the situations between his 2002 Rams and the current Cardinals are completely different.
The thing Kurt Warner wants to make clear is that the situation was completely different than the one the Cardinals are in now.
Warner was on a team that lost the Super Bowl and struggled the next season, suffering from the dreaded "Super Bowl hangover." His Rams ripped through the NFL in 2001, going 14-2, before they were stunned by the Patriots and the then-unproven Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.
The next year, the Rams were 7-9.
"We lost an opportunity to become a dynasty," the current Cardinals quarterback said. "We were supposed to win. So the next year, our mentality was, 'OK, we have to make up for the opportunity we blew last year.' Everything kind of fell apart because everyone put too much pressure on themselves to be perfect."
Safety Matt Ware is the only other Cardinal to have a chance to live with a Super Bowl loss. He was with Philadelphia in 2005, the year after the Patriots beat his Eagles in the final game. Ware watched the next year as the Terrell Owens controversy enveloped the team, and then injuries – most notably to quarterback Donovan McNabb – ripped the Eagles apart. Philadelphia finished 6-10.
"Everything just kind of snowballed," Ware said.
As pundits try to forecast what is in store for the Cardinals this season, the Super Hangover is a popular theme. The statistics are stark – of the 10 previous Super Bowl losers, eight have missed the playoffs the following year, often not coming close to the postseason.
In most cases, the answers are easy to find, with injuries to key players at the top of the list. Regardless, the Cardinals insist they will be able to side-step the other preventable problems that feed into Hangover hysteria.
"Yeah, there are some statistics, but I think statistics are made to be broken," linebacker Clark Haggans said. "There's an element of superstition in there. Statistically, we weren't supposed to win a playoff game, but we broke that."
"My mindset hasn't even addressed that issue," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "It was the same thing when people said we weren't even going to make it to the Super Bowl, we would be one and done. At one point last year, if you would have asked everyone if it was possible, everyone would have shook their head no. Now, we know it's possible."
Keeping everyone on the field is important. The Rams slid not coincidentally the same year Warner ended up missing nine games with a hand injury. McNabb's injury hurt the Eagles, although Ware said "stuff you don't think bothers a team? It bothered us."
Assuming the key players stay on the field, both Warner and Ware see obvious basic ideas in how the Cardinals can avoid a dip.
The Rams' problems started, Warner said, "when we really didn't celebrate the fact we had gotten to the Super Bowl the year before because we were all disappointed we didn't win it," Warner said. "That season felt like a failure rather than a success even though we were in our second Super Bowl in three years. That's the key. Celebrate what we did last year and now go back and try and do it again."
Ware said the Cardinals will be the team with the targets on their collective back in the NFC, so "that's why you have to hunt them."
"You can't take the mentality you are the hunted," Ware said. "You have to attack everybody."
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