Take 2: Are the Patriots the greatest NFL dynasty ever?
Pro Football Weekly GM Hub Arkush and senior Bears reporter Bob LeGere discuss whether any NFL dynasty truly belongs in the same conversation with the Patriots:
ARKUSH: Well, Bob, it hasn’t exactly been “Hotlanta” here in Atlanta for Super Bowl week, but I’m sure it’s safe to say it’s a lot more comfortable than Chicago as temperatures have been in the 35-to-55 range and the conversation has certainly heated up, a disproportionate amount of it about whether these Patriots are the greatest NFL dynasty of all time. Folks have thrown around the Bears and Packers prior to the Super Bowl era and certainly the Steelers of the ’70s and Cowboys and 49ers of the ‘80s and ‘90s as well as Joe Gibbs’ Washington teams that won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. But most of the kudos lead back to the Patriots. It’s not just how much Belichick and Brady have won together, it’s that they’ve done it in the free-agency, salary-cap era. Do you think any other organization compares?
LEGERE: In a word, “No.” At least not in the Super Bowl Era. What sets the Belichick-Brady Patriots apart from every other dynasty is the longevity of their dominance. The Patriots’ dynasty dates to the 2001 season. The Steelers of the 1970s were more dominant over a short period, winning four Super Bowls in six years, starting with Super Bowl IX. But the Steelers did not play in the first eight Super Bowls, and after their fourth title following the 1979 season, they didn’t make it back to the big game for 16 years. After the Patriots won three times in four years to start their dominance, they went 10 years before they won again. However, they made it to the Super Bowl twice during that “drought,” and now they’re playing in the big game for the fourth time in five years, and they won two of the previous three appearances. Since 2001, they’ve been over .500 for 18 straight years and won 10 or more games 17 times.
ARKUSH: Bob, not only do we completely agree, but there is even more to the story. I’m not sure anyone would argue that the Patriots haven’t accomplished their dominance with less overall talent than any of the other dynasties we’re comparing them to. Of course the Patriots’ nine Super Bowl teams in the last 18 seasons have featured a number of great players, but how many have been Hall of Fame caliber? Of course there is Randy Moss, but he played just three seasons and four games with them and appeared in only Super Bowl XLII, which they lost. Other than Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Adam Vinatieri, how many perennial All Pros have they had? Only Richard Seymour (3) and Wes Welker (2) have had multiple All-Pro seasons. It is astounding how much more they’ve done with less.
LEGERE: Hub, I have to agree with you, and again, I hearken back to the great Steelers teams of the 1970s. Compare the Patriots’ dearth of Hall of Fame players to the all-star cast that fueled those Pittsburgh teams. Nine of them are in the Hall of Fame: WR John Stallworth, LB Jack Ham, WR Lynn Swann, DE Joe Greene, C Mike Webster, CB Mel Blount, QB Terry Bradshaw, RB Franco Harris and LB Jack Lambert, in addition to coach Chuck Noll. It’s mind-boggling that all nine of those players played together for eight straight years, from 1974-81. By comparison, New England’s cast of impact players is constantly in flux, with the only constants being Brady and Belichick, although Gronkowski has provided an unparalleled weapon for the past nine years. But there’s no one else who has provided the year-to-year continuity that those Steelers teams enjoyed. To me, that makes the achievements of Belichick and Brady second to none, and it’s not even close.