Should the Patriots be considered a dynasty? With all of the accomplishments of the New England Patriots, can we categorize them with the other great dynasties of the NFL?
Let me preface this by stating that when I began writing this story, I felt as if the Patriots did not deserve to be placed with the other great dynasties of the NFL unless they clinched one more Super Bowl title before 2010. I originally felt that way because of three reasons: 1) they needed to prove their consistency, 2) they needed to not only have stellar seasons, but stellar off-seasons as well, and 3) if they won one more then the people who feel that they should have an asterisk by their names would be quieted.
After a great deal of research, I changed my mind. And people, that is a rare occurrence.
After their Super Bowl victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, most people were eager to jump on the bandwagon to state that the Patriots were the dynasty of the decade. Each decade we have had a dynasty in the N.F.L. The 1960s belonged to the Green Bay Packers. The 1970s met the Steel Curtain of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 1980s saw Bill Walsh’s undeniable coaching talent of the San Francisco 49ers. I’m sure that none of us can forget the dominance of the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s. All of these teams were great. We watch the film of their glory days in awe, but take the film of the Packers playing the Raiders in 1968 during Super Bowl II and compare it to the film of the Patriots versus the Eagles at Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005. The players are larger, the game is faster, the rules are much more strict, and the season is longer. Couple those factors with free agency, salary caps, and an almost 8 billion dollar a year industry that everyone involved wants a slice of and what you get is a much different version of the NFL from the one that existed when the AFL and NFL first merged.
I am not taking anything away from the men who built the sport and made it what it is today, but just as animals in the wild, the players and coaches of the NFL have been forced to adapt as the sport has grown. They must become faster and more powerful in order to compete with the few guys who, each decade, raise the bar for all others.
So the Patriots are playing the same game, but have new obstacles placed in front of them that the dynasties of past did not face. Even if you choose to overlook those factors, you still have to look at the fact that the Patriots are only the second team in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in four years. That is impressive, but keep in mind that the Patriots have done this with free agency looming above their heads and not having several of the big play makers remain year after year.
This is partially the reason for which their dynasty status is still debatable. They have not been able to dominate each and every year of the 21st century because they have been forced to bring new players in while losing some of their best. I say that this can be used as the main argument as to why they do deserve to be considered a dynasty. We all know that teams often go through rebuilding phases (especially with free agency and salary caps), but it seems to be much more impressive that even when you bring in “new blood,” Belichick is able to coach them to greatness.
Coach Belichick. Seeing as how I have mentioned his name, let’s go ahead and get the “spygate” argument out of the way: they got caught. I would love to live in a romanticized, ideal world where no one thought of doing anything wrong, but I don’t. I’ll say this and move on: most teams (as the Jets, themselves, proved) partake in some form of spygate. The difference is that they do not get caught. I hate to break it to you all, but this is the world that we live in and we should just enjoy the sport because at the end of the day talent, ability, skill, and experience will always be shown. The Patriots proved that point after spygate when they began a rampage of running the score up on their opponents as if they were flicking off the league and anyone who felt that they would even need to cheat.
Through all of their obstacles, the Patriots have continued to show improvement. Traditionally, the best teams in the dynasties have been the ones that are closer to the beginning of the decade, but the Patriots had a sixteen-to-zero regular season. Unheard of. Never before has there been a sixteen-to-zero regular season until the Patriots. They have not shown signs of digressing, but instead have only gotten better with time.
They have proven that they are the first dynasty of the 21st century. If they win one more Super Bowl before the end of the decade, I may be writing a story debating which of the five dynasties was the greatest. Now, that, I am very much looking forward to.
By Dwan Samuel
Photo courtesy of Femme Fan