Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Dallas vs. Dynasty

OK, the super bowl is set and SR has a few things to say. First of all, Jim Mora Jr. knows that he still has Michael Vick on his team right? Atlanta should have carved up that Philly defense but they only used Vick to his true abilities when it was predictable, or on busted plays. Vick is the most exciting player since Barry Sanders, but only when you allow him to do what only he can do. Barry used to lead the league in yards lost, but he’d also lead the league in yards gained. The point is you have to take the bad to get the good. By playing so conservatively in the first half Atlanta put themselves in a bad situation, instead of Vick being unpredictable and maddening Philly knew exactly when and where he would try his trickery.

That said Philly played very well. The great thing is that they did it without TO. Don’t get me wrong, TO is a great player, and I rode him like Zorro in my fantasy league, but, in the end I, like the Eagles, had to find a way to get it done without TO. Andy Reid drew up a great game plan the last two weeks but, Freddie Mitchell’s “great” hands not withstanding, the Iggles won on a couple of lucky bounces last week. Now I’m left to wonder whether TO will help or hurt his team if he can come back for the big game.

Not that I think it will make any real difference. The Pats look as good as ever and I expect them to win it all. Sure, last week I thought that Manning and Co. would roll into Foxboro and sprint on to Pittsburg. Sure I said that a scheme can’t win without the players to carry it out and that the time had come for the New England secondary to finally not only be exposed, but exploited. But I was wrong. Around the middle of the third quarter last week I decided that Belichick IS the next Walsh and that my money’s on the Pats to win until they lose. After Pitt escaped last week’s game against the Jets and Big Ben looked like the rookie he really is, I knew there was no way the Steelers could win.

So, if the Pats win what is their legacy? A lot of people are starting to throw around the word “dynasty.” During the broadcast yesterday Chris Collinsworth mentioned that when asked about dynasties Belichick mentioned the Dallas teams of the early 90s. Those teams won three titles in four years, which is exactly what the Pats are trying to do, so it’s apt that Belichick would choose them as his example of a dynasty. I disagree. Those Cowboy teams were very good, great even, but they were no dynasty. “But SR, if the Cowboys run doesn’t make a dynasty what does?” I’m glad you asked.

A dynasty requires both winning and longevity. Both the Cowboys of the 90s, and these Pats, if they win the Super Bowl, have the winning, sort of. In order to be a dynasty I think you need to match the title total of the NFL’s first modern dynasty, the four Super Bowls won by the Steelers in the 1970’s. During their dominant stretch (1972-1984) the Steelers won their division 10 times, went to the playoffs 11 times and played in 7 AFC Championships. Still, in order to define a true dynasty you must look at the single greatest dynasty in NFL history, the San Francisco Forty Niners. Even if you mark their run only from the start to the end of their championship years you are looking at 14 years at or near the top of the league. If you include the fact that they lost the 1997 NFC Championship Game their legacy spans 17 years of dominance, nearly two decades as the team to beat in the NFC. During those 17 years SF won their division 13 times, went to the playoffs 15 times, played in 10 NFC Championships, and was the first team to win 5 Super Bowls. No other team has ever had that much success for so long. Even in the lean years, 1998-2004, SF made the playoffs three times, including the second biggest comeback victory in NFL playoff history.

Want more? Too bad, it’s my web site and I’ll Rant if I want to. Going back to the original dynasty, the Steelers won two titles in the first half of the 1970s, and then two in the second fitting them to the criteria of both winning and longevity. The Niners won their championships over an extended period of time becoming the team of the 80s. This is a very important factor. Even if you toss out the ‘94 season the Niners won four titles over nine years with one repeat. They never went more than three years without a title. By contrast, the Cowboys of the early 90s won three tiles in four years, but none after 1995. In my mind this makes them the team of the first half of the nineties, but not a dynasty. This is the mold from which the current Patriots may be cast. If they win this title they will be a very good team that has had a short run of incredible brilliance. Of course they still need to win the Super Bowl this year, and even then they won’t be as good as those Cowboy teams for the fact that between titles the Boys lost to the Niners in the NFC championship Game, between titles the Pats missed the playoffs.

So what needs to happen for the Pats to become a dynasty? Well, they’ll need to win on Feb. 6th, and they’ll have to win at least won more time after that. That fourth win can come any time, but if it comes in 2006 or 2007 so much the better. In the meantime the Pats would have to win their division and make it deep into the playoffs in the years they don’t win it all. If they can keep up this kind of pace for next two or three years I’ll be willing to call them a dynasty.

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