Greatest Sports Dynasty? New England Can End Debate With Sixth Super Bowl Title
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During the buildup to last year’s Super Bowl, I wrote an article about the status of the New England Patriots’ dynasty. I essentially argued the following: if New England were to win a fifth Super Bowl during Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s tenure, it would secure its status as the greatest sports dynasty of the modern era (i.e. the past fifty or so years).
Of course, the Patriots ultimately beat the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, meaning that even as New England prepares for its upcoming battle with the Philadelphia Eagles in hopes of hoisting a sixth Lombardi trophy, I have already deemed the modern dynasty debate to be over. The Patriots’ unprecedented seventeen-year run, in short, is incomparable — and not only will it likely never be replicated, it is remarkably showing few signs of slowing down, contrary to what ESPN believes.
So what’s left for New England to prove in Super Bowl LII? Not much, you could argue. After all, in addition to winning five Super Bowls since 2001, these Patriots also have eight conference championships (a record during such a span, and more than 28 other franchises have in their entire history), seven consecutive conference title game appearances (also a record), and even the NFL’s longest winning-streak (21 games) as well as the only undefeated sixteen-game regular season on their resume for good measure.
However, for those who are still unconvinced as to the Patriots’ standing above the likes of Joe Montana’s great San Francisco 49ers teams in the 1980’s, Magic Johnson’s “Showtime” Lakers, and Michael Jordan’s celebrated Chicago Bulls, Super Bowl LII will undoubtedly provide New England an opportunity to further its case as not only the preeminent dynasty of the past fifty years, but perhaps the greatest one in the entire history of America’s four major professional sports.
It’s rather simple. Brady, Belichick and Co. already have the same number of championships as nearly all of the other notable dynasties with a case to be considered the best ever. Those other dynasties with five titles, in chronological order based on when each team won their first and fifth championship respectively, are: Magic’s Los Angeles Lakers (1979-1991), Montana’s San Francisco 49ers (1981-1994), Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers (1983-1990), Derek Jeter’s New York Yankees (1996-2009), Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs (1999-2014), and Kobe Bryant’s LA Lakers once again (2000-2010).
I argued last year, though, that a fifth Super Bowl title, coupled with the longevity of its success, gave New England a tiebreaker over all of these aforementioned dynasties. Dynasties like Magic’s Lakers, Gretzky’s Oilers, and Kobe’s Lakers did not last more than twelve years. The Patriots, in contrast, have been operating at a championship level for nearly two decades. Moreover, not only has New England also been successful for a longer period of time than Montana’s 49ers, Jeter’s Yankees, and Duncan’s Spurs, but the Patriots now have more championship game appearances during the Brady/Belichick era than all of them as well (8 versus 5 for the 49ers, 7 for the Yankees, and 6 for the Spurs).
Simply put, winning a sixth title would clearly put the Patriots ahead of this group, leaving the 1990’s Bulls, who won six championships from 1991-1998, as the only other modern comparable. But let’s return again to longevity because it is one of the more crucial elements when ranking these historic dynasties. For starters, New England has clearly been successful for a far longer stretch than Michael Jordan and company, whose run atop the basketball world lasted just eight years.
Plus, I’d also argue that it’s easier to sustain success in the NBA because not only is it less-influenced by roster depth and injuries than the NFL, but it is far more star-driven. Once you land a Hall of Fame-caliber superstar (i.e. MJ, LeBron James), you’re practically guaranteed to win multiple championships. But in the NFL, even teams with future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks like New Orleans (Drew Brees) and Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers) have still yet to win a second title. So while starting an NBA dynasty is not necessarily easy, it is clearly not as difficult to sustain one compared to the NFL.
But even if you’d still take Jordan’s Bulls over Brady’s Patriots right now, a victory in Super Bowl LII would change the conversation dramatically. Reason why: it would allow Brady, who has already bested Jordan in terms of longevity, to equal the greatest basketball player of all-time in terms of rings.
Additionally, it would place the Patriots further into a larger conversation concerning the greatest dynasties in the history of sports. We’re talking about all those great Yankees teams from the 1920’s on through the 1950’s and the Celtics’ dynasty from the 1960’s. We could even expand the debate to include college dynasties like John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins, who dominated college basketball during the ’60’s and ’70’s, as well as some of the modern ones like Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide and Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies, both of which continue to achieve unparalleled levels of success in their respective sports.
That is a lengthy argument for another day, though — one that will build on points made in my article from last year as to why the Patriots’ success, due to competitive balance differences stemming from factors such as the salary cap, is already more impressive than any of those teams mentioned in the previous paragraph.
In the meantime, however, the stakes will again be high for the Patriots on February 4th as Brady, Belichick, and company look to officially surpass all the great professional sports dynasties in recent memory, including Jordan’s famed Chicago Bulls, and place themselves alongside (and perhaps even above) the other renowned dynasties, professional or collegiate, throughout history.