What makes an NFL team a dynasty? Is it the big money players? The Hall of Fame coaches who come back to rekindle the magic? (Joe Gibbs should probably stick to his racecars, Redskin fans.) What really creates a dominate force in this league of free agents and salary cap drama?
What about no-name players who believe in teamwork?
Take for instance, the New England Patriots. Ah yes, the Patriots. They win. And they keep winning. Winning the last three of four Super Bowls. Everyone has tried to dissect their strategy. Many teams have changed their game plans, mimicking the Patriots in hope of some sort of success. Many analysts have tried to pinpoint just what creates their success.
Yet everyone leaves out one thing most teams don’t have that the Patriots do have: Teamwork
Oh yes, and let’s not forget a quarterback, a coach, a kicker and other teammates who can retire right now and be considered Hall of Fame material.
Take the Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for instance. Let’s compare him to…oh say, Joe Montana. Yes, Joe Montana: The 49er Savior, Cool Joe, etc.
Now before I get into some shocking stats, you might say Brady rides his team, whereas Montana led his team. Brady uses all functions of a team, knowing when to strike and carrying less of a load. Montana took things into his own hands, and therefore the 49ers team as a whole was considered “Joe’s team.”
You could also say Brady’s career isn’t over yet. Montana didn’t get his third championship until his tenth year in the league.
In the first four seasons starting under center, Brady accumulated over 2,000 more yards passing and 15 more touchdowns than Montana. Brady’s completion percentage was only .01 less than Montana’s. Not to mention Brady had a post season record of 6-0 while Montana’s was a mere 3-0.
Was Montana a first round draft choice? No, he was a third. Was Brady? Try sixth. Does Brady make the huge money? Not in comparison to other quarterbacks with no titles under their belt.
The one thing Brady and Montana both have in common: calmness.
There is no choking with Brady. There is nothing that got under Montana’s skin. They both took last minute drives and created magic.
Does Brady get the recognition? No. Why? He likes it that way.
It is not about standing out. Unlike Montana, Brady stays under the radar and one with his other teammates.
Just last year the Patriots had 7 draft picks, all within the first 4 rounds of the 2004 NFL draft. The Patriots manage the salary cap with fiscal wizardry. The patriots have a staff that knows what they’re doing. They draft precisely, and have players signed to contracts that allow the team to keep their expenses to a minimum. When it comes to re-signing, if they don’t produce, they’re out.
Such an example is cornerback Ty Law, who missed all of 2004 season with an injury. Law wanted to stay a Patriot at the starting of the off-season. Law wanted too much money, and for the Patriots it was a gamble not worth risking.
Head Coach Bill Belichick wasn’t always a Hall of Fame thought either.
Belichick, who started as a special teams coach for teams such as the Lions and Broncos, became well known for his defensive play calling under Bill Parcells and the Giants in the late 80s.
Soon thereafter Belichick became head coach for the Cleveland Browns, where he composed a horrid 36-44 record with one playoff appearance.
Back with Parcells, Belichick followed in the shadow of Parcells through coaching positions such as defensive coordinator to assistant coach. The two parted ways when New England had an opening position for Head Coach, one Belichick could not refuse.
With all the experience and knowledge of the game, especially on defense, it is no wonder why Belichick has been able to do the things he has done with the New England Patriots.
But it hasn’t come easy either, which Belichick understands. There is a certain humility with Belichick. In every interview he focuses on the future, the long term, not the present — one trait he learned from Parcells, who is notorious for preparing for next week, and not relishing in a win.
The same humility can be seen from Tom Brady. And the clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri, who time after time has won games that include Super Bowl wins with everything on the line, yet kick a game winner with ease.
And for many of the other unsung players who are under the radar: 2004 Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Deion Branch, bruiser defensive end Richard Seymour, and so on and so forth. The list goes on. One thing that is very unusual that the Patriots can do that most teams in the NFL cannot do is play well when injury plagued. And I don’t mean well, I mean better.
The Patriots have been able to play great with players out, and it seems as though they just plug the right player in and you get great results.
In the 2004 season when Ty Law and other cornerbacks were injured, Wide Receiver Troy Brown stepped in and played cornerback for most of the season. He accumulated three interceptions and helped his team defensively.
And it all goes back to great scouting and the ability to know which player is right for your scheme. It also helps when players are now stepping beyond their normal roles to take on other positions.
When the Patriots lost Offensive and Defensive Coordinators in the off-season this year, many speculated the Patriots to not be as good. Some even wrote them off, believing it was the Coordinators that put this team together.
Yet in a moment like week three of the 2005 season, when the Patriots — away in Pittsburg playing the Steelers — had 1:21 left to work with, it was no surprise Brady rallied up a comeback. It was no surprise with time running down, Vinatieri nailed another clutch kick. It was a surprise, however, to the nation who had disregarded the Patriots in the off-season.
Here is a crazy stat to keep in mind: Brady went 12 for 12 on the final 2 drives in the game.
For those who want answers, who want to know the Patriots true secret to winning and winning long term, it’s all there. Camaraderie, modesty, intelligence and a slight hint of luck.
Sooner or later, the Patriots will get their recognition enshrined, and the appreciation will come also. Until then, every NFL fan should acknowledge a true dynasty when we see one. They don’t come around often.