Even Brady, Belichick Still Take a Back Seat to Lombardi
Appreciating the Patriots requires a healthy dose of historical perspective.
I come to praise the Patriots, not to bury them.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have earned it.
They’re on a remarkable run.
But in the wake of Patriots 13, Rams 3 in Super Bowl LIII, analysts and admirers alike appear to be tripping over themselves in an effort to anoint the Patriots as the greatest NFL dynasty of all time.
Some have even gone as far as to suggest what Brady and Belichick have accomplished in New England tops anything the likes of which professional sports had seen previously.
The latter is way over the top (ask the Yankees, Celtics and Canadiens).
The former merely lacks perspective, and therefore accuracy.
The Patriots’ six Super Bowl victories in 18 seasons makes a compelling argument.
It took the Steelers 35 seasons, by comparison, to amass their six championships.
But the Steelers’ first four Vince Lombardi trophies were captured in a six-season span (1974-1979).
The best the Patriots have been able to manage in rapid-fire succession is three titles in four seasons (2001, 2003 and 2004).
The 1970s Steelers also won back-to-back Super Bowl championships twice.
Brady and Belichick have done that once.
But what’s been forgotten again most of all amid all the current New England euphoria, and what had been subjectively dismissed by many back when the Steelers were the scourge of the NFL, is that there were teams that reigned supreme before what has come to be known as the “Super Bowl Era.”
One of them played in Green Bay in the 1960s.
Those Packers didn’t win Lombardi trophies but they were coached by Vince Lombardi.
And their run of five NFL championships in seven seasons (1961-62 and 1965-67) remains an unmatched standard.
Only the final two of those championships were captured in what would eventually come to be referenced well after the fact as a “Super Bowl.”
That doesn’t mean the other three didn’t happen when they happened.
The league is a lot bigger now than it was then. The players are admittedly bigger, stronger and faster. And free agency and the salary cap present challenges Chuck Noll and the Steelers didn’t have to navigate, let alone Lombardi and the Packers (of course, neither did their opponents).
The game is a lot different now.
But is it better?
Are championships more difficult to win?
Two things we know for certain:
No. 1 –– No team had won three consecutive NFL titles before Lombardi’s Packers did so in 1965, 1966 and 1967.
And No. 2 –– It hasn’t happened since.
The Steelers, who remain the only franchise to have won back-to-back Super Bowls twice, never did that.
Neither did the Dolphins, 49ers, Cowboys, Broncos or Patriots (the other franchises to win Super Bowls in succession that didn’t play in Green Bay).
There’s a reason it’s called the Lombardi Trophy.
His time was a different time.
But was it really inferior?
Of the 41 players named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1960s, 27 are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
So are seven head coaches who worked multiple seasons in the 1960s (George Allen, Paul Brown, Weeb Ewbank, Bud Grant, George Halas, Tom Landry and Don Shula).
It’s an era that wouldn’t be nearly as easy to dismiss as irrelevant by the hot take crowd had it also included ESPN and Twitter.
Dynasty is in the record book as well as the eye of the beholder.