John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
The milkman, the paper boy, an NFL dynasty. Did they go away, or are they merely hiding?
It appropriately started out with a repeat. The Packers beat the Chiefs in 1966 and then followed it up with an upset of the Raiders in 1967. If they hadn't, we might be playing for the Stram Trophy instead of the Lombardi, and "Stram" just sounds like something you wouldn't want to get on your junk. "Jimmy? I heard he got the stram!" But it was Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr that kicked off the Super Bowl era, and they did it with back-to-back wins, setting off the first "Super Bowl dynasty" and leading into many more.
What you see above is something I am working on. I wouldn't call it a "parlor trick" necessarily, because anybody that spends a little bit of time practicing can do it, but I would like to name all 46 (soon 47) champions in chronological order and in under 30 seconds. Luckily, there's one aspect of this practice that makes it even a little bit easier, and its the simple fact that we have had eight back-to-back champions in NFL history. Interestingly, we have never seen a 3-peat. We saw a C-3PO in space and a 3J on Family Matters and a Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift, but never seen an NFL team win three championships in a row. Still, there's a pattern in the champions that makes this exercise easier than you might imagine, easier than naming the presidents.
Such as the fact that it starts with a repeat, and then if you can make it to the Dolphins, you know that it's another repeat, followed by a Steelers repeat, and then soon followed by another Steelers repeat. Or that the Redskins follow the Giants twice. Or that, simply put, much like "the 1%", eight teams have combined for 33 of the 46 championships:
Patriots, Redskins, Raiders, Giants, Packers, 49ers, Cowboys, Steelers. If the 49ers win again this week, that means that 72.3% of all NFL championships will reside with one of these eight teams. While it's kind of sad and sort of puts "NFL parity" into perspective, many have said that we simply don't see that kind of dominance anymore and the championships are spread around. Is that actually true though?
After the Giants won the 1986 Super Bowl, their first championship in franchise history, it wouldn't be until the Broncos in 1997 that another team won their first championship in franchise history. During that time, the Redskins won two championships, the Giants won again in 1990, the 49ers won three championships and the Cowboys won three championships. And then when the Broncos won in 1997, they themselves had a repeat the following year. And even then, were the Broncos a long-time loser or was it just finally their time? Let's not forget that Denver went to the Super Bowl three times between 1986 and 1989. (Between 1986 and 1993, only the Broncos (3 times), Bills (4 times) and Bengals represented the AFC in the Super Bowl.)
Indeed, certain teams held court in the NFL for a long period of time and they were truly dominating teams that seemed to really show an imbalance of talent. The Cowboys weren't just good when they won three championships between 1992 and 1995, they were very much the best team in the NFL. As I went over yesterday, we have seen more "average" teams win the Super Bowl like the Giants, or imbalanced teams like the Saints or Colts.
Seven of the last 12 NFL champs were ranked 15th or lower in total offense. Four of the last six have been ranked 17th or lower in scoring defense. It's not just a matter of there being more teams, we are just seeing more teams step up in the playoffs and win when it matters and "surprise" the league, though I think it's fair to say that certain teams like the 2010 Packers might have been the best in the league even if they did go 10-6.
Frankly, the 2012 San Francisco 49ers, if they win, might be the "best" team to win the Super Bowl since the 2004 Patriots. However, just because there have been more surprise teams in recent years, does that mean that we have moved away from seeing NFL "dynasties"? I'm not so sure.
Let's not forget that the Giants have won two of the last five Super Bowls, even if they didn't look like good teams. Or that the Steelers have been to the Super Bowl in three of the last seven years. Or that if weren't for the Giants, the Patriots would have won five of the last eleven Super Bowls. (Though to be fair, if it weren't for upsets, the Pats wouldn't have won in 2001.) New England has been stunned in each of the last two Super Bowls they played in, but otherwise, the Patriots of this century have an argument of being the greatest dynasty in NFL history. Under Bill Belichick, the Pats are 151-57 in the regular season, 17-7 in the playoffs, and have won 5 AFC titles.
I'm not saying that they are better than the Steelers of the 70's, the 49ers of the 80's, or the Cowboys of the 90's, I'm just saying that they have an argument. A good one. And they are making that argument right now over the last 12 years. I understand that there have been surprises over the last decade and that there was a time between 1999-2002 that four straight franchises won their first Super Bowl, but look closer:
Since 2002, only the Saints have won their first championship in franchise history. And three teams have won two Super Bowls over the last nine years. As of today, 14 franchises are championship-less and 18 have at least one ring. That means that the majority of teams have had at least one, but still 14 remain in want and this year will make it 10 years since the Bucs won for the first time in their history. In that time, the Saints won and a bunch of other teams just added to their collection (though the Colts got to win in Indy) and I think that's worth noting.
Did the dynasty die? No, I think it's just done a good job of hiding itself for awhile. Which is good news for the next one: The Seahawks of the 10's.