Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Greatest NFL Dynasties

Your education of NFL history continues today with a discussion of the NFL’s top team dynasties.  Generally speaking, any sports dynasty is one that dominates its sport and wins multiple championships in either consecutive years or in a short span of time.  Though this seems like a fairly simple formula, what can be considered a dynasty may be the subject of debate among experts and fans.  For example, people might say that a team was dominant only because of one star player that carried the team.  Or, a team might be considered a dynasty even though it never won a championship (one of these will be discussed below).  As with my post on great QBs in history, I don’t claim to be the final judge on the status of these teams as “dynasties.”  However, there is not much debate on most of these teams, and you should be able to recognize them if the subject arises.

1.       1940s Chicago Bears (champions in 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1946):  Under coach George Halas, the Bears dominated the ‘40s while also helping to develop passing in football.  In the 1940 championship, the Bears walloped the Washington Redskins 73-0.
2.       1950s Cleveland Browns (champs in 1950, 1954 and 1955):  Coached by Paul Brown, the Browns didn’t join the NFL until 1950 (until then they were in the now-defunct All-America Football Conference), so this doesn’t count the championships they earned before that season.
3.       1960s Green Bay Packers (champs in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967):  The Packers of the ‘60s benefitted from a stash of superb talent, such as QB Bart Starr, and a coach who is widely regarded as the greatest ever:  Vince Lombardi.  He is known for his vast wealth of football knowledge and wisdom which he combined with his tell-it-like-it-is, no-holds-barred rhetoric.  You can’t go into a sports memorabilia store or flip through a motivational products catalog without seeing a bevy of posters and coffee mugs with his quotations on them.
4.       1970s Miami Dolphins (champs in 1972):  OK, so the Dolphins only won one championship in the ‘70s.  However, they must be mentioned because they had three straight Super Bowl appearances (’71, ’72 and ’73).  More importantly, though, the ’72 championship capped off the NFL’s only perfect season, a feat that has not been repeated since, though the New England Patriots came very close in 2007, losing only in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.  A core group of ’72 Dolphins players famously drink a champagne toast each season when the last undefeated team in the League suffers its first loss.
5.       1970s Pittsburgh Steelers (champs in 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979):  The Steelers might also be able to tout itself as the team with the greatest concentration of personalities to play football.  Just to name a few, the Steelers were led on offense by Hall of Famers QB Terry Bradshaw and wide receiver Lynn Swann.  On defense, the Steelers fielded the punishing “Steel Curtain” anchored by the legendary Hall of Famer “Mean” Joe Greene.  Greene, you may recall, is the football player featured in the iconic Coca-Cola commercial in which he was handed a Coke by a young fan who received Greene’s jersey in return (“Hey, kid.  Catch!”).
6.       1980s San Francisco 49ers (champs in 1981, 1984, 1988 and 1989):  Coach Bill Walsh dominated the League during the ‘80s with the support of Hall of Famers QB Joe Montana (architect of The Catch) and Wide Receiver Jerry Rice. 
7.       1990s Buffalo Bills (no championships in the 1990s):  This is one of those debatable additions to the list.  The Bills didn’t win a championship in that decade, but under coach Marv Levy, they appeared in four straight Super Bowls in the early ‘90s (1990-93), the only team to have ever done so.
8.       1990s Dallas Cowboys (champs in 1992, 1993 and 1995):  Built, in part, by trading away college great RB Herschel Walker, the Cowboys built an unstoppable force in the ‘90s led by Hall of Famers QB Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith.
9.       2000s New England Patriots (champs in 2001, 2003 and 2004):  Coached by Bill Belichick, widely regarded as the greatest coach currently in the League, the Patriots have built a dynasty around future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady.  The supporting cast on offense and defense has changed considerably from year-to-year, but this coach-QB combination makes the Pats hard to beat every season.
Well, there you have it.  The greatest NFL dynasties in history.  Now go forth and impress your friends with your knowledge!

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