Don’t Hate the Playa’, Hate the Game: A look at the NFL and its recent dynasty

***Full disclosure up front: I have been a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles since around 1988/89 (more on that in a post-Superbowl blog post hopefully) and its important to note that this this post isn’t about hating on the Patriots as we head into Superbowl LII, but just a thinking piece on the NFL.  My question of constantly winning being a fault of the league was just to get the gravy flowing on looking at the league overall during this era.  Having said that, Fly Eagles Fly, on the road to victory!***

Today, Brandon Marshall (a.k.a Baby T.O., a.k.a. WR of the Broncos, Dolphins, Bears, Jets and Giants)  let loose on “Inside the NFL” saying that everyone should be ashamed for the Patriots being in the Superbowl once again (source).  Basically, it seems he is tired of the Belichick-Brady Era and says the non-competitiveness of the league has allowed New England to feature in its eighth superbowl in 16 years.  He acknowledged their greatness but railed on everyone else failing to do their job.  So the question is, and what?

You can’t blame the Patriots for how good they are.  Yes, they have been to eight superbowls and won five of them; yes, Brady and Belichick are considered the greatest at this point; and yes, as long as they are there the trend will probably continue.  But can we really blame them for that?  Is constantly winning their fault? or should we really be looking at ourselves?

Fans like dynasties in sports (for the most part) and those not part of the dynasties love to hate on them.  Its not their fault they are so great.  They put together a system that works.  In this case, Bill Belichick is a great coach, with a good support system from Mr. Kraft and the rest of the New England franchise and found one of, if not the best, quarterback of all time in Tom Brady.  But that’s not all!  Players loving playing there and believe in the system so much that they are willing to take less money, and even pay cuts, to stay on that team.  They don’t chase big names and develop players no one else wants.  Instead of blaming them for winning, the NFL should be emulating their success in each of the franchises.

While you might be thinking of the whole cheating thing (i.e. spygate, deflategate, etc), they have a proven winner in their model.  Which franchise without a ring wouldn’t give their first born to have one?  They’d take the scandal, the fan’s asterisk, etc. just to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on super Sunday.  So why, 16 years after the start of the Belichick-Brady Era, haven’t more teams done this?  and more importantly why are we hating on them or blaming them for their success?

Since 2002, the Patriots have played in the Superbowl eight of the 16 years of the Belichick-Brady Era.  The other eight AFC teams?  Raiders, Steelers (2x), Colts (2x), Ravens, Broncos (2x).  Their NFC opponents: Rams, Bucs, Panthers, Eagles (2x), Seahawks (3x), Bears, Giants (2x), Cardinals, Saints, Packers, Niners, Falcons.  That’s 12 NFC teams in 16 years (from all 4 divisions, including every team in the NFC West and South, and two each from the East and North) and 6 AFC teams in that same time span (also all 4 divisions, though only one from the East and South and two each from the West and North).  Altogether, just over half of the teams have played in the Superbowl during the Brady-Belichick era.

While the AFC has been dominated by only a handful of teams, the NFC has seen a pretty long run of competitive football among nearly all of its teams (only 4 teams didn’t make the Superbowl during this time period-Vikings, lions, cowboys, redskins).  If you look closer at the AFC teams, four of the non-Brady teams were Peyton Manning-led teams.  That means 12 of the 16 Superbowls featured two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game on the AFC side.  The question then becomes, is it the fault of the NFL (or in particular the AFC)? or are we just privy to the witnessing of what happens when greatness comes along?

To be truly GREAT, you need to dominate for a long time.  Brady has done that (and so has Manning) as evidenced by the Superbowl run he is on.  There are also parallels in other sports, particularly basketball:  Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won six NBA titles in eight years; Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers won five NBA titles out of seven championship appearances in twenty years; LeBron James has been to eight NBA Finals with two teams, including seven appearances in-a-row and has won three.

My point is, great players who dominate will be champions multiple times.  Whether you get tired of seeing them over and over, thats up to you, but you have to recognize the players greatness.  So if the NFL and Brandon Marshall is tired of seeing the Patriots in the Superbowl year-after-year, then do something about it.  Find the next great player and surround them with the coaches, front office, teammates that they need to take out the great ones.  Golden State did it to LeBron.  Giants have done it before to the Patriots.   Just enjoy the greatness while it lasts, yes it is fleeting, because once its gone, it may not come back.  As they say, don’t hate the player, hate the game.


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