Patriots Dynasty Has a Claim on Being the Best

 

The Patriots of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady can now claim to be the most successful team of theSuper Bowl era.

They have won four championships, which ties Belichick for most by a head coach (with Chuck Noll) and Brady for most by a quarterback (with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana). As a tiebreaker, Brady holds the record for most Super Bowl appearances by a starting quarterback, with six, while Belichick is tied with a coach other than Noll — Don Shula.

Belichick and Brady have also won their titles when N.F.L. rules have made dynasties harder to build. Consider that five franchises won at least three Super Bowls in the 20 seasons before the salary cap took effect for the 1994 season. In the last 20 seasons, only the Patriots have.

Beyond football, the Patriots arguably join the 1990s Yankees as the most impressive team in any major sport in North America over the last 40 years. Multiple championships remain the norm in the N.B.A., where a single great player or two can dominate the game. And multiple championships were common in every sport in the 1950s through the 1970s — be it by the Packers, Yankees, Celtics, Canadiens or others.

But since players have won more freedom to negotiate their contracts and to change teams, sustained excellence has become very rare. The Yankees of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Joe Torre did it. The Patriots have joined them.

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