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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February, 2005, 03:49 GMT
Patriots join 'dynasty' elite
By Mark Barden

Patriots QB Tom Brady celebrates a Super Bowl touchdown with David Givens

By beating Philadelphia 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX, New England acquired something many thought was now beyond any NFL team.

Victory at the Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville gave the Patriots back-to-back Super Bowl successes, and their third national title in four seasons.

That makes Foxboro's finest the first team to achieve 'dynasty' status in the 21st century.

The dynasty tag can only be attached to a handful of teams who have dominated the league over several seasons at various times.

There is some scope for debate over who makes the list, but no dispute over the following Super Bowl-era franchises:

  • Pittsburgh: Four Super Bowl wins 1975-80

  • San Francisco: Four wins 1982-90 (five overall)

  • Dallas: Three wins 1993-96 (five overall)

  • Green Bay Two wins 1967-68 (three overall; also dominated NFL in pre-Super Bowl 1960s)

    So, New England have now joined this elite club, and it could be argued their achievement in doing so is the most impressive.

    Why? The simple answer is that times have changed in the NFL.

    Baltimore's veteran owner Art Modell, who has seen it all, once said: "The dynasties have gone the way of the dinosaurs - you'll never see one again. The system has changed to preclude that."

    What Modell was talking about is parity between teams - the NFL's quest to create an extremely level playing field, where any team can emerge from the pack to claim Super Bowl glory.

    This has been achieved firstly by salary-capping, so no team can drastically outspend any other - like, say, Chelsea in the English Premiership - in a bid to buy instant success.

    Secondly, the fruits of the NFL's multi-billion dollar broadcasting deals are distributed equally between the league's 32 teams.

    Thirdly, the NFL's labour rules have become increasingly weighted in favour of the players, leading to more recruiting between teams, less settled rosters, and less long-term team-building.

    Finally, the NFL draft system means the teams with the worst records in the previous season get first pick from the US college football talent pool.

    Perceived NFL wisdom has always been on any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team. These days, it's more a case of in any given season, any team can make the Super Bowl.

    Carolina are a case in point. The Panthers powered their way to last year's NFL finale and only lost 32-29 on a last-gasp Patriots field goal.

    Yet two years earlier, their regular season win-loss record was 1-15, and it was only 7-9 in the campaign before their tilt at Super Bowl glory. This season they were back to 7-9.

    Pats fans had no doubt where their team was heading
    So how have New England bucked the trend to become the latest members of the NFL dynasties club?

    The superb coaching abilities of team boss Bill Belichick are a major factor. He is a supreme tactician, able to devise game-plans to rein in the most dangerous of opponents.

    He and the Patriots' management have also eschewed the 'win now' approach adopted by other teams who load up with expensive, and usually veteran, free agents looking for one more shot at the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

    It didn't pay off for Oakland in 2003, when they were hammered 48-21 in the Super Bowl by Tampa Bay. In a slump since, they went 5-11 this season, finishing last in the AFC West.

    New England are also astute movers in the NFL draft, picking and trading for players who may not necessarily make an immediate impact but have talent which can be improved and honed.

    This helps to make the Patriots a distinctly un-starry, low-key collective. Quarterback Tom Brady, as modest and unassuming as they come, sets the tone.

    All these factors help to explain their success.

    Philadelphia ran them close in Jacksonville, but while their wait for Super Bowl glory goes on, the Patriots join the Packers, Steelers, 49ers and Cowboys in the NFL's most select club.

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