If the greatest minds in sport sat down in a room and weren't allowed to leave until they defined the term "sports dynasty," they would never leave.
The word dynasty is thrown around the way Oprah "throws" cars to her audience members, but that doesn't mean the label is always deserved. Dynasties in sport, for the most part, are defined by teams that won multiple championships over a period of time. In a salary cap world, though, the "traditional" dynasty has become a thing of the past thanks to the emergence of parity across all of North American professional sports.
This has proven to be especially true in the National Football League. There hasn't been a repeat Super Bowl champion since the New England Patriots turned the trick in 2003 and 2004. Since then, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants have each won twice, but not consecutively, while the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks have all won once.
The Seahawks came close to repeating on Sunday, but their spot on this list was stolen away by Malcolm Butler and the Patriots. The definition of an NFL dynasty might have evolved over time, but the feel of a dynasty will never change: it's the team that comes into your stadium on Sunday and strikes the fear of God even into the NFL's best, the team that makes your heart sink when you see them on your schedule or find out you'll be playing them in a playoff game next week.
Because of the always changing definition of the word dynasty, the order of the list will no doubt irk someone. One thing cannot be argued, though: these are the best of the very best, and no changing definitions will ever put these facts into disrepute.
10 Minnesota Vikings (1968-1982)
9 St. Louis Rams (1999-2003)
8 Denver Broncos (1983-1998)
7 Green Bay Packers (1961-1967)
This generation of Packers fans wishes they could have dynasties led by Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers - and while both were (and still are, in Rodgers case) very successful, they pale in comparison to the Packers of the Vince Lombardi era.
6 Miami Dolphins (1971-1974)
5 Dallas Cowboys (1991-1996)
4 Oakland Raiders (1967-1985)
3 Pittsburgh Steelers (1972-1979)
One could make the argument that the Steelers have been one of the most consistent NFL franchises in the history of the sport - their six Super Bowl rings lead all franchises, and since 1969 the Steelers have only had three head coaches: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin. Between 1972 and 1979 is when the Steelers truly made their mark on the NFL history books, though, winning four championships thanks to the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris and one of the most fearsome defenses of all-time (aptly named "The Steel Curtain") led by Mean Joe Greene.
2 San Francisco 49ers (1981-1998)
When your team boasts two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time over the span of 17 years, you better win multiple championships.
1 New England Patriots (2001-Present)
It's often frowned upon when an NFL player - especially a quarterback - loses his job because of an injury. However, the best thing that ever happened to the New England Patriots might have been the hit that Mo Lewis of the New York Jets put on Drew Bledsoe in 2001.
Enter Tom Brady, stage left and the rest is history. Twelve AFC East championships, six Super Bowl appearances, and four Super Bowl rings - four apiece for the legendary duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. After this weekend's heroics, it's hard to argue against either as the greatest of all-time at their positions. Belichick has been turning seemingly mediocre rosters into elite teams for the past 15 years, and Brady has been at the helm - often without a star-studded supporting cast - en route to four titles.
The craziest things about the New England dynasty:
1) If not for David Tyree and Mario Manningham, Belichick and Brady would likely have six rings each (we do realize how lucky they were for their last Super Bowl win).
2) If Brady hadn't gotten injured in 2008, the Patriots would have undoubtedly won the AFC East again and made another run at Lombardi.
3) Tom Brady has plenty left in the tank and Belichick isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Of course, these two will always be associated to SpyGate and DeflateGate - at the end of the day, neither matter. Brady and Belichick have proven time and time again that they don't need to cheat to win - and even if they did, taping a practise and deflating a football realistically would not have enough of an impact to lead a team to four championships and fourteen straight winning seasons.
You can probably count on them making it 15 next season, too.
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