By: Bob George/
December 20, 2002

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Bill Russell won 11 titles in 13 years.

That meant that in two of his 13 years, he didn't win the whole thing.

Maybe that means that this simply won't be Tom Brady's year. After all, Russell failed to win the title in his second year. Does that mean Brady wins the next eight Super Bowls?

Bill Belichick brought Russell into training camp as a surprise guest for a reason. Russell tried to impress upon the Patriots how to repeat as champs. The awestruck Patriots absorbed every word out of the big man, and it seemed to be Shackleton II for Belichick.

The awestruck part lasted all the way into Week 3, and their encounter with Priest Holmes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs found more holes in the Patriot defense than Swiss cheese, and since that game it's been anything but domination and championship form for the world champs. The Patriots are sitting at 8-6 going into Sunday night's contest with the Jets, and can win the AFC East if they win this game plus the finale at home against Miami.

But all the good citizens of Patriot Nation are coming to the realization that even if the Patriots do win the division, then what? Playoff whuppin's at Oakland, Tennessee or maybe even San Diego might be your answer.

With that as a backdrop, we will thus attempt to paint a rosy long term picture of your franchise. This perhaps won't be a Vince year for the Patriots. Good teams have their way with the Patriots, and someone in the playoffs will send the Patriots home and end their title defense. However, if Walt Coleman refs one or more of their postseason games, we may file an updated prognosis of the Patriot playoff fortunes.

That said, here are some cheery thoughts for you to enjoy at holiday time, and to provide you with comfort if, say, Curtis Martin challenges Corey Dillon's record Sunday night.

Joe Montana

Often adjudged as the best quarterback of them all, Montana is perhaps most famous for being one of two quarterbacks in NFL history to win four Super Bowls. Montana guided the 49ers to wins in Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII and XXIV. Two of these games were blowouts, and two of them were close calls, especially the nailbiter against Cincinnati in the 23rd annual classic. In that 20-16 win over the Bengals, Montana directed his team on a 92-yard drive to win the Vince, capped off by a ten-yard scoring toss to John Taylor.

Montana played in the league from 1979 to 1994. The last two of these 15 years were with the Chiefs. That's fifteen years in the league. He won four Super Bowls. That means in the other eleven seasons, he didn't. Montana failed to win the Vince in exactly as many seasons as Russell's Celtics won championships.

The playoffs weren't always Joe's theater. At Giants Stadium in 1986, he was knocked silly, and had to leave the game with a concussion. The home team pummeled Montana's team, 49-3. Four years later, the Niners hosted the Giants for the NFC title. The teams had met on Monday Night Football a few weeks earlier, and the Niners edged the Giants at Candlestick, 7-3 (this almost was a battle of 10-0 teams, except that the Niners lost just prior to that game while the Giants were still unbeaten). But on this day, the Giants cut Joe down on the road, 15-13 and went on to claim victory in Super Bowl XXV.

Terry Bradshaw

You watch him on Fox, and it's hard to realize that this guy has won four Super Bowls, just like Montana. Bradshaw was perhaps the last person on the planet you would think could do such a thing. Bradshaw doesn't seem to be as smart as Montana, nor as physically gifted. Bradshaw could throw hard, that was about it.

But Bradshaw had a great team around him. The Steel Curtain Steelers, representing the Golden Era of that franchise, won Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV. This run portrayed the Steelers as one of the best teams in NFL history. This team is slightly better known for its awesome defense, led by Jack Lambert, Joe Greene and Mel Blount.

However, being the quarterback, Bradshaw gets his share of kudos. Bradshaw played thirteen seasons in the league, from 1970 to 1983. This means that in nine of his thirteen seasons, he didn't win the whole thing. After Super Bowl XIV, Bradshaw became forgettable and soon faded off into oblivion. Bradshaw was perhaps worse in the five seasons before he finally made it to the Big Show. In the seasons in which the Steelers failed to reach the Super Bowl during the run, they were too banged up to compete against Oakland and too psyched out amidst the Orange Crush of Denver.

It was really only six years of high glory for Bradshaw. Other than that, his career was largely unremarkable. And he never did in his first year of starting as a quarterback what Brady did in his.

Joe Gibbs

Here's another reason for all of us to hate NASCAR.

Gibbs coached the Washington Redskins from 1981 to 1992. One of the more fertile minds in all of pro football, as well as one of the biggest workaholics, Gibbs won three Super Bowls with the Hogs (XXVII, XXII. XXVI). He did it with three different quarterbacks (Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, Mark Rypien). He was 140-65 in his tenure as Redskin coach; the 'Skins are 63-82-1 since his departure.

Wow. Three Vinces. But he also went eight seasons without winning one. He had only one losing season, but more often than not his teams failed to win the championship. Boy, that's a real fair assessment of this great coach.

Tom Landry

Two titles. Super Bowl VI. Super Bowl XII.

That means that he failed to win a Vince in 27 years.

This guy was sure awful, huh?

Jerry Jones

Won Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII and XXX.

That's three out of fourteen.

In baseball, that's a .214 average.

How 'bout them Cowboys.

Vince Lombardi

Ah, yes, the namesake of the trophy.

This guy really knew how to win. He won five NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowls. This guy probably knew best how to win the biggies. He won titles in half of his ten coaching years. Half. What if this was Landry we were talking about? There are no John Woodens in the NFL.

Whoops. That means Lombardi failed to win a title in five total years. Dang. And we might be upset that Bill Belichick will go only one for three in his Patriot tenure?

Feel better now, everyone?

Good. Now, toss some more chestnuts on that open fire, root for the Patriots to cremate the Jets, root for the Patriots to squish the Fish, and enjoy the holiday season.

And dream of twenty years from now, when you look back at two great decades of Patriot football and all the titles Brady and his successor won.