In this fair city Yours Truly calls home, there is a major street named Ming Avenue.
The Ming Dynasty in China lasted from 1368 to 1644. Terry Glenn asked me to do the math, so that comes out to 276 years. To put that in perspective, our great nation is only 226 years old. Ten percent of this figure is 27, one more than the total number of World Series won by the Yankees (26). Obviously, neither the Celtics nor the Canadiens would make anyone named Ming bow in respect.
In the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, there is a street named Lombardi Avenue.
Few would argue that Vince Lombardi was the best head coach the NFL ever saw. But despite all the howls of protest from rabid fans in Chicago, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, the best dynasty in the history of the NFL was authored by Lombardi and his Green Bay Packers in the 1960s. From 1961 to 1967, the Packers won five NFL championships, the last two of which got them berths in the first two Super Bowls. Green Bay won both of those first two Super Bowls, and the trophy that is presented annually to the winner of the Super Bowl proudly bears the name Lombardi.
In the town of Foxborough, Massachusetts, there is a street named North Street, which has since been renamed…
Hah. Wouldn’t that take the cake. The street that nearly became a stadium deal-breaker is renamed for a man who would one day supercede Lombardi as the preeminent coach in league history, and the greatest dynasty of all at the root of those accolades. Now, instead of selling all that parking space, the mercenaries on this street could sell Bill Belichick memorabilia and make a killing. Hey, if those entrepreneurs think they could pull that off, then by golly let no man stand in their way.
Up in Boston, Jersey Street was renamed in honor of Tom Yawkey. Lansdowne Street was renamed in honor of Ted Williams. These two men symbolize a lot of great things. “Dynasty” is not one of them, of course. Moral of the story: Just because you had a street named after you doesn’t necessarily mean you spent your whole life winning championships.
What with every news organization and non-Patriot fan having declared the 2001 Patriot season a total fluke, we thought we’d go in the opposite direction and study the possibility of a Patriot dynasty. This not to say that it will happen. This is to say that it can happen, and if so, how.
One of the many features that NFL Films has produced that doesn’t involve the Patriots (which comes out to far above 99 percent, even if you factor in 2001) was an expose on all those Packer championships they won in the 1960s. This was in the days when the Boston Patriots played at Fenway Park (most of the time), the Red Sox went from castor oil to Dom Perrignon almost overnight, and the Celtics were really a dynasty, with few people standing up and taking notice, even in the Boston Garden.
Jerry Kramer and Paul Hornung were asked how the Pack did it. How, for so many years, were they able to stay at or near the top of the league? Both men responded with answers that should make Patriot Nation stand up and take notice.
The consensus answer between the two men was that the team was composed of “good but not great” players who bonded together to make a great team. By themselves they were ordinary, but put together they were a stunning display of teamwork and commitment.
And that is as truthful as you can get. Despite some of these guys going on to the Hall of Fame, there are a ton of Packers who aren’t among the best-ever at their position, and most of these guys weren’t among the best of their day. Perhaps Ray Nitschke and Willie Davis are the only Packers of that era who truly rank among the very best at their respective positions.
If you sat all these players down and asked them how those players became such great teams, they will quickly answer back with the name of their coach. If you ever stumble across a Vince Lombardi story some day, it will clearly reveal why these Packer teams won despite material mostly in the average category. Lombardi was the ultimate field boss, displaying leadership skills that every person who aspires to lead people could do very well to study.
This is exactly how the 2001 Patriots won the championship.
An average bunch of players, ordinary by themselves, bonded together and achieved high levels of success, with an extraordinary head coach in charge. Belichick fixed his one big weakness when he was the head man at Cleveland (communication skills), and the result was a Super Bowl win in just two years. One now has to wonder if this is just the beginning, because the blueprint of the Packer dynasty has been laid here in Foxborough.
People will look at Tom Brady as the one single most important Patriot in 2002. But he really isn’t, and Brady will be the first one to tell you that. How well Belichick does in 2002 will have a far greater impact on the team, as well as a far-reaching one. If the Patriots are just beginning a run of several championships in the next decade or so, it likely will emanate from Belichick and not Brady.
The Patriots are building their team in exactly the same mold as the Packers did. Herb Adderley, meet Ty Law. Bob Skoronski, meet Matt Light. Lee Roy Caffey, meet Tedi Bruschi. Tom Brown, meet Lawyer Milloy.
Oh, and Bart Starr, meet Tom Brady.
We’re not trying to elevate Belichick to the rarefied status of Lombardi. We’re just saying that the pieces are in place for the Patriots to make a long run of sustained greatness, and that they would do it much the same way the Lombardi Packers did.
Belichick knows X’s and O’s perhaps better than any coach in the history of the game. Belichick is currently the best game manager in the league, and prepares his team like no other coach is capable of. But if Belichick can ever approach Lombardi on his ability to connect with players and motivate them to play hard every single Sunday, a Patriot dynasty is definitely within the realm of possibility.
The last NFL team to win back-to-back championships was the Denver Broncos of a few years back, winning Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII. No team has ever won three straight Super Bowls, but the Packers were the last team to win three NFL titles in a row (1965-67). The Patriots are fighting history and long odds, but they’ve got the tools to make it happen.
Of course, the rest of the league can sit back, look at this and burst out laughing. Fans of each of the three teams the Patriots beat in the 2001 postseason will laugh the loudest. Two of those three teams will get rematches in 2002. Let’s see who out-gameplans who, but a good sign of an impending dynasty will be how well Belichick and the Patriots do against Pittsburgh and Oakland, two teams who will be looking to kick the tar out of the Patriots this year.
And of course, if a dynasty is really at hand, then make that three rematches. You all know who’ll be favored to win the NFC.
Whatever it takes, the Patriots have it. Average guys who play great as a team, and a head coach who can bring it all together. It won’t be like Ming, but it just might be something very special.
Posted Under: 2002 Patriots Offseason