Every dynasty in the modern era shares the same keys to success
THE SANTA CLARA
February 9, 2017
The New England Patriots left little doubt last Sunday that they’re the greatest dynasty in NFL history. Their 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons earned Tom Brady and Bill Belichick their fifth Lombardi trophy together and cemented the two as the greatest coach and quarterback of all time. New England’s reign of dominance is even more impressive given the era they’re playing in—driven by the salary cap and free agency. Each year, the Patriots have to replenish their talent reservoir when some of their key champions earn big contracts elsewhere.
The common denominator between this 2016 Patriots team and New England’s Super Bowl teams of 2001, 2003 and 2004 is Brady and Belichick. The other 52 players were traded, released or retired and Belichick’s offensive and defensive coordinators left town for the opportunity to run their own teams. Still, the Pats just keep on winning.
It’s understandable why everyone outside of New England hates the Patriots, and their reason is obvious: the Patriots are just so much better than everyone else. But while this envy causes animosity, it could instead cause admiration. The Patriots have sustained this unbelievable run mostly thanks to their island of misfit toys. Tom Brady was the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. His top receiver Julian Edelman was a seventh round pick and Chris Hogan played three years of lacrosse at Penn State before he went undrafted, just like Danny Amendola and Malcolm Butler. I could go on, but you get my point. And yeah, many point to Spygate and Deflategate, but we all know neither had any legitimate impact on the field.
The Patriots have set a standard of excellence, but they’re not alone. The San Antonio Spurs have been the gold standard of NBA for almost two decades now and the Blackhawks rule the NHL. It’s too early to anoint the Chicago Cubs and Golden State Warriors, as they have just one title in this era, but they too have the characteristics of a dynasty.
This is the first step, and perhaps the most important aspect of building a dynasty. The coach must not only have a keen eye for talent, but also determine whether the players will fit the team’s system. Most coaches and GMs fail at this, but the best almost never falter. Bill Belichick routinely finds steals in the late rounds and Gregg Popovich picked Tony Parker in the bottom of the first round and Manu Ginobili late in the second. It’s impossible to quantify the value of a brilliant mind, but it’s crucial. Not only does it help with in-game adjustments and crunch time decisions, but also sets the tone and culture throughout the entire season. Belichick acts like a professor; his players his students while Joe Maddon makes sure to keep his players laid-back yet focused through the grind of a 162-game baseball season.
This component is fairly obvious—you need Hall of Famers to win championships. The Patriots have Tom Brady, the Blackhawks have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Golden State won with Stephen Curry and the Spurs had Tim Duncan. The talent is undeniable, but that’s not what makes these players so special. There are plenty of talented players on losing teams. Rather, it’s their unselfishness. Their ability to swallow their pride and become just another guy on the team instead of a prima donna who thinks they’re entitled to special treatment.
The unselfishness stems from the franchise player, but it must reverberate throughout the entire locker-room. Every last player must be willing to sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team. “There is an old saying about the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that,” Bill Belichick said. “On a football team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”
While we celebrate and remember the accomplishments of these dynasties, we should also admire how they responded from devastating defeat. The Spurs let a championship slip through their fingers against the Heat back in 2013, but returned with vengeance the next year when they won their fifth NBA championship against Miami, and it wasn’t even close. Their average margin over the LeBron and Co. in the last three games was 19 points. The Patriots had to move on from two extraordinary wins by the New York Giants and the Blackhawks lost in Game Seven of the Conference Finals the year before they won their third Stanley Cup in six years.
Every team suffers loses, it’s impossible not to. But the best learn from their mistakes rather than stew in their misery
Contact Andrew Slap at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.