You Decide 2012: What Is the Best NFL Dynasty of the Super Bowl Era?
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In the spirit of the presidential election, we ask you to vote for what is the greatest NFL dynasty of the Super Bowl era. While there were many teams to choose from dating back to 1966, only four teams made the cut.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1972-1979): The Steel Curtain anchored the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins in six years. Led by Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh made the playoffs each year during that span and reached either the Super Bowl or AFC Championship game all but one year. Nine players from the '70s Steelers teams are in the Hall of Fame, led by Terry Bradshaw on offense and Joe Greene on defense.
Pittsburgh's road to the Super Bowl went through arguably the toughest competition in NFL history that included John Madden's Raiders (3-2 playoff record vs. Raiders in the '70s), Bum Phillips' Oilers (2-0 playoff record vs.Houston in the playoffs), Bud Grant's Minnesota Vikings (16-6 win in Super Bowl IX) and Tom Laundry's Dallas Cowboys (wins over Dallas in Super Bowls X and XIII).
Biggest Strength: The Steel Curtain has been argued as the finest defensive unit in NFL history. The unit allowed a putrid 28 points in nine games in 1976, and that's one of the Steelers teams that didn't win a Super Bowl in the decade. Pittsburgh terrorized Roger Staubach in two Super Bowls, intercepting him a total of four times while sacking him seven times in Super Bowl X. Perhaps their finest moment came in Oakland in the 1974 AFC Championship Game, when the underdog Steelers caged the Raiders' famed running game to a mere 28 yards rushing yards en route to a 24-13 win on their way to their first title in franchise history.
Biggest Weakness: While it's hard to find any weakness on a team with so many Hall of Famers, the Steelers did have a few spots on an otherwise glittering resume in the '70s. Their kicking game was woeful at best in their first two Super Bowl runs, as kicker Roy Gerela and punter Bobby Walden made their fare share of mistakes in both Super Bowls IX and X. The offense was also turnover prone at times, leading the entire NFL in turnovers in 1979 (they won the Super Bowl anyways).
Selling Point: The 1979 Steelers are the only Super Bowl champion that drafted every player on their roster.
San Francisco 49ers (1981-1989): We could have stretched this dynasty out to 1994, when Steve Young led the 49ers to their fifth Super Bowl title with a record six touchdown passes in Super Bowl XXIX. But the Niners' most dominant era took place in the '80s when Joe Montana led San Fran to four titles in nine seasons.
Bill Walsh's West Coast offense was perfectly complimented by George Siefert's defense, as the Niners had some of the deepest and talented squads in NFL history. This was best exemplified in San Fran's 38-16 win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. While the defense shut out Dan Marino and the Dolphins' record setting offense in the second half, Montana and Roger Craig each scored three touchdowns in the blowout.
What is the best dynasty in NFL history?
Biggest Strength: There aren't many definitive facts in sports, but one of them is that Jerry Rice is the best receiver in NFL history. He spent the first few seasons of his career with arguably the best quarterback of all-time in Joe Montana. The two were a dominant combination that spearheaded the Niners to victories in Super Bowls XXIII and XXIV.
Biggest Weakness: The 49ers defense wasn't always a San Francisco treat. Four of their playoff losses in the 80s could be squarely blamed on the Niners defense that included losses to the Redskins (1983), the Bears (1984), the Giants (1986) and the Vikings (1987). The loss to Minnesota was the most crippling of all the 49ers losses in the '80s, as Anthony Carter paced the underdog Vikings with 10 catches for 227 yards in the loss.
Selling Point: The 49ers dominance in 1989 was on full display in Super Bowl XXIV. Their 55-10 thrashing of the Broncos is still the largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history.
Dallas Cowboys (1991-1996): Though cut short prematurely because of the divorce between Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones, Dallas was nearly unstoppable for a four year span that saw them win three Super Bowls in four years. Led by the "Triplets" consisting of quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and receiver Michael Irvin, Dallas unleashed one of the most potent and machine like offenses the NFL has ever seen. Dallas also flaunted a defense that was No.1 in the NFL in 1992 and rotated 21 players onto the field, and this was before they added Deion Sanders for their third Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl XXX.
Greatest Strength: While an easy choice would be Emmitt Smith plowing through his monstrous offensive line anchored by Larry Allen, that would be shortchanging how deep and talented the Cowboys offense was in those years that constantly put defenses in a literal catch 22. If defenses clogged the line of scrimmage to stop Smith, Aikman could throw deep to Irvin or to high wire receiver Alvin Harper. If Harper and Irvin were being doubled, Aikman could call on tight end Jay Novacek to make a tough catch to convert a third down play.
If the defense was looking to stop Emmitt on the goal line, he could instead hand off to fullback Daryl Johnston, one of the durable and reliable full backs in NFL history. Opposing defenses spent the entire early and mid '90s trying to find a way to stop the Cowboys dynamic offense. They never did.
Biggest Weakness: Dallas' biggest weakness was themselves. Internal bickering played a major role in the Cowboys' demise starting in 1997. In their bid for the first "Three Peat" in NFL history in the 1994 NFC Championship Game, three careless turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game put them in an early 21-0 hole in their eventual 38-27 loss to the 49ers. Dallas' second half slump nearly cost the Cowboys a victory in Super Bowl XXX before Larry Brown bailed his team out after picking off two terrible passes by Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O'Donnell in the second half.
Selling Point: Despite having the No.1 defense in the NFL in 1992, the Cowboys failed to have a defensive player named to the Pro Bowl that season. The unit took their frustrations out on everyone that postseason; that included nine forced turnovers and two defensive touchdowns against the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII.
New England Patriots (2001-2011): New England's dynasty is the most unique of the four teams in this poll. The Patriots made everything look easy in winning three Super Bowls in four years that climaxed with a victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. The Patriots then spent the next seven years as an elite team but were not able to duplicate their previous success as a Super Bowl champion despite an 18-0 record heading into their loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Despite their inability to add to their Lombardi Trophy collection in recent seasons, the fact that the Patriots have remained among the NFL's best for over a decade demands a spot in the poll.
Biggest Strength: Tom Brady's big game brilliance and coach Bill Belichick's complicated defensive schemes that befuddled even the game's best quarterbacks paved the way to their success. Despite never playing with an elite running back, with the exception of Corey Dillon in 2004, Brady has remained one of the top passers in the game while sharing his success with a multitude of different receivers. Led by cornerback Ty Law, linebacker Tedy Bruschi, linebacker Mike Vrabel and safety Rodney Harrison, the Patriots out-thought and outwitted elite passers such as Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger on the way to three Super Bowl titles.
Biggest Weakness: The lack of a running game and elite receivers eventually caught up to Brady after his final Super Bowl victory in January of 2005. His receivers were outmatched in playoff losses to the Broncos in 2005 and the Colts in 2006. Brady's lack of a strong running game Super Bowls XLII and XLVI permitted the Pats of stringing together long sustaining drives late against the Giants. The result was two comebacks by Eli Manning to keep the Belichick-Brady Super Bowl victory count at three.
Selling Point: New England was unbeatable for most of 2003 and the beginning of 2004. They won 21 straight games during that span that finally ended at the hands of Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.
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