Which NFL Franchise Is Developing into the Next Dynasty?

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Which NFL Franchise Is Developing into the Next Dynasty?
Tom Brady with Robert Kraft after Super Bowl XXXIX (Jed Jacobson/Getty Images)

As the 2013 NFL season approaches, it is time to start thinking about the "D" word again.

Dynasty.

Who will emerge as the team of the decade? Who will join the ranks of the 1960s Green Bay Packers, the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, the 1980s San Francisco 49ers and the 1990s Dallas Cowboys?

We know the New England Patriots were the team of the ‘00s, but eight seasons have gone to completion since they last won a Super Bowl.

The 2003-04 Patriots were the last team to repeat as Super Bowl champions. The eight seasons without a repeat winner tie the 1980-87 seasons for the longest span without one. If the Ravens fail to repeat—which is likely, considering no defending champion has won a playoff game since 2005—then we will have a new record.

It is not always easy to judge when a dynasty begins or when it ends, and we only have five good examples, but they do share many similar traits.

Studying the traits in how a dynasty came together should allow us to predict the teams in best position to become the NFL’s next dynasty for the 2010s.

 

Identifying a Dynasty

We know the number of Super Bowl wins ultimately decides the team of the decade, but maybe this is an era where winning three or more championships in a short period of time is no longer possible.

True for all of NFL history, the dirty secret about Super Bowls is that they are won in windows.

There is no magical “championship gene” that allows certain people to win multiple rings. It’s about having the right collection of coaches and talent come together at the right time, and a little luck never hurts.

Why do you think no head coach or quarterback has ever won a Super Bowl for two different franchises?

Why did seven of the 11 quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl wins only do it in a span of two to four seasons?

Only Joe Montana (nine) and Roger Staubach (seven) stretched it beyond six seasons. Both did it as part of the greatest runs of success in NFL history.

The 49ers won at least 10 games in a record 16 consecutive seasons (1983-98). Montana had at least 10 wins as a starter in just five of those years.

Tom Landry’s Cowboys had a record 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966-85). Staubach only started 39.4 percent of those games.

No NFL quarterback or coach has had a career where they won championships at the start, middle and end of their careers. It is too hard to compete at that level for a sustained period of time.

That’s why championship success comes in windows.

You can have several great teams in a decade, such as the 2000s showed with New England besting Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Philadelphia, among others. But only one gets the dynasty or “Team of the Decade” label, and that eventually comes down to rings.

Again, it is rather difficult to judge when a dynasty really begins and ends.

The Green Bay Packers lost the 1960 title game, but they came back with a vengeance, winning the next two NFL championships. Due to no real playoff system at the time, the Packers failed to make the postseason the next two years before winning three straight championships in 1965-67, including the first two Super Bowls, to clearly establish themselves as the team of the decade.

That one was easy.

Heading into the 1973 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t on anyone’s dynasty watch. To this point they had only accomplished one playoff win thanks to “The Immaculate Reception.” But not enough people realize the Steelers lost the following week at home, 21-17, to the undefeated Dolphins in the 1972 AFC Championship.

In 1973, the Raiders handed the Steelers a 33-14 playoff loss. To this point, the team of the decade was 1-2 in the playoffs with a 32-24 (.571) record in the regular season.

But in 1974, the Steelers would nail the draft in a way no other team has matched. They drafted four Hall of Fame players. The Steelers won Super Bowl IX, repeated the following year with a win over Dallas and then really took charge of the decade in 1978 with a third Super Bowl win, also against Dallas.

After another repeat, the Steelers finished the 1970s with a record four Super Bowl wins in a six-year span and eight consecutive playoff appearances.

Even though five teams finished with a better winning percentage than the Steelers in the '70s (three if you include the playoffs), it was the four Super Bowls that put them over the top.

Specifically, beating Dallas, which also won two Super Bowls in the decade, twice in head-to-head Super Bowls was the difference in who became the team of the decade.

It was very much up in the air prior to Jan. 21, 1979 (Super Bowl XIII), which just goes to show these things can take a long time to sort themselves out.

Look at the 1980s for another example.

Sure, Bill Walsh’s 49ers surprised everyone in 1981 with a 13-3 record, “The Catch” taking down Dallas and landing San Francisco in its first Super Bowl. It put players like new full-time starter Joe Montana and rookie Ronnie Lott on the map. San Francisco’s success would sustain itself through the 1998 season as it became the first franchise to win five Super Bowls.

But the distinction as the team of the 1980s was anything but a given.

In 1982, the 49ers went just 3-6 in a strike-shortened season, which was the only time in Montana’s starting career he had a poor defense. The 49ers were looking more like the 1980 team that went 6-10 than the elite Super Bowl winner from 1981.

This also makes the 1981 49ers one of just four teams to win a Super Bowl and not make the playoffs in either the season before or after the Super Bowl win. The others to do so are the 1980 Raiders, 2001 Patriots and 2011 Giants.

The 1981 49ers are the only team in NFL history to have a losing season before and after its Super Bowl win. This makes you wonder about a fluke, but the 49ers would get back on track.

In 1983, the 49ers lost in the NFC Championship to Washington, which was on its way to a second straight Super Bowl appearance. The Redskins lost to Tom Flores’ Raiders, who had just claimed their second Super Bowl of the decade, winning in both the 1980 and 1983 seasons with Jim Plunkett at quarterback.

The Raiders would go 23-9 with two more playoff appearances in 1984-85, so they were very much in the discussion for team of the decade.

This comes even after the 49ers’ dominant 1984 season where they went 18-1 and demolished Dan Marino’s Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX.

But then came the rarely discussed dark era, when Montana led the 49ers to three straight one-and-done postseasons (1985-87). In those games, Montana—now known as the playoff god—led the offense to a combined nine points. He scored no touchdowns, threw four interceptions and had a cumulative 50.5 passer rating.

With Joe Gibbs’ Redskins winning their second Super Bowl in three tries in the decade in 1987, the dynasty discussion was far from over. Through 1987, the Redskins even had a better winning percentage (.679) than the 49ers (.668) when including the playoffs.

But Montana and San Francisco rebounded to put an end to this discussion. Montana embarked on the greatest run of quarterback play in playoff history, which lasted into the '90s. The 49ers won the decade’s final two championships, topping it off with a 55-10 demolition of the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.

Now with four Super Bowl wins, the 49ers were clearly the team of the '80s, though it did take a long time for that to materialize.

San Francisco was in a rare position to be the team of two decades, but the revamped Dallas Cowboys proved to be too much of a foe, defeating the 49ers in consecutive NFC Championship Games (1992-93). Dallas then won back-to-back Super Bowls under the guidance of coach Jimmy Johnson and quarterback Troy Aikman.

Buffalo was in four straight Super Bowls at the time, but it infamously lost them all.

The 49ers did take the third matchup with Dallas in the 1994 NFC Championship, winning the Super Bowl that season. But Dallas added Deion Sanders, and even with Barry Switzer at coach, became the first team to ever win three Super Bowls in a four-year span.

However, Dallas did very little else in the decade. From 1996-99, the Cowboys were just 34-30 (.531) in the regular season and 1-3 in the postseason.

Even with the mediocre finish, Dallas did produce the second-best record in the league in the 1990s. They were 113-64 (.638) including playoffs, but the 49ers were better at 122-54 (.693).

The difference came down Dallas' two extra rings, which can be traced directly back to those head-to-head playoff wins against San Francisco in 1992-93. Unlike the '70s when Dallas could not beat Pittsburgh in the big games to own that decade, the Cowboys came through this time to be the team of the '90s.

In 2001, a very unlikely team came together to win a Super Bowl in New England. Tom Brady was a virtual unknown at the time, but after taking over for the injured Drew Bledsoe, he guided the Bill Belichick-coached Patriots to the playoffs.

What resulted in the postseason was either the scruffiest or shadiest Super Bowl run in history, depending on how you look at it.

New England won three playoff games by a combined 13 points. The average margin of 4.33 points per game is the smallest by any of the 47 Super Bowl winners. After missing the playoffs in 2002, the Patriots returned with the best record in the league in 2003 at 14-2. In the playoffs, they won three games again by just 16 points for the third-smallest margin of victory (5.33 points per game) by a Super Bowl winner.

After another 17-2 Super Bowl season in 2004, the Patriots matched the 1992-95 Cowboys with three Super Bowl wins in four years. The dynasty was complete in the eyes of many, despite the fact most of the decade still remained.

But since then, only the Steelers were able to win multiple Super Bowls. The Giants did too, but their latest came in 2011. That’s the next decade. Of course, the Giants denied the Patriots in two head-to-head Super Bowls, including the shot at 19-0 perfection in Super Bowl XLII.

New England has largely disappointed in the playoffs since last winning a championship. The last seven exits have come to teams they played in the regular season. In the last two seasons, they have been swept by the 2011 Giants and 2012 Ravens.

The 2006-12 Patriots have gone 88-24 (.786) in the regular season, but they have not won a championship. That is the best record in NFL history over seven seasons for a team without a ring to show for it.

With 10 straight seasons of at least 10 wins, it’s not like New England has slowed down, but it’s unclear when its dynasty truly ended. Was it when the decade changed to 2010?

What happens if the Patriots win two more rings and no other team gets two this decade? Is New England then the dynasty for each of the last two decades?

These things tend to sort themselves out, but it is a long process.

What we do know is by the end of the 10 years, one team finds a way to distance itself from the rest of the pack. Let’s look at the traits they have in common.

 

Finding the Right Head Coach and Quarterback

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

To compete at the top level in the NFL, you must have a very good coach and franchise quarterback.

Many great success stories have started when a team found both in the same year. A failure to fill both positions is how a team like Oakland continues to lose year after year.

The 1958 Packers had seven future Hall of Fame players on their roster, including quarterback Bart Starr, a 17th-round choice in the 1956 draft. That team finished 1-10-1.

Green Bay did not start winning again until Vince Lombardi became head coach in 1959. He immediately turned them around with a 7-5 record. In 1960, he already had Green Bay in the title game. In his third season, he led the Packers to a championship.

They would win a total of five championships before Lombardi left following Super Bowl II.

Starr was just 3-15-1 as a starter before Lombardi became his coach. After Lombardi was gone, a veteran Starr was just 14-19-1 as a starter with no more playoff appearances.

Make no mistake about it: The Packers were the NFL’s fine-tuned machine in the 1960s, but it was Lombardi’s coaching that made it all work. The Packers would be in a huge rut until they found their next great coach/quarterback combination in 1992, when Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre entered the fold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for only having to hire three head coaches since 1969: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin. That’s some change given the team went through 13 different coaches from 1933-68.

Noll held the No. 1 pick in the draft for 1970, just his second year on the job. The choice was not hard—the team needed a quarterback, so Terry Bradshaw was the choice. Though he took longer than expected to play well, Bradshaw became the first quarterback ever to win four Super Bowls.

The ‘80s were not as kind to the Steelers. Bradshaw retired after the 1983 season, which is the year the team passed on Dan Marino in the draft. First-round bust Mark Malone proved to be no successor, and Noll actually finished his career in mediocre fashion.

Following that final Super Bowl win in the 1979 season, Noll finished 93-91 (.505) in the regular season and just 2-4 in the playoffs. It’s not like Noll forgot how to coach, but again, a championship window is only finite.

The Steelers would not enjoy championship success again until providing Bill Cowher with a great quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, who also won a Super Bowl under Mike Tomlin. Roethlisberger joins Montana and Aikman as the only quarterbacks to win Super Bowls for multiple head coaches.

However, many would tell you the title window for the Steelers is closing, if not already closed. You have to maximize the opportunities when you have the right people in place at quarterback and coach.

While the Steelers were winning their last title of the '70s, the 49ers hired Bill Walsh as head coach in 1979. That year, he drafted Joe Montana in the third round out of Notre Dame. It became one of the biggest draft steals in history.

Walsh’s West Coast offense was the perfect fit for Montana’s skills. The 49ers revolutionized the passing game in the ‘80s. Walsh won three Super Bowls with Montana, retiring after the dramatic win in Super Bowl XXIII over Cincinnati.

By this time, the 49ers were such a machine, defensive coordinator George Seifert had no problem taking over for Walsh and watching the team have its most dominant season yet in 1989. The 49ers would keep playing at a high level as Steve Young stepped in for Montana and had a Hall of Fame career himself.

The 49ers would not return to the Super Bowl until finding in 2011 what could be the next great coach/quarterback combination in Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick.

In 1989, the Cowboys moved on from Tom Landry and hired college coach Jimmy Johnson. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, he took UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman. He also picked up Miami quarterback Steve Walsh, but it would be Aikman leading the way for the Cowboys.

By Year 3, the Cowboys were in the playoffs. In 1992, Aikman turned in his most impressive season and was Super Bowl MVP. He made six straight Pro Bowls coinciding with Dallas’ six consecutive playoff appearances (1991-96).

The Cowboys then struggled mightily until finding an undrafted gem in Tony Romo, even if many will not acknowledge this fact.

The Patriots hired Bill Belichick in 2000. With the 199th pick in the 2000 draft, he struck gold with Tom Brady out of Michigan. Of course, this source may have gone untapped had Drew Bledsoe not been injured in 2001, but the rest is history.

Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl win in his first season starting and then pulled off the league’s latest repeat in 2003-04. Since then, the wins have continued to pile up each year, and you have to imagine Belichick and Brady will retire together in a few years, likely leaving the Patriots in obscurity again.

Without the right people at coach and quarterback, you are not seriously competing in this league. All five of these dynasty quarterbacks are or will be in the Hall of Fame. All of the coaches will make it too, except for Johnson, who left Dallas too early.

We also know the NFL is a young man’s game, with 13 of the last 14 Super Bowl winners having a quarterback age 30 or younger.

If you are thinking about the next dynasty, think young at the quarterback position. Starr was 25 when Lombardi arrived in 1959. Bradshaw, Montana, Aikman and Brady were all 22-23 when drafted.

So while the Denver Broncos have found a quarterback in Peyton Manning, at age 37 he is unlikely to play long enough to make the Broncos a dynasty. The best-case scenario will be one title.

Ironically enough, the Colts with Andrew Luck are in a better position to be the next dynasty. Though they suffered that one season of inconvenience in 2011, it set them up in the draft for a new beginning.

 

Watch Out for a Team on the Rise

When a window of opportunity closes, darkness soon follows.

That’s why the NFL is said to be cyclical. Most teams go through periods of winning and losing. Some teams, like Detroit, tend to have more darkness than others.

When looking for a dynasty, it tends to come from a team that just suffered a dark period.

From 1950-58, prior to the arrival of Vince Lombardi, the Green Bay Packers were 32-74-2 (.306) without a single winning season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had never even won a playoff game (also made just one appearance) before the 1972 season. In the 1960s, the team was 46-85-7 (.359).

The San Francisco 49ers were initially a success in the 1970s, but after Roger Staubach stunned them off the bench in the playoffs, the team fell on hard times. From 1973-80, the 49ers compiled just a 39-79 (.331) record.

Dallas followed 20 consecutive winning seasons with five losing seasons, going 25-54 (.316) from 1986-90.

New England fared the best with three consecutive playoff appearances in 1996-98. But the team was 13-19 (.406) the next two seasons with no real expectations in 2001.

Even with the right pieces at coach and/or quarterback in place, success is not always instant.

Chuck Noll went 1-13 in his first season in 1969. Bill Walsh took a 2-14 team and kept them at 2-14 in his 1979 debut. Jimmy Johnson was just 1-15 in 1989. Even Bill Belichick turned an 8-8 team into 5-11 in 2000.

That’s why the final trait of a dynasty may be the most important. If you want a coach and quarterback to perform, you better build a deep team around them.

 

Quickly Amassing a Collection of Talent

The benefit of losing over an extended period of time is that you get a lot of premium draft picks. We have recently seen teams in other sports like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Rays turn things around by stocking up on elite talent at the top of the draft.

It can work in the NFL, too. Though there will always be a place for veterans and acquiring them in free agency/trading, the key to building a dynasty is to draft a lot of talent in a short period of time. You want players that can be homegrown, learning in your system from day one and at their physical peak.

We mentioned the Packers already having so many Hall of Fame players before Lombardi arrived, but they were able to acquire eight of them in a span of just five seasons (1956-60).

For all players, the tenure is only for the initial run the player served with the team. In some cases, like Charles Haley in San Francisco, the player returned for a second stint.

The Packers had an embarrassment of riches assembled by the ‘60s. The 1961 Packers actually had a record 12 Hall of Fame selections (11 players and Lombardi). You can see most of the talent came through the draft. The Cleveland Browns also helped in trades for Henry Jordan and Willie Davis.

The Pittsburgh Steelers also mastered the draft.

Joe Greene was Noll’s first pick in 1969, and he may go down as the greatest player in franchise history. A year later, they found more pillars in Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount. The 1974 draft not only produced four Hall of Famers, but also found that year were undrafted free agents Donnie Shell (Hall of Fame finalist in 2002) and Randy Grossman.

When you can find nine Hall of Fame players in a span of six years (1969-74), that’s going to set your team up for great success like the Steelers had.

For the 49ers, you can keep the list going seeing as how their success continued for so long. But for the ‘80s dynasty, the foundation came in 1979 with Montana and Dwight Clark. The incredible young secondary that changed the defense in 1981 (Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Dwight Hicks and Carlton Williamson) all came together in a couple of seasons. The trade for Fred Dean that year was also big.

San Francisco was not done there, as future finds of Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Tom Rathman, Charles Haley, Brent Jones and Steve Young helped the team win three more Super Bowls.

Dallas’ dynasty really began with the first-round choice of Michael Irvin in 1988. Then the team signed Johnson to coach, and Aikman was the first pick in the draft in 1989. But the pivotal move was probably the Herschel Walker trade to Minnesota that October.

Dallas received five players in the trade, but it was the draft picks that really gave them life. Those picks turned into Emmitt Smith, Alvin Harper and Darren Woodson, among others.

The Cowboys made moves outside of the draft as well, getting tight end Jay Novacek and defensive end Charles Haley as big contributors. Deion Sanders and Ray Donaldson were veteran additions to the final Super Bowl team in 1995.

But after the salary cap and free agency era started in 1994, things would never be quite the same for dynasties.

You can already see that with how New England came about.

Many of the pieces on the Patriots were there for the 1996 Super Bowl appearance. It’s not out of question that kicker Adam Vinatieri could be the first player from the Patriot dynasty in Canton. He’s also the only kicker on a dynasty worth mentioning because of how many crucial kicks he made.

We may be talking about a different team had a certain 45-yard field goal in the snow gone differently following the Tuck Rule against Oakland.

The 2001-04 Patriots were known for miraculously pulling out close games with unmatched consistency. They were known for emphasizing team over individuals.

In some ways, they were everything the post-Spygate Patriots aren’t. Today’s Patriots no longer really outthink anyone. They win the old-fashioned way: by having more talent.

Brady was the key pick in 2000, but the team also solidified the trenches around that time with stalwarts in Matt Light and Richard Seymour.

(Just as a point of interest, notice how these dynasties had solid, but not spectacular left tackles in Bob Skoronski (Packers), Jon Kolb (Steelers), Bubba Paris/Steve Wallace (49ers), Mark Tuinei (Cowboys) and Light (Patriots).)

For the Patriots, you see a few more free agents and shorter tenures than past dynasties. There will most certainly be far fewer players in the Hall of Fame as well. That’s just part of playing in this era where it’s so hard to keep a great roster together for a long time.

But to win multiple championships, it still takes a well-rounded team with standout players on both sides of the ball. All five of these dynasties ranked in the top seven in scoring on both offense and defense for the decade:

A team like the 2000 Ravens had that incredible defense, but the offense and quarterback were never there to match. On the opposite side, the Colts won games at a record clip in the decade, but Peyton Manning consistently had to deal with a defense that limited his possessions each year.

A dynasty requires the full package.

 

Predicting the Dynasty of the 2010s

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Are the 49ers preparing for another dynasty?

Now that we know what to look for, we can predict the NFL’s dynasty for the 2010s.

We want a team with a young (future Hall of Fame) quarterback and a very good coach. We want a team that recently had to overcome a rough period and has been stockpiling great talent on both sides of the ball.

You can start by looking at the three teams already with a Super Bowl win this decade.

A few years ago, the Packers would have been a lock for this after their win in Super Bowl XLV. Green Bay’s 19-game winning streak, which largely carried over into 2011, is one of the greatest streaks ever.

But crashing in the playoffs against the Giants really hurt the "team of the decade" talk. It also appears 2010 is the outlier for Dom Capers’ defense, which has continued to flop against quality opponents/quarterbacks every other season. Charles Woodson and Nick Collins were huge contributors to that defense, and both are gone now.

The offense also continues to falter in close games in historic fashion. Green Bay had a difficult time scoring points last season against physical defenses like those of the Seahawks, Giants and 49ers. It is hard to not see them having to go through such teams in the playoffs in the NFC.

Aaron Rodgers is still only going to be 30 years old this season, but what was once the deepest receiving corps in the league may no longer be that with Greg Jennings leaving to Minnesota. Mike McCarthy continues to neglect the running game, and the offensive line is still not up to par.

The Packers will continue to be in the hunt under Rodgers, but they no longer have the feel of a team with multiple titles in their future.

The New York Giants have actually missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons. Every year we know they start well, but rarely do they finish like they are capable of.

Tom Coughlin will be 67 years old this season, so it doesn’t seem like he will be on the job much longer. Eli Manning is 32 and has never missed a start, but some of his lingering consistency issues make it hard to trust the Giants to add a few more rings.

Keep in mind the Giants have won just 12 games one time (2008) under Coughlin/Manning. They tend to do things the hard way, whereas it often comes with ease for a dynasty.

Then we have the Ravens, who just completed a five-year journey in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era to finally get that first Super Bowl win. With defensive legends Ray Lewis and Ed Reed gone (along with many others), it would seem like a mini-rebuild season in 2013, though the Ravens have weathered the storm well.

If anything, the loss of Anquan Boldin can hurt most, as the Ravens do not have a consistent wide receiver to move the chains for them now. Flacco, making huge money now, is going to have to play at a higher level than what he’s shown in the past.

A team like Atlanta is basically the NFC equivalent of Baltimore. They will hope to enjoy a Super Bowl win in Tony Gonzalez’s final season this year.

That’s why you get back to the traits that work and focus on the young builders rather than teams that have been in pursuit of a championship.

If you think Buffalo is ready to set the league on fire with coach Doug Marrone and quarterback EJ Manuel, then maybe that’s your pick. I do not have the same faith in them.

Miami is trying to put the talent around quarterback Ryan Tannehill and coach Joe Philbin after a rough decade of their own in the AFC East. New England can’t rule forever, but this one doesn’t intrigue me as much, either. Mike Wallace turns into Casper the Friendly Ghost in the postseason.

Cincinnati has been loading up in the draft, but does Andy Dalton really scream "Hall of Fame quarterback"? Marvin Lewis is somehow going into his 11th season on the job, coming in with a 0-4 record in the postseason. The Bengals just don’t beat the good teams. Dalton is 2-11 against playoff teams in his brief career.

The Redskins and Colts should entertain for years with Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, but where are the young cornerstones on defense? London Fletcher can’t play forever; Dwight Freeney is gone.

We also know Mike Shanahan has had little success since John Elway retired in 1999. Chuck Pagano was more of a spiritual inspiration to last year’s Colts than an on-field wizard.

Reggie Wayne is still the leading receiver, and he will be 35 this season. That has to be addressed soon, as does the continuous improvement to a poor offensive line that could get Luck killed at this rate.

With Griffin, he left three games with injury last season, tearing his ACL to end the year. His durability for long-term success is a major concern.

So basically, this comes down to San Francisco and Seattle.

I hate that they play in the same division as the success of one will limit that of the other, but let’s stick with it.

The 49ers certainly had a long run of failure (2003-10), which allowed them to load up talent in the draft. Jim Harbaugh has brought out the best in that talent since taking the job in 2011. He drafted Colin Kaepernick in the second round and replaced Alex Smith with him in expert fashion last year, resulting in a Super Bowl appearance.

The pieces are there, though I worry that Justin Smith, who will be 34 this year, is not going to be there for the long haul. We already saw last year how he makes things easier for Aldon Smith.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

So the team I am selecting to be the next dynasty is the Seattle Seahawks.

Why not? The team hasn’t won a Super Bowl since entering the league in 1976. They had a good run in the Mike Holmgren/Matt Hasselbeck era, but a pathetic 9-23 (.281) record in 2008-09 forced a rebuild.

The big changes started in 2010 when the team hired Pete Carroll as head coach. Carroll took some lumps in the NFL with the Jets and Patriots, but he ran an extremely successful program at USC. He started by leading a 7-9 team into the playoffs in 2010. Though many ridiculed the whole event, Seattle dethroned the Saints with a 41-36 upset.

Maybe Marshawn Lynch’s infamous touchdown run will be like “The Immaculate Reception” or “The Catch” moment for Seattle. Lynch is also going to be just 27 years old this season.

In fact, Seattle’s collection of young talent is the reason to pick them. They have 10 Pro Bowl players (not counting first-team All-Pro Richard Sherman) that will be under the age of 30 this season:

ESPN’s Mike Sando just ran a piece on the projected average ages of 2013 starters. The Seahawks rank as the fourth-youngest team. But do not confuse that for inexperience, as their youth is exceptionally talented.

Sure, Pro Bowl invitations are handed out about as often as coupons to McDonald’s these days, but putting 11 such guys out there when a team only starts 22 players is unbelievable.

You get a third-round steal in quarterback Russell Wilson (because he was short), and that should be the biggest move of them all. Rookie success by a quarterback speaks well for career success, and Wilson’s rookie season was one of the best ever. Wilson exploded in the second half after Carroll took away the training wheels.

Who will be the NFL dynasty for the 2010s?

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Now the team also adds the versatile Percy Harvin in a trade from Minnesota. The young secondary has been fantastic with Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman headlining the group. You must stop people in the air these days; you cannot afford to have a weakness in the secondary.

Seattle allowed the fewest points (245) in the league last year. This is a team that can achieve elite balance with its offense and defense.

Last season, the Seahawks came one play away from the NFC Championship after Atlanta’s stunning game-winning drive in the final seconds.

Maybe next time they'll win more games to have home-field advantage, which is big in Seattle: 8-0 last year with league-best 148-point scoring differential.

This is clearly a team on the rise with the right pieces in place for a dynasty.

The only things not to like are the improving division with the presence of San Francisco, and the Seahawks better put a stop to these suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs. Bruce Irvin is the latest Seahawk to be suspended.

With Wilson’s development and continuous improvement to the roster, the Seattle Seahawks are primed to have the NFL’s next dynasty.

 

Scott Kacsmar writes for Cold, Hard Football Facts, NBC Sports, Colts Authority, and contributes data to Pro-Football-Reference.com and NFL Network. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive, and can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.

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