I have heard the debate rage on for years. Each team's fans will go on about their team being the best there has ever been. The only real proof a team has is championships and legacy.
Some would argue the Dallas Cowboys of the early '90s were the best. They won three championships in that era, played in four straight NFC Championship games, boasted the all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith and amazingly did it with two different coaches (Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer). However, did any one year stand out with them?
I have heard others argue the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s were the best ever. It's hard to argue with four Super Bowl wins. It's also hard to argue that Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Brent Jones, Roger Craig, and Tom Rathman did not make up one of the best offenses ever to play.
However, other than their 15-1 run in 1984, no one season really stood out, and even that year, Dan Marino out shined them with his record 5,184 yard season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were wonderful. The list of Hall of Famers reads like a who's who of football: Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Greene, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, John Stallworth, and Terry Bradshaw, and that's just naming a few.
However, there was not one time the Steelers had the overwhelming favorite team to win with the possible exception of 1979.
So, arguing many years of dominance is tricky, so to make things easier, finding that team that was the greatest single season team in history will be our destination. We will start with the only team to go undefeated in the modern era: the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
This team managed to go 17-0 on their way to a 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl. They had strong players for sure: Bob Griese, Larry Czonka, Mercury Morris, and Manny Fernandez to name a few.
However, no one guy from this team was a standout, and frankly, the underdog Redskins could've taken this game away. The Dolphins won, but it seemed they rolled into it more than closed it out.
The 2007 New England Patriots were awesome. They were putting up points like they were playing an old game of Tecmo Super Bowl on the Nintendo. Tom Brady put up 50 TD passes to break Dan Marino's record, and Randy Moss caught 23 of them to break Jerry Rice's record. Speaking of records, they entered the Super Bowl against the New York Giants 18-0.
Of course, they lost. They had the chance to be the best team ever, and they did not finish the job. That to me really leaves only one team, and this team is still revered by NFL fans to this very day.
In 1984, the Chicago Bears made it to the NFC championship game for the first time (please note, all Bears' titles were won prior to the AFL/NFL merger). However, they could not withstand the San Francisco 49ers in San Fran, and the hopes of a city were dashed.
Chicago fans would not have to wait long. 1985 was one of the most dominant seasons ever put in by a football team. The team was led by a no-nonsense coach with fire breathing out of his nostrils and a burning desire to defeat all in his way.
Mike Ditka was the same as a coach as he was as a player. Ditka played for both the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys as a Hall of Fame tight end, and he was called on by Bears' founder and owner George Halas to take over the team in 1982. Ditka knew there was a lot of young talent, but he needed the talent to gel into one whole team.
Enter Buddy Ryan. Buddy Ryan and Mike Ditka were both proud, stubborn men who believed in their principles. People thought they might kill each other because of the fiery differences.
However, Ditka knew Buddy Ryan's 46 defense (named after former Bears safety Doug Plank) would be the key to getting the Bears where he thought they could go.
For those unfamiliar, the 46 defense means that you play with your four down linemen, followed by your three linebackers and your three defensive backs, with a safety over the top. This defense totally is predicated on pressure, and it only works if you have speed and good reading ability of the gaps in the offensive blocking schemes.
Mike Singletary was the middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears. His nickname was "Samurai Mike" due to his stare at opposing players. However, those eyes also were able to line everyone up on the field to make sure the uncovered gaps would be filled by the defense, making it impossible for the offense to move the ball.
It didn't hurt Singletary had great players to work with. At the defensive ends, Richard Dent and Dan Hampton stalked the QBs. If the ends couldn't get there, Steve McMichael would get there from the inside.
And if the offense stopped the first line of defense, Wilbur Marshall and Otis Wilson would come up from their linebacker spots and knock out anyone running toward them.
The thing lost with this Bears' team is that their offense put up 411 points. Yes, the defense of the Bears was dominant, but someone still had to put points up. This is where a brash, arrogant QB named Jim McMahon stepped in.
He was hated by opponents for his attitude, but his teammates loved his energy and his desire to get under people's skin. He got hurt quite often, but his never quit attitude won over his team and their fans.
If McMahon was the spark, Walter Payton was the engine. Payton was not the Payton of old, as he already broke Jim Brown's all-time rushing record in 1984. However, he was still a major threat, and with fullback Matt Suhey opening up lanes for him, Payton showed he still had plenty left in the tank.
The Chicago Bears nearly shot themselves in the foot, however. First, prior to week 11, the Bears produced an album called "Super Bowl Shuffle." Yes, they were 10-0 at the time, but claiming yourselves champions before getting it done seemed risky at best.
Then, the Bears finally stumbled against the Miami Dolphins in week 12 losing their first game of the season. Many believed this might be the end for the Bears, as their aura of invincibility was gone.
Well, then the playoffs happened. And from the word go, the Chicago Bears were on a serious mission. They started against a very tough New York Giants squad led by Hall of Fame-to-be coach Bill Parcells.
And the Bears wasted no time putting them away 21-0. The next game proved to be tougher, as the Los Angeles Rams had to come into Chicago and Soldier Field for the NFC Championship game.
Once the snow began to swirl around the stadium, it was like vultures hovering the roadkill. The Chicago Bears bludgeoned the Rams 44-0 to advance to their first ever Super Bowl.
Everyone believed the Bears would see the Dolphins one more time to get their rematch, but the New England Patriots put a stop to that and set up a matchup in New Orleans for the Super Bowl.
The New England Patriots recovered a Walter Payton fumble and would kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. Big mistake! The Bears would put up 46 points after that, and despite a late TD, would win what was then the most lopsided Super Bowl in history 46-10.
To Bears fans, the only bitter pill is the great Walter Payton never reached the end zone, but he did get his long awaited title.
So, if you recap the Bears' playoff run, they outscored their opposition 111-10. To go along with a 15-1 regular season, I'd say that's dominance. The Bears were never able to rekindle this, as Buddy Ryan left right after the Super Bowl. However, for this one year, no team has ever been better.