If the Patriots gone 19-0, would that have set a precedent for 19-0 being the ultimate goal?
I mean, part of the reason why I as a Rams fan cheered for the Patriots (after my team was eliminated) to win and go 19-0 was because it would have unseated the '72 Dolphins as greatest team of all time. This is not based on any hatred for Mercury Morris or Don Shula, but more so the passing of the torch, and of course being able to say I witnessed something legendary.
The day after they lost, I kept thinking how people would use this against future teams. I knew this would not be forgotten.
Of course the '76 Raiders did rest their starters last week of the season when they were 12-1, but they were not 13-0.
One of the basic notions of competitive drive, not only in sport but every field imaginable, is being the best at what you do. Now being the best at what you do can go away after you are considered to be deposed. Never is this more clear than within the world of sport.
There is always a clear winner, and a loser, at least in the championship game (regular seasons be forgotten for a moment here). To be crowned a champion is an achievement, but it is not the insurmountable achievement; it can be duplicated. The goal of every athlete is to become not only a champion, but of such a class of champion that they cannot be supplanted.
This is impossible; every champion can be surpassed, no matter how many times they win or how they win. If we are to assume an eternal continuance in the game, therewill be a successor.
In the NFL, the precedent for greatest champion is largely based on record. There are 16 regular season games and have been since 1978. The playoff wins are counted, so a champion that finishes 18-1 is often seen as better than a champion that finished 14-5.
You may now quickly come to the conclusion that a 19-0 champion may well be regarded better than an 18-1 Champion, and you may be right. The media and the common NFL fan, which in essence is what makes the National Football League, believes so.
So if a team can go 19-0, it should strive for it, no?
Investment seems to have changed this in recent times.
Star players make many millions a season, not only in base salary, but bonuses, obvious perks, and sponsorship deals from outside the league.
Teams in the regular season that have everything assured in terms of material benefit, such as a guaranteed home playoff game, a higher seed to allow for more home playoff games, or a playoff game period in which to play in, have in essence no reason to utilize their star players.
This notion, though technically correct, negates the NFL fan.
Without fans, a sport, never mind a team, does not exist. It ceases to exist because as the old question goes, "If a tree falls down on its own in a forest, and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?"
Another fact is a team makes all of its money off the fan, not only in ticket sales for fans who want to see a game live in a stadium, but off merchandise that fans wear to feed their love and/or pride for the team.
I need not go on in excruciating detail to conclude my argument. Perfection, currently 19-0, is the greatest form of championship victory, and the closest any team can come to "immortality." If you have the opportunity to attain that greatness, you have to take it.
If the media does not care, if the fan does not care, then how can any team hope to achieve a legacy?
If championships are the only thing that matter every season, then does winning five matter more than winning one? And if winning all your games is no more meaningful than losing five, what is the definition of winning in the first place? Winning a particular game? Why does the NFL season not hold a tournament of 32 teams from the start?
There is only one team in NFL history to go undefeated, and every NFL fan will know their name. They were the Dolphins. The '72 Dolphins, and they smile at you Bill Polian, they smile at you.