Although many sports and teams have their differences, especially the great teams all have some sort of different system or style that they play to. But there are some fundamental things that generally lead to greatness in any sport. It can be seen in every team from the '72 Dolphins to the '06 Colts a championship team shares a lot in common with other teams. A lot of these things need to be looked at a little deeper.
First off, defense is the key to every championship team; in football that's a whole unit in baseball it's mostly the pitcher and then a few not so routine plays from fielders. In basketball it's blocking a shot, in hockey it's keeping the puck on the other side of the ice. There is very rarely a team that relies solely on an offense to win they all have a way to prevent scoring. This is one of the more obvious attributes that people see.
Discipline is perhaps the most important thing on any sports team. A so called players coach like Wade Phillips is the perfect example. The Cowboys have a lot more controversy and distraction with Phillips than anyone would dream of on a Parcells run team.
This is a big explanation for the Miami Dolphins turnaround this year, they may not be the most talented team in the league in fact I know they aren't but they win games. They win games because they consistently lock in, don't make mistakes like turning the ball over or committing a stupid penalty.
Same with baseball a disciplined team that gets on base scores more and makes less errors in the field and throws more strikes from the mound to get people out. It's all about discipline and not letting yourself or anybody else get out of hand and to prevent the stupidest and most dreadfully painful mistakes in that respective sport.
Game management is often heard as a negative term for NFL quarterbacks but in reality it should be considered positive. Nobody has to be blown out of the water all that needs to happen is a constructive and realistic game plan to control the game even if it means winning in a close game.
A pitcher in baseball must have a plan and not just nasty stuff, the game plan and the management is important. Don't just let someone continue to pitch just because they are holding a shutout, if you can see they are wearing down you must manage the game and let a reliever come in and you better have managed the game well enough that you know that this new pitcher can control the game.
In football having a game managing QB is important, guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Chad Pennington that have orchestrated many a late game drive this season deserve credit for exactly that, managing the game.
Teamwork is an often seen as a cliched term should not be ignored. Some teams without as much skill have made a living on teamwork. Although the Utah Jazz don't have a championship, Jerry Sloan has coached a consistent playoff team that always revolves around teamwork. A superstar would ruin the system. This is why I think sometimes my favorite team the Yankees are going the wrong way with all their studs like A-Rod. Not that a highly skilled player isn't a great addition but it's good to avoid adding too many all-stars.
Avoiding distractions is important too as we've seen in the past couple of NFL seasons. The Giants this year are dealing with drama with Plaxico Burress and they've lost two straight divisional games. It's something that can't be done.
The Cowboys have had controversy with T.O. and Witten and with Adam Jones. A championship cannot come with distractions. The Patriots got too wrapped up in a perfect season and eventually choked in the super bowl last year. The perfect example of trying to avoid distractions.
Finally, staying healthy and always having a backup plan. Most great teams didn't have a lot of major injuries when winning a championship. This is controlled by good conditioning and avoiding awkward situations by playing the respective position fundamentally sound.
The backup plan needs to be there in case of an accident though. Like this year's Matt Cassel for the Patriots or the '72 Dolphins Earl Morrall taking over for Bob Griese for most of the season. A backup plan needs to be in place because accidents do happen.
These are all the things that I believe to be the basics for a great sports team of any sort. The 1972 Dolphins are the perfect combination of it all, they had defense, game management, avoided controversy, stayed healthy and when it didn't go right had a backup plan and finally worked as a team.
These things combined with talented players that can execute creates a great team and there is nothing more important than the basic element mentioned above. This is how the '72 Dolphins, '27 Yankees and '07-'08 Celtics got things done in such a dominant manner, they won but didn't have to blow everybody out of the water.