NFL Dynasties: Creating the Blueprint for the Future
Every team and fanbase across the NFL would love to win a single Super Bowl. For most teams, the thought of a dynasty is beyond what most teams could wish for.
In the NFL's 45 years of Super Bowl, there has been a dynasty in each of the four decades. In the '60s, the Green Bay Packers owned the original Super Bowls to the tune of having the trophy named after their head coach, Vince Lombardi.
In the '70s, the Pittsburgh Steelers, with the Steel Curtain, ruled the NFL, winning four Super Bowls in a span of six years.
It was the San Francisco 49ers in the '80s that owned the decade, with one of the most prolific passing combinations of Joe Montana to Jerry Rice.
The Dallas Cowboys took the birth of true free agency to own the '90s, complementing the Big Three of Aikman, Irvin and Smith.
There have been many great teams that have been sprinkled through those seasons, but between those five teams, 22 of the possible 45 Lombardi Trophies are owned. If you look at the losses, there were another nine Super Bowl appearances from those teams.
If you look at some of the teams that have never won a Super Bowl, how would they construct a team that could not only be competitive and Super Bowl Champions, but become a dynasty in the NFL?
Here is the blueprint that every team can follow to become a dynasty in the NFL.
The biggest problem that NFL teams have are the people that make the decisions.
Example: Dan Snyder/Jerry Jones.
There are two kinds of owners in the NFL. Those that don't know how to manage a football team, and those that think they can.
When it comes to the game of football, especially in the NFL, what happens on the field must start in the front office. It is the teams that understand this that have success.
Yes, Jerry Jones owned the Cowboys during their Super Bowl dynasty, but it was during the beginning of true free agency, when he purchased wins for his team by signing superior talent and having a better team than they played against.
It has been proven since then that simply buying players is not the way to have success in the NFL for even a year, let alone a dynasty.
Teams like the Cowboys and Redskins have spent years and years signing the best names to contracts without a thought about team chemistry. In today's NFL, it is not the best players that win games, but the teams with the best chemistry.
That is why it is so important for owners of teams to be able to have people that know what they are doing to run their teams.
If it was a normal business world, the Redskins and Cowboys would have two of the best teams in football.
Snyder and Jones are probably two of the shrewdest businessmen in sports; if only they smart enough to know that they needed to have football people in place to make the football decisions, then the 'Boys and 'Skins would both be quality teams.
Competent General Managers
Because it is so important for an NFL owner to have a competent football person to call the shots, after being selected to run a team, the GM of said team must really know what he is doing.
You don't see a lot of GM's across the NFL that are head and shoulders above their team. If the GM is doing his job the right way, then you won't ever hear him talked about.
If a GM is doing his job, he is giving the coaching staff the people that they need in order to be successful.
I guess it would be safe to say the GM's are kind of like offensive linemen: more important than anyone gives them credit for, but at the same time, there is no success without them.
I believe that finding a successful head coach in the NFL is one of the hardest things that a team can do.
The head coach must be a motivator, inspirational speaker and still have the knowledge to make the tough decisions on the fly AND be successful at it.
If you look at some of the greatest coaches in the NFL, they are stoic, fearless and have the support of the team that they lead.
Guys like Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick and the Harbaugh brothers are leaders of their teams, and get more out of them than most coaches. It is because the players love the coaches, because they know they are going to put them in the best position to win.
Though some teams employ one person as both the head coach and general manager, in most cases, this is not a good idea.
Sure, sometimes it works (Belichick), but in most cases (Nick Saban), it is simply too much for the coach to handle.
Not only is it too much to handle, but when a team has the positions filled by two different people, there are checks and balances that need to be addressed. The coach has the time to do the coaching, while the GM has the time to handle the business end.
When it comes to people like Andy Reid, though they have some success, it is nearly impossible for the man to wear both hats.
It is said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In coaching, a head coach is only as strong as his coordinators.
The Indianapolis Colts are the perfect example of this in 2011. The Colts have had a run, owning the AFC South for the better part of the last decade.
As bad as it is for any team to lose their starting quarterback, it should not be an instant death blow like it has been for the Colts.
The Colts have had the luxury of having their offensive coordinator on the field for every play, but when he was injured, the entire team fell apart, and they will be lucky to win a game this year.
Coordinators are largely responsible for constructing the game plan. With the responsibilities of the head coach more of an administrative position, the coordinators must be able to run their side of the ball without much help from the head coach.
When teams are successful, this is how it runs.
Free agency is a tricky road that teams have to negotiate.
Yes, sometimes, you can sign a player that is going to instantly upgrade your team. The problem with that is, if you bring in an outsider to your locker room, you don't know if they are going to mesh well with the group you already have.
Not only that, if a person is available as a free agent, you have to ask yourself, why did his old team simply let him leave?
Teams that want to have long-term success are not teams that are going to be big players in free agency. If you look at the Super Bowl Champs of the last few years, none of them go crazy on free agency.
Pittsburgh, Green Bay, New England, New York Giants, Indianapolis. None of them go crazy signing big-name free agents.
This is the most important key to success. Not following these rules can doom your team for years.
First-Round Draft Pick Success
When you are building your team, regardless where in the draft you are picking, you must have success in the first round if you want to build a dynasty.
Not only do first-round picks make a ton of money, but they are vital to the success of your team. Look at players that have been taken at the top of the NFL Draft that have become busts.
Now, look at how those teams are not successful for years after that.
If a team wants to build a dynasty, they must hit on most, if not all, of their first-round picks.
Decent Production of Mid-Round Picks
If you look at some of the people that have been taken in the second, third and fourth rounds, most of them don't work out in the NFL.
Then you have players like Vincent Jackson (second), Mike Wallace (third) and Brandon Marshall (fourth), who, with coaching, become some of the best at their position.
Players in college are only taught so much because college coaches are interested in winning right then. With 100 players on your roster, you don't have that kind of time to develop players that are only going to be on your team for three years.
When these players get to the pros, they are given more one-on-one training and develop into superstars.
Though it is not possible for a team to hit on all of these picks, they need to do so on at least 50 percent of them.
Late-Round Draft Picks/Undrafted Players
Teams that are able to find the diamond in the rough, like the Patriots did with Tom Brady late in the sixth round of the draft, get a leg up on the competition.
Sometimes these players simply didn't get the right coaching in college, weren't in the right system or simply were not mature enough to be successful in the NFL.
If a team can hit on even two of these players a year, they are way above the competition.
It was once said that any team can win one Super Bowl, but it takes a great one to win two.
Teams like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who had one of the best defenses in the history of the NFL, could have won that Super Bowl with Curtis Painter under center. If the defense does not allow the other team to score, the worst they can do is tie.
For a team to have a great deal of success, they need an elite player directing the offense.
One interesting fact: There are only three players in the history of the Super Bowl era that have won two Super Bowls that are not in the Hall of Fame: Jim Plunkett, who most believe deserves to be in Canton, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, neither of whom are eligible because they are still playing.
Decent Running Game
Though a team does not need a Barry Sanders to be successful, they do need someone that is going to keep the opposing defenses from dropping six players in coverage.
If a team can run the ball, it will keep the defenses honest and force them to not double cover more than one player. If you can keep a defense honest, it will allow your franchise QB the chance to get the ball downfield.
It also allows the play-action pass to be effective, and it opens up swing passes and screen passes to work as well. Most teams would say that these are vital to success.
That being said, a team can employ a two- or three-back rotation in the backfield, and it will work just as well. The point is, you have to be able to run the ball, or having the franchise QB is null and void.
Field-Stretching Wide Receiver
When you have a receiver that can stretch the field, it opens up the middle of the field and allows the other receivers to run short to intermediate routes and make plays for first downs.
It also makes the defense keep at least one of their safeties from playing close to the line of scrimmage, which helps the running game.
As the Patriots showed, it is not a vital part, but anyone that watches the Patriots this year believes that if Tom Brady had a deep threat to throw to, their offense would be even more explosive than it already is.
I honestly believe that it is important for a team to have a competent offensive line if they are going to find success.
Some offensive lines are critical to the running game, because you need to pound the defense for those late game yards and control the clock.
Others will say you need an offensive line so that your can keep your franchise QB from getting injured.
Both of these statements are true, but the reality is in today's NFL, to have both of these is a luxury that most teams don't have.
Players today are either better at one or the other, and very few are great at both. As long as you have an above-average offensive line that is good at both running and passing, you can have success.
Some teams use the 3-4 defense, while others use the 4-3. Both work, provided your front office puts the right pieces in place for the scheme that the defense wants to run.
Some players are great in the 3-4, while they would be horrible in the 4-3. Others are the other way around. The fact is, the GM and coach must work together in this aspect to get the people on the roster that are going to get the most out of the plays called.
Regardless of which scheme your team is going to use, the front seven must be able to get pressure on the other team's QB, or they are going to leave their secondary exposed.
No matter how great the defensive coordinator may be, any team that wants to be a dynasty must have a defensive captain that can adjust the defense after the offense breaks the huddle.
To have someone like this on the defense helps to be able to adjust and, in big-game situations, are able to make the big plays that are the difference between winning and losing.
In the secondary, defenses need a playmaker that is going to make a play when the game is on the line. These players, other than the franchise QB, are the hardest people to get.
Once a team has one, they don't let him go. If they become a free agent, then the bidding for them is going to make teams like the Redskins and Cowboys pay more than anyone else will.
And we already covered why teams like the 'Skins and 'Boys don't win Super Bowls.
There are few of these guys in the NFL, but all of them make their defenses better.
Though most people believe that the kicker is the least important person on the team, ask the early 2000's Patriots, who won all three of their Super Bowls by three points, how valuable the position is.
When the game is on the line and the weather is horrible, you need someone that can get you those three points to win the game at the end of regulation or in overtime.
Teams that don't have this normally regret it.
The reality is, for a team to become successful, all of these pieces must fall into place. Many teams want to take shortcuts, and that never works.
You may win a Super Bowl, but odds are, you aren't going to have long-term success.
All of these things must fall into place if a team wants to become a dynasty. I know, it is easier said than done, but it all starts at the top and it takes time.
Any team having a hard time with this, please feel free to give me a call. I am a lot cheaper than Mike Holmgren.