It has been eight years since the Patriots defended their world’s championship. The 2004 title was their third in four years. In 2003 and 2004 New England put together a 21 game regular season winning streak. It is 24 if you add the post season. The Patriots went 14-2 in consecutive seasons. Spygate or not that is greatness.
With the exception of New England’s 2007 squad no one has come close to being great. That team went 18-0 before losing to a 13-6 New York Giants team in Super Bowl XLII. Great teams don’t lose Super Bowls.
Since 2004 who would we consider great? The Pittsburgh Steelers won it all in 2005 and 2008. The first team was a wildcard. The second won 12 games, but was only average on offense.
The Giants won Super Bowls in 2007 and 2011. Neither team would be considered great. The first lost six games. The second lost seven. New York is the only team to lose seven games and win it all. This is not exactly greatness.
The Steelers and Giant have won four of the last seven Super Bowls. This puts them above everyone else in that time frame. It does not put them on the list of all-time greats.
A look at the 2012 NFL standings after six weeks shows only three teams with five or more wins. The Atlanta Falcons are 6-0. The Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans are each 5-1. This is not unusual for early in an NFL season. The league tries to keep everyone in playoff contention as long as possible. This is done by scheduling weak teams against one another while the stronger ones battle each other.
But look at a division like the AFC East. All four teams are 3-3. In the NFC East New York is 4-2 while everyone else has three losses. The NFC West has two 4-2 teams and two at 3-3. There is no breathing room in these divisions and it is doubtful anyone will separate themselves from the pack.
Fans may like to see different teams in the playoffs and Super Bowl, but who remembers mediocrity? Will anyone really remember the 2007 and 2011 Giants? Will anyone put the 2005 and 2008 Steelers in the category of great? The 2010 Green Bay Packers won it all. Are they on the level with Vince Lombardi’s Packer teams of the 1960’s?
The NFL has become a league of champions not greatness. It is just one logo after another winning a title. This is no fun. It is actually quite boring.
All sports need great teams. The NFL is at its best when there is a great team like New England, the Packers of the sixties, the Steelers of the seventies and the San Francisco 49ers of the eighties. Whether we loved or hated them we remember who they are, because of their greatness.
There is nothing to distinguish the champions and teams of today.
This is because team greatness is gone in the NFL and doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.