Since the 2001 NFL season, the New England Patriots have championed the AFC East Division nine out of eleven seasons. And the two seasons when they failed to win (2002 and 2008), they were tied for the best record and were foiled by tiebreakers. By the looks of it, they are headed toward capturing their tenth division title in twelve years in 2012.
What gives here? How can a team which has received perennial low draft choices for an entire decade continue to dominate a division so thoroughly? How can the other three AFC East pretenders (Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets), after having much higher draft picks, fail so miserably in their efforts to unseat the frontrunner Pats? Must be a conspiracy of unspeakable proportions…right? Well, not exactly.
First off, it is no secret that New England’s success has coincided with quarterback Tom Brady’s first year as starter in 2001. When Brady’s Bunch failed to win the division in 2008, he played only one game due to injury. Brady has brought new meaning to Al Davis’ phrase, ‘Just win, baby’ (with the exception of two Super Bowls against the New York Giants). As for the division rival Bills, Dolphins and Jets, they have not seen any consistent play from the quarterback position since Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Joe Namath hung up their cleats.
Another stability dilemma plaguing the ninety-eight pound weaklings in the AFC East involves the head coaching position. The three also rans have had a ridiculous total of fifteen coaches since 2001, while the Patriots have had only one, Bill Belichick, who has compiled a .724 winning percentage since being hired in 2000. For the triumvirate bringing up the rear in the division, the U2 song, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, is an appropriate dedication.
And finally, we arrive at those pesky draft picks. Even with disadvantageous draft positions, Belichick has succeeded in out-maneuvering and out-foxing his division competitors. He has made the most out of his draft choices and trades, whereas the other three stooges continue to fumble along with bad picks, bad trades and incomprehensible rebuilding efforts.
Belichick’s superior talents have rendered the parity promoting draft utterly useless. Maybe the NFL should consider giving the three blind mice of the AFC East some extra draft picks to make up for the Pats unfair advantage. Nevermind…they would probably screw up those picks as well.
Or maybe…the Patriots division domination is the result of a mysterious jinx hovering over the rest of the teams in the division. There is a story which may lend credence to this theory. When the Indianapolis Colts moved out of the AFC East in 2002 and into the AFC South, they went on a streak of their own, winning five consecutive division titles and seven in eight seasons. For the folks in Indianapolis, this was the best move the team has made since leaving Baltimore after the 1983 season (and drafting Peyton Manning, of course).
So there you have it: a simple solution for the dominated. The Bills, Dolphins and Jets should move out of the AFC East if they have any hopes of winning a division title. Of course, that would leave nobody to challenge the Pats for the division title, which does not change much, since this has been the case since 2001.
The other option would be to wait until Brady and Belichick retire…which apparently will not be happening anytime soon.