Asked on ESPN Radio in late December if he thought the Patriots would be considered the greatest one-season team in NFL history if they ran the table at 19-0, future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice didn’t hesitate. “I think you have to give them that crown, man, to be honest with you,” Rice said.
Asked on ESPN Radio in late December if he thought the Patriots would be considered the greatest one-season team in NFL history if they ran the table at 19-0, future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice didn’t hesitate.
“I think you have to give them that crown, man, to be honest with you,” Rice said.
It’s a mythical title, to be sure.
Rice’s 1989 Niners weren’t bad, finishing a 17-2 campaign by blowing the doors off John Elway’s Broncos, 55-10, in the Super Bowl. The 1985 Chicago Bears were 18-1. And the undefeated Dolphins of 1972 are obviously in the mix, even if Mercury Morris is the world’s most annoying spokesman.
Still, most observers are aligned with Rice and seem ready to elevate the Patriots to the top of the heap if they can close the deal by beating the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
But even if Jabar Gaffney hadn’t hauled in the winning TD pass in Baltimore, or if the Philadelphia Eagles had pulled the upset in Week 12 or if the Giants had defended their home turf in Week 17, the Patriots still would be working on something special here.
Three Lombardi trophies in a four-year span were followed by a two-year “lull” that saw them win two more division titles and three playoff games, followed by, maybe, just the second perfect season in NFL history. And doing all that during the era of free agency and the salary cap, when all sorts of forces conspire against continuity, and parity is supposed to be the name of the game.
That’s historic stuff.
“They’re an organization that has redefined how to succeed in the NFL,” said Steve Sabol, the president of NFL Films.
Sabol’s company has been chronicling the NFL for more than 40 years.
In digging through his vast archives recently to research a piece for ESPN, he came upon a series of interviews from 10 years ago in which NFL Films brought together some of the greatest NFL coaching minds -- Bill Walsh, Mike Shanahan, Chuck Noll and Hank Stram, to name a few.
“They all said there would never be another dynasty,” Sabol said. “There would be little windows of opportunity that would open and then close up quickly.
“Everybody was wrong. In fact, not only are the Patriots trying to go undefeated, but they are trying to win four Super Bowls in seven seasons. We’ll have to come up with a new word other than dynasty. Maybe mega-dynasty.”
Single season sensations
The top seasons in the four major team sports:
1. 1906 Chicago Cubs (116-36) -- Won the National League pennant by 20 games; lost the World Series to the Chicago White Sox in six games.
2. 2001 Seattle Mariners (116-46) -- Most successful season in baseball’s modern era overshadowed by ALCS loss to New York.
3. 1998 New York Yankees (114-48) -- Pitching staff held foes to league-low 656 runs during the regular season.
1. 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10) -- The addition of Dennis Rodman to the tandem of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen made this team truly bullish.
2. 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (69-13) -- Set NBA record with average margin of victory of 12.3 points per game.
3. 1996-97 Chicago Bulls (69-13) -- Picked right up from the 1995-96 squad.
1. 2007 New England Patriots (16-0) -- With 16 regular-season wins, this latter-day band of New England Patriots has already made history.
2. 1984 San Francisco 49ers (15-1) -- Joe Montana’s 49ers laid claim to their second Super Bowl title.
3. 1985 Chicago Bears (15-1) -- The “Super Bowl Shuffle” Bears embarrassed the Pats, 46-10.
1. 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens (60-8-12, 132 points) -- Outscored foes by a ratio that exceeded 2-to-1.
2. 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (62-13-7, 131) -- Set NHL’s single-season record for wins.
3. 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens (59-10-11, 129) -- Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur and Co. come within three points of previous season’s total.
The Patriot Ledger