Is the New England Patriots being a dynasty good or bad for the NFL?
In the aftermath of the Golden State Warriors winning their second NBA title in three seasons, there was a rash of complaints from fans that having a team that much better than their opponents was bad for the league.
For the past sixteen seasons, the New England Patriots have been the NFL’s most successful franchise and while some fans might be sick of seeing them win, their sustained excellence has been a good thing for the NFL.
Even the most ardent Patriots fan would admit that this Brady-Belichick era is closing in on its conclusion and this dominance will not last forever. Since 2001 however, that duo have been a part of some of the most memorable contests, the biggest stories and been debated as contenders for not only the best in their respective positions but the best to ever be involved in the game. So why exactly is having two men so good at what they do, so far above their respective competition, a good thing for the league?
It gives the rest of the league a target, something tangible to aim for and surpass. Going into every season there are usually three teams among the favorites, last year’s Super Bowl participants and New England. Starting in their own division, the other teams there know that for them to have any chance at a successful season they have to knock off the big boys and will gear their team to do just that. That desire to knock them off their perch creates a sense of urgency among the teams and their fan bases. Both the Jets and Dolphins have had seasons where they played later into the year than their rivals but were never able to turn that into any sort of sustained success.
Outside of the division, AFC teams know that there is a pretty good chance that if they want to go to the Super Bowl, they will have to beat New England at some point in time. Plenty of fan bases are sick of the fact that it is almost always someone else involved in the biggest game of the year. Well, first of all, this is not elementary school, it is a contest between professional athletes. If you want to win something you might actually have to face a challenge and beat a good team here & there. Things don’t just get handed to you. As much as they may say that the Patriots are no good, the celebrations when they go down show just how much of an achievement beating New England really is to these sides.
With New England being such a dominant team, they have become a much more polarizing side for neutral fans. There tend to be three camps the sane ones will fall into: “They are just that good so I want them to win,” “I hate that they are so good but damn they are good” and finally “I hate that they are good and want to see someone else win.” While it would be excellent to see a team appreciated for just being better than everyone else, Bill Belichick has no problem with his team being the villains of the league.
One of the more underrated reasons this Patriots dynasty has been good for the NFL is that when you have Brady and Belichick in a Super Bowl, you are guaranteed an exciting game. Consider that the seven championship games they have been in have all been decided inside the final 60 seconds while also featuring some sort of crazy play. Five Super Bowl wins is an unprecedented rate of success in an era designed to have a new champion every year. But the fact they had a ten-year drought in between numbers three and four, still gives other teams hope that they can do it.
2017 has not really been a year for Cinderella titles in sports, between New England, Golden State, Pittsburgh, Chelsea, Bayern, Juventus and Real Madrid, it has been a year for the traditional powers. Since the Patriots rose up to become the NFL’s most successful team of the past 20 years, they have provided a real boost for the league, not so much for their own fans but the external ones that can enjoy well-executed football or just the ones that need a villain. There are only a handful of seasons left so the only thing to do really is make the most of it while it lasts.