“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual,” Vince Lombardi said.
Since 2000, the owners of the NFL’s four best regular season records are the Indianapolis Colts (121-48), New England Patriots (119-50), Pittsburgh Steelers (109-59) and Philadelphia Eagles (109-59). Between them, the NFL’s “big four” have 30 playoff appearances, nine Super Bowl appearances and six Super Bowl titles.
Also telling is the number of coaches who have managed these four teams in that span: six. Not only have the coaches of these NFL powers re-invented themselves throughout the years, they’ve managed to earn and maintain the respect of professional football players. That’s no easy task.
A big part of the four’s success is that each organization drafted a franchise quarterback.
Peyton Manning holds the NFL-record Most Valuable Player awards with four. Tom Brady has three Super Bowl rings, and Ben Roethlisberger has two. Donovan McNabb led the Eagles to five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl appearance.
But what’s more telling is the success they had with the receivers at their disposal. Yes, Manning had Marvin Harrison, Brady had Randy Moss, Roethlisberger has Hines Ward, and McNabb had Terrell Owens.
They’ve also gotten it done with guys like Austin Collie and David Patten, players willing to sacrifice for the greater good.
A stable coach. A talented, driven quarterback. A collection of team-first players. That’s how the “big four” have stayed among the NFL’s elite year after year.
This season has brought more of the same. The Steelers, Patriots and Eagles are tied for first in their respective divisions. The Colts are all alone at the top of the AFC South.
On the other hand, this season has been a disappointment for three teams with preseason Super Bowl aspirations. This trio now appears to have nothing more than rosters teeming with un-coachable talent headed by talent-less head coaches. I’m looking at you, Vikings, Bengals and Cowboys.
Minnesota has endured an offseason hijacked by the teary-eyed and turnover-prone Brett Favre and a regular season torpedoed by Moss, whose off-the-field antics (three teams in 10 weeks) have generated more buzz than his on-field numbers (23 catches, five touchdowns, 100 routes half-assed). Players don’t believe coach Brad Childress supports them.
Cincinnati has three players — Dhani Jones, Owens and Chad Ochocinco — who star in their own reality television shows. Cincy has two wins this season. That’s one more reality show than wins, by my count. Its franchise quarterback, Carson Palmer, hasn’t progressed. He still stares down receivers and is wildly inaccurate at times. Furthermore, Palmer hasn’t asserted leadership over the team. If he had, Ochocinco’s in-game whine fests would have ended long ago.
Coach Marvin Lewis, the 2009 NFL Coach of the Year, looks apathetic both on the sideline and in his game-planning.
Dallas’ downfall has been comical, sans Tony Romo’s broken collarbone. The fans who expected America’s team to be the first squad to host a Super Bowl in their home stadium have instead spent their time booing their boys off the field multiple times. And rightfully so — Dallas quit at home against Jacksonville, and on the road in Green Bay, which ended up costing coach Wade Phillips his job.
These NFL diva squads should heed Lombardi and follow the blueprint of team-oriented success laid down by the “big four.”