As the confetti rained down in Phoenix, Arizona a few weeks ago to celebrate the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LVII victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, many in the NFL were ready to anoint this team as one of the next NFL dynasties.
While the Chiefs do have the ingredients of a dynasty (great young quarterback, head coach, and now two Super Bowls in four years) when comparing them to dynasties of years past in the NFL there is still a long way to go for this organization.
— NFL (@NFL) February 13, 2023
The NFL dynasties that have come before the Chiefs all have similar characteristics. Some of the characteristics the Chiefs have already reached, but some need to be accomplished by Patrick Mahomes and company.
Regardless of where this Chiefs group ends up in history, it is a fun excuse to revisit the dynasties of years past in the NFL. As I’ve thought about where they could end up, I first wanted to think about what they are actually measuring up against. What organizations have set the bar as the best? What makes a team a “dynasty” in the first place?
When evaluating the top three dynasties in the Super Bowl era I loosely used the following criteria to evaluate where these teams should be ranked.
- Multiple Super Bowl victories in a short amount of time. While this might seem obvious, teams that simply won the conference but failed to win the big game don’t rank as high as teams that won multiple Super Bowls in succession.
- A dynasty should have generational players and coaches. When you think of a decade in the NFL certain players or a coaching philosophy from that team should stand out.
- The success should be sustained. Even if a team didn’t win a Super Bowl during their era of dominance, they still were viewed as a contender and likely made a deep run in the playoffs.
With this framework in mind, the following is a list, in order, of how I’d rank the top three NFL dynasties in the Super Bowl Era.
The Top 3 NFL Dynasties
1) New England Patriots
The NFL’s most recent dynasty is also its best. From 2001–2019, the New England Patriots were the gold standard in the NFL. They appeared in nine Super Bowls and won six of them. The six Super Bowl championships are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most all-time.
In addition to the team accomplishments during this era, this Patriots dynasty could have the best player and coach of all time. Quarterback Tom Brady was under center for all six of those Super Bowl championships, along with Bill Belichick on the sidelines. Before these two arrived in New England, the Patriots had only appeared in two Super Bowls, and both were losses.
In an era that also saw future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger in the AFC, the Patriots were still the dominant team in the conference. Manning and Roethlisberger got two each and appeared in six total. Compare that to the nine total Super Bowl appearances for the Patriots during that time frame.
2) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s are still the only team in NFL history to win four Super Bowls in six years. With Hall of Fame players such as Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, and Franco Harris, in addition to the Steel Curtain defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the first NFL dynasties of the Super Bowl era.
One of the most impressive things about the Steelers dynasty is not just the amount of Super Bowls they won, but the competition within the league during the time they won them.
The 1970s was also the same time as Don Shula’s Dolphins, John Madden’s Raiders, and Roger Staubach’s Cowboys. Like the Patriots, it makes the Steelers dynasty that much more impressive to have that kind of success against other NFL legends.
3) San Francisco 49ers
From 1981 to 1995, the San Francisco 49ers had one of the longest runs of sustained success in NFL history. During that time, the 49ers appeared in five Super Bowls, winning all of them. At the time of winning their fifth Super Bowl, it was the most in NFL history, a record that stood up until the Steelers won their sixth in 2009.
The architect of these 49ers teams was head coach Bill Walsh, who is credited with the creation of the West Coast offense. This style of offense is still used today, although not as popular as it had been in the 90s and early 2000s. To have that kind of imprint on the game might be the best example of my second criterion of having a generational coaching philosophy. The West Coast offense will always be synonymous with Bill Walsh and the 49ers, even as the team has had different philosophies with other coaches.
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