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Don't Let the Patriots Fool You, Winning Super Bowls Is Hard

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Don't Let the Patriots Fool You, Winning Super Bowls Is Hard

The Green Bay Packers embark on their 98th year of existence in 2017 and in search of another football championship.  The team was founded in 1919 and joined what is today the NFL in 1921 but to this author, 1919 is the birth year of this historic franchise.

Packers and championships have become synonymous to historians of the game and there's little question about it.  13 times the Packers have emerged from the season crowned as the league's best.  Four of those championships have come in the NFL's modern form: Super Bowl championships.

Green Bay won the first two ever Super Bowl's back in the 1960's.  The trophy was named after Packers legendary head coach Vince Lombardi and still bears his name to this day.

The Big Game, as many call it, has grown immensely since those days.  Tickets for the first Super Bowl?  Topped out at $12!  Today?  Add a comma or two, depending on how close to the action you want to be.  The hunger and thirst to be a part of the atmosphere of the NFL championship game are rivaled by few other sports, possibly none.

Most Packers fans, at least those over the age of seven, have been alive when the team won a championship.  Cognitive level aside, those fans can at least say they were around when one came home to Titletown.  But it's been seven years.  And many fans say that's too long.  Way too long, in fact.

Getting to a Super Bowl is hard.  Most can admit this to be true.  Winning one is tougher.  Players have to battle their opponent, the media, the scrutiny, the narratives, their team's history and, once the game starts, their own nerves.  When the clock reads 0:00 and it's your team hoisting The Precious, there are few more satisfying moments as a sports fan.

So why do some fans think it's not that tough to get to and win title after title?  Because of the New England Patriots, that's why!

Seven appearances in 15 years and five trophies added to their case?  Sounds like a walk in the park.  In this era of parity and so many teams who went to a Super Bowl the year prior who don't make the playoffs the following year, they're the gold standard.

Head coach and czar Bill Belichick's name is spoken and immediately, many think of parades, Gatorade showers and a rare smile on the stalwart's face. Others see quarterback Tom Brady progressing through his reads in the cleanest of pockets, standing still and seamlessly finding the open man.  Others see a veteran running back seeping through a stout defense to score a tough six points.

If they can do it, so can someone else.  Mike McCarthy has been with the Packers for 10+ years and he has Aaron Rodgers.  THE Aaron Rodgers.  They should be in the dance every year!  If anyone doubts that any of these things are actually said, let that cease now.  Because I have uttered all of them at one time or another.  Have you?

As the Packers embark on this new season with renewed hope that what befuddled them last season won't strike again this year, a Lombardi trophy is again in grasp.  At least according to Las Vegas, it is.  The Packers currently have the second-best odds of winning Super Bowl LII.  Second only to: the New England Patriots.

The Patriots overcame the largest deficit to win a Super Bowl ever in Super Bowl LI, erasing a 28-3 lead by the Atlanta Falcons.  "In dramatic fashion" might not cover what New England did that day.  

Two years prior, the Patriots were facing certain defeat against the Seattle Seahawks who were on the goal line with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield.  Seattle threw instead and the Patriots were ready.  

The two trips before that win, the Patriots drew what would become the unlucky card of the New York Giants and lost both times.  The Patriots had their chances to win both times but fell short.  I guess every team comes back down to earth once in a while, right?

New England's first three championship wins all required them to score the winning points in the fourth quarter.  There have been no runaway wins a la the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980's.  

But let's stop harping on winning a single championship game on one day.  The Patriots are in the conference championship year after year, it seems and they know how to seal the deal.  They can at least get there and give themselves a 50/50 chance of winning it all.  Why can't the Packers do the same?

We all know the various reasons that have piled up over the years: bad defenses, injuries, out-played, turnovers, too much youth, not enough experience.  The Patriots have dealt with some of the same, believe it or not.

Has everyone forgotten some of the blemishes in New England's playoff storybook?  A 19-point home loss to the Baltimore Ravens in 2009?  A home loss to the New York Jets, the Mark Sanchez-led New York Jets in 2010?  Another big loss at home to the Ravens in 2012?  Their history is far from flawless.

In 2011, the Pats were just a few average yards in front of the Packers for worst defense in football but somehow still made it to the show.  The Patriots were badly out-played for a full half in last year's championship game before doing what no one thought they would.

Still, to get to where they have, New England has had to overcome many of the same obstacles that any playoff team does.  All of the experience in the world doesn't excuse them from having to endure.  They've just gotten very good at it.  

A team can be good at something and achieve it consistently without it being labeled "easy".  What we're likely witnessing with Belichick's Patriots is historic.  The NFL isn't built to sustain dynasties.  They're defying all that the shield is out to accomplish (And for good measure, I'll throw in that they're also taking the rule book to its very limit and beyond in some instances).

Just because getting to and/or winning a Super Bowl is hard doesn't make losing along the way any less gut-wrenching and disappointing.  Another year of Rodgers "wasted" has some punching holes in walls and staring at the wall in silence.

It's no consolation in that moment or any time but it's at least worth repeating as we start to set our expectations for this upcoming season: Winning a Super Bowl is hard to do.  The Patriots seem so far away from the rest of the teams. Like they're on another planet, but. . . if the Packers can muster up one more soon, they're right there next to the vaunted Patriots with five.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Pulse of the Pack podcast.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (16) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

Yes, it is. It takes much more than an excellent QB.

carusotrap's picture

Another great article, but you leave out one key element. There is a certain sense surrounding NE that they are willing to do anything to win, and the line they are unwilling to cross doesn't seem to exist. Whether it be brutal and sometimes seemingly strange personnel decisions to a coach who can completely change his entire coaching philosophy in a week to, yes, "pushing the limits" of what's legal, they will go farther than other teams, and that may provide them that tiny, tiny edge over all other teams.

So, the question is whether we're comfortable with the GBP doing the same. And make no mistake, the current brain trust has an ethical line that defines their philosophy that they are unwilling to cross. The entire front office and coaching staff would need to be replaced in order to effect that sort of fundamental shift, and that wouldn't guarantee anything. This not to say that GB has no chance, but I don't see them messing with ball pressures or secretly videoing the sidelines to gain that 1% edge. And honestly, do we want that?

The TKstinator's picture

No, we do not.

Since '61's picture

Jason - I think that you started out fine in that the Packers stand alone with 13 NFL Championships. In that respect they are way out in front of the Patriots and every other team in the league. The Bears are second with 9 and the NY Giants have 8. The Super Bowl is another name for the NFL Championship and was made up to market and draw attention to the game in its infancy before the NFL/AFL merger was completed in 1970. So to me, it's the Patriots and every other team which has a long way to go before they are standing with the Packers. Having said that if we look at this realistically, the Packers have won 2 NFL Championships (Super Bowls) since the Lombardi glory days of the 1960s. This season will be the 50th anniversary of the Packers historic 3rd consecutive NFL championship victory in the Ice Bowl and their second Super Bowl win. During the last 50 years the Packers have appeared in 3 Super Bowls, going 2-1. The frustration really increases when we consider that for the last 25 consecutive seasons out of 50 we have had HOF QB play which, IIRC, has never happened before in NFL history. I will always believe that Mike Holmgren's Packers would have won at least one more Championship if he remained with the Packers. Holmgren's teams had Favre plus much better defense than we have had during the TT/MM era. We had our best chances in 2007 and 2014 but lost both NFCCGs on the last play of the game in OT. I think that the strongest case for "winning the Super Bowl is hard" is that the Packers have been to the playoffs 19 times since 1993 and have reached the Super Bowl 3 times, winning 2. We have had more shots than any other team since 1993. Even the Pats have made 18 playoff appearances since '93 with 8 SB appearances and 5 wins. This also proves that even the greatest of QBs cannot win the title all alone. At least we can look forward to another playoff appearance in 2017, whether or not it results in an SB win only time and playing the games will tell. Thanks, Since '61

Tundraboy's picture

The Super Bowl is another name.....

Exactly

BPEARSON21's picture

It makes it a lot harder when you have the 31st ranked pass defense in the whole league... and all we do to fix it is bring in a veteran who was cut and some rookies who've never played an NFL snap in their lives...

Or when we have management that sticks to the same plan for 10 years and refuses to alter their approach to winning....

Patriots don't have some secret formula, they're just not afraid to adapt. Don't believe me? Go look at the moves they made this off-season... right after they just won the whole thing.

Mojo's picture

Directly after punching a hole in the wall I'm anything but silent.

Mojo's picture

Considering how much rosters change and the leagues emphasis on creating competitive balance with the draft, hard cap and all, it's amazing any one team could have gone to seven out the last 15 SB's. And that they're not just bunched up in one period more a sign of a great system than overwhelming talent. The Cowboys of '90's won more with talent.

The only other teams in the SB era that can match NE in terms of dominance were the Steelers and 49'ers, but those teams didn't have the cap rules we have now.

If I were starting an NFL franchise, I'd try to duplicate what NE does (the cheating allegations had very little to do with their success). I get the feeling most of it revolves around churning personnel that fit their scheme with Brady as a constant. Despite drafting near the end of draft year-after-year they are almost always competitive. I say don't spite the Belichick, be the Belichick. He's the reason they are what they are.

Handsback's picture

One thing Mojo...Brady has been on a very friendly team contract for some time. If his wife didn't make 10x of what he did, that might change his desires. (Not for a different partner, but different money requirements just to be clear)

Handsback's picture

This is a familiar story except remove the Patriots and plug in the Browns during the 50s, Packers name during the 60s, Steelers during the 70, 49ers during the 80s, the Cowboys during the 90s. There always seems to be a team that dominates the decade and while they are doing it..... everyone is gunning for them.
I will leave this response with three points;
- No team has won three in a row except the Packers. (Makes them special)
- The game evolves, but the coaching and player quality has to be there in order to make a dynasty. All the above teams had it.
-The Packers could still win two or three SBs w/ Rodgers.

Tarynfor12's picture

" The Packers could still win two or three SBs w/ Rodgers."

The odds of that are better if he gets one this season especially with increased offensive weaponry and a defense led by that stellar linebacker duo of Mr. Hamstring and Mr. Where Are You.

David Kemp's picture

It is nice to have the easiest division11 In all of football!

dobber's picture

Everyone harps on the division, but once you get to January, the division doesn't matter anymore. You've still gotta beat teams...is it easier on your own turf? For some, yes. But if you've beaten up on "poor teams" for 17 weeks, what happens when you line up against quality teams? Did anyone have an easier route to the SB last year than NE? Soon as David Carr got hurt, it all opened up for them. But you've still got to beat the guys lined up against you...and the Patriots find ways to do it.

Let's also not ignore the element of luck. Luck has a tremendous amount to do with who wins SBs, whether it's injuries (yours or others), how the schedule falls, weather...you've gotta be good, but you've gotta get lucky, too.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

The sine qua non to reaching multiple super bowls is having an elite QB. NE, GB, NO have truly elite QBs, and Pitt, maybe Atl, Oak, and Seattle have reasonable facsimiles.

The real questions for GB are what else and how much more does a team need to have to be ubiquitous in championship and super bowl games? Here are my answers if one has a reasonably competent GM:

1. Health for key players in the postseason.
2. 2/3 other difference makers on offense.
3. 4 difference makers on defense.
4. A little > average talent elsewhere.
5. Strong coaching at OC and DC.
6. A bit of luck when it is needed.

Lphill's picture

The Patriots reload every season defense and offense so that Tom Brady has a chance to get them to the promise land. The Packers surround Aaron Rodgers with undrafted players and hope other mid level picks amount to something year after year as Aaron gets older and older . When he leaves the game with 1 Lombardi and we go trough a decade of frustration until another good QB comes along we will all look back at the wasted years . Let's hope I am wrong.

BPEARSON21's picture

You're not wrong at all, you're spot on.

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