Wednesday, December 26, 2007

History repeating...

From the league laughingstock to the model of how to build a franchise.

The Patriots aren't the first team to do that. At one time, the San Francisco 49ers were a punchline, the bad joke that the league didn't laugh at, no matter how hard fans of opposing franchises did. After making the playoffs for three straight seasons under Mike Nolan from 1970-1972, the team by The Bay didn't see the playoffs again until 1981 under Bill Walsh. During the time in between San Fran had one winning season (8-6 in 1976).

From 1981 until 1998 the team made the playoffs in all but two years - the strike shortened 1982, and in 1991 when the team still won ten games. Minus the strike season, the Niners averaged 12 wins per season during that 17 season run and won five Super Bowls. Then, under Steve Mariucci, and the constraints of the salary cap, the cracks began to show.

The Patriots were the league laughing-stock even when they were good in the 1980's. They were beset by scandal and stupidity (how many teams saw their star wide-out wrap a car around a telephone poll during half-time of a game in which he was playing? Anyone remember Lisa Olson?). Then (and this is where people often get it wrong) James Busch-Orthwein started the team on the road to respectability when he hired Bill Parcells in 1993.

After Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994, he and the franchise suffered growing pains when he handed the reins over to Bobby Grier and Pete Carroll, often mis-firing in the draft (remember Chris Canty?), until Kraft handed over the operation to Bill Belichick in 2000. Since 2001 the Patriots missed the playoffs only in their 9-7 2002 season. Otherwise the team is going on to their sixth playoff appearance in seven seasons, averaging just over 12 wins per season, and three Super Bowl titles. They are only the fifth team in NFL history to win 15 games in a season, only the second to win 18 regular seasons in a row (incidentally, they were the first to do so), and on the verge of the first 16-0 season in the history of the league.

History repeating, part II Jacksonville - Pats 2001 Redux...

Are this year's Jaguars the 2001 Patriots revisited?

The Jags are lead by their former backup quarterback who essentially took the job from an injured starter. The '01 Pats were 11-5 going into the playoffs, the Jags are currently 11-4. The '01 Pats were 6th overall in offense and in defense, currently the Jaguars are 5th in offense and 6th in defense.

The Patriots entering the playoffs in 2001 weren't viewed as a serious contender for the Super Bowl with the Raiders and Steelers both standing in the way. The Jaguars are being looked at as the team that might be able to do some damage that no one is paying attention to, sitting behind perennial contenders New England and Indianapolis.

All of this poses the question - Are the Jaguars the best equipped team to topple the dynasty (then it was the Rams thinking they were on their way to a dynasty), or will it come down to the Pats and Colts slugging it out in the Razor for a trip to Arizona?

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