Greetings Pats fans,
I've never visited Pats Pulpit before, so please forgive me if this topic has already been covered here. First, let me say as a Dolphins fan (I'm also Red Sox fan, can I get a little credit?), I have a lot of appreciation & respect for what the Patriot organization has been able to do over the last decade - they've been fun to watch, and considering the circus that is the Miami Dolphins organization, I'm also quite envious. With that, much has been said/written about New England's recent "decline," and there's been plenty of discussion regarding the Pats' legitimate chance at winning the Super Bowl this season. The so-called "experts" give plenty of reasons: lack of a consistent running game, no deep-threat at wide receiver, a terrible defensive backfield etc...but I think you can make the argument the Patriots run of excellence is very likely over, and I base this from historical perspective as opposed to looking at the current team. What it boils down to is excellence (by "excellence" I mean having a legitimate shot at winning a Super Bowl) is very difficult to sustain over the long term - hardly a surprise to anyone. A review of the last 50 or so years of professional football indicates New England will probably not win another Super Bowl under Bill Belichick.
In the Super Bowl era, the longest span between first/last Super Bowl appearances under one coach was fourteen years (1971-1984) with the Miami Dolphins under Don Shula, followed immediately by thirteen years (1986-1998) with the Denver Broncos under Dan Reeves. Meanwhile, the longest span between first/last Super Bowl WINS under one coach was ten years (1982-1991) with the Washington Redskins under Joe Gibbs. Other organizations have been dominant for shorter periods. Green Bay won a total of five championships between 1961-1967 under Vince Lombardi, including the first two Super Bowls. Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls in the six seasons between 1974-1979 under Chuck Noll. The Dallas Cowboys made five Super Bowl appearances between 1970-1978, winning two under Tom Landry. Finally, San Francisco was dominant in the 80s, winning three Super Bowls in the eight seasons between 1981-1988 under Bill Walsh, and many would argue their repeat in 1989 under George Seifert was still Walsh's team.
Meanwhile, a closer look at three teams/eras (Steelers under Noll, Dolphins under Shula, Cowboys under Landry) make an interesting case study to compare the Patriots under Belichick. In Pittsburgh, Noll coached another twelve years after the 1979 season, accumulating a record of 93-91 (.505%), but the Steelers made the playoffs just four times (1-3), and only once to the AFC Championship where they got blown out. In Miami's case, Shula coached another twenty two seasons after winning the Super Bowl in 1974, accumulating a record of 211-124-1 (.628%), guiding the Dolphins to the playoffs twelve times (9-12), including four AFC Championships and two Super Bowl appearances, but never won the Super Bowl again. In Dallas, Landry coached the Cowboys another eleven years after their 1977 championship season, accumulating a record of 101-67 (.601%), guiding the team to seven playoff appearances (7-7), reaching one Super Bowl (losing to Pittsburgh) and another two NFC Championships.
By way of comparison, the Patriots have a record of 67-23 (.744%), with 5 playoff appearances (5-5), including an AFC Championship loss and a Super Bowl loss to the Giants (I still don't know how that happened). By those numbers, it's easy to say Belichick has been closer to winning another Super Bowl than the above mentioned coaches, but the numbers are somewhat deceptive (lies, damned lies & statistics) because he only has six full seasons since last winning the Super Bowl. Looking at the other three teams, Dallas most closely mirrors New England in that their record for the six years following their last Super Bowl win was 65-24 (.730%), including playoff appearances each of those six years (7-5), losing a Super Bowl and another two NFC Championships. Miami went 58-30 (.659%) in the six years following their last Super Bowl win, but 0-3 in the playoffs (hey, the Steelers & the Raiders were really good back then). Meanwhile, the Steelers became an average team very quickly, going 49-40 over the six years after Noll's last Super Bowl win with a 1-3 playoff record.
Using history as a guide, New England's chances of winning another Super Bowl under Belichick appear slim, but that's not to say it won't happen. If any team can sustain excellence, it's New England under Belichick. After all, whatever has been lacking on the defensive side lately is made up by drafting two monsters disguised as tight ends, as well as Andre the Giant at right tackle this year. However, I see other challenges to another Super Bowl in New England. First, the Patriots have never been the same since losing their best coordinators in Romeo Crennel & Charlie Weis. Sure, Eric Mangini & Josh McDaniels were good, but neither could repeat the chemistry Crennel & Weis had with Belichick & the players. Also, I think the Patriots are still reeling from the departure of former GM Scott Pioli; again, their last few drafts lack defensive playmakers. I could go on, but this is long enough as it is. If history does bear out and New England's run is over, it has been a lot of fun to watch and Patriot fans have much to cheer about; only time will tell. One thing I think we can all agree on: screw the Jets! Thanks for reading - flame away.