The Patriots’ run

We all know how good the Patriots have been since Bill Belichick turned the quarterbacking over to Tom Brady in 2001: three championships, five Super Bowls, eight AFC title games. Enough for ya? And this is in an era, mind you, when such sustained excellence is supposed to be more difficult because of free-agent flight. It’s one of the best runs the NFL has seen.

But where exactly does it rank? Right near the top if you go by this chart. I looked at the best 13-year stretches in league history, based on won-loss record — figuring the championships would take care of themselves (which they mostly did). The Pats’ .752 winning percentage, playoffs included, is second only to the .772 compiled by the 1932-44 Bears, George Halas’ famed Monsters of the Midway.

Only one team on the list didn’t win multiple titles: the forever-falling-short 1967-79 Rams. Other than that, there should be few surprises.

Be advised: In some cases, a club was dominant for an even longer period and had more than one great 13-year run. The Cowboys, for example, were a machine from 1966 to ’85, with eight different 13-year stretches in which they won more than 70 percent of their games. In these overlapping instances, I took the best 13 years, reasoning that we were talking about many of the same players (and wanting to avoid duplication). Or to put it another way: only one to a customer.

Also, I’ve listed the most significant coaches and quarterbacks for each team, not every last one. (So, apologies to Tommy Prothro and Matt Cassel, among others.)

Some will say the championships are all that matter, and certainly they’re what matter most. But every week we hear a coach say “how hard it is to win a game” in the NFL. These clubs did that historically well.


Seasons Team (Titles) Coaches Quarterbacks W-L-T Pct
1932-44 Bears (5) Jones/Halas Sid Luckman 116-30-12 .772
2001-13 Patriots (3) Bill Belichick Tom Brady 176-58-0 .752
1984-96 49ers (4) Walsh/Seifert Montana/Young 172-58-1 .747
1965-77 Raiders (1+1) Rauch/Madden Lamonica/Stabler 146-47-9 .745
1968-80 Cowboys (2) Tom Landry Roger Staubach 156-57-1 .731
1929-41 Packers (5) Curly Lambeau Herber/Isbell 116-42-6 .726
1958-70 Colts (3 + 1) Ewbank/Shula Unitas/Morrall 128-53-5 .702
1950-62 Browns (3) Paul Brown Otto Graham 115-49-5 .695
1967-79 Rams (0) Allen/Knox Roman Gabriel 136-58-7 .694
1972-84 Steelers (4) Chuck Noll Terry Bradshaw 145-65-1 .690

Note: the ’67 Raiders and ’68 Colts won the league championship but lost the Super Bowl. Thus the “+1.”)

Now . . . if you threw in the Browns’ four seasons in the All-America Conference, before they joined the NFL, you’d have to move them up to No. 1. From 1946 to ’58 they were 137-34-5, a .793 winning percentage. But that’s a judgment call. The AAC didn’t offer them much competition, as their 52-4-3 record in the league attests.

Finally, the Vince Lombardi Packers just missed making the list, topping out at .673 for their best 13 years (1960-72). Of course, during the nine seasons Vince coached them (1959-67) they were even better, posting a 98-30-4 record and a .758 winning percentage.

Sources:, The Official NFL Record and Fact Book

One thought on “The Patriots’ run

  1. Omer Cormier

    Mankins showed slippage a year ago, sacks attributed to him, is 32 and has been banged around nine years, won’t re-structure contract, Pats need tight end who can catch (a la Hernandez) in case Gronk really isn’t healthy, or tends to get hurt (maybe), so Wright plus draft choice is good deal, less money for Pats, better sheet $$, and he catches four passes without practice, shows speed…Pats confident at least one can fill guard shoes adequately, and TB needed run-blocking guard badly..good deal for both maybe, but Belichik may have won again..teammates sorrry, of course, nine years a long time

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