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.
THE COMPANY THE 2001-13 PATRIOTS KEEP
|1932-44||Bears (5)||Jones/Halas||Sid Luckman||116-30-12||.772|
|2001-13||Patriots (3)||Bill Belichick||Tom Brady||176-58-0||.752|
|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: pro-football-reference.com, The Official NFL Record and Fact Book