In the 99-year history of the National Football League, we have seen several teams that do nothing but win, win, and win for decades at a time. Today, there is one dynasty still standing, which just so happens to be playing in its tenth Super Bowl in less than two weeks. Join me for a dive into the five greatest NFL dynasties of all time.
5. Green Bay Packers, 1993-2016
The second Green Bay Packers dynasty, the first lasting from 1926 to 1945, started in 1993 and it saw two franchise quarterbacks in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers punch their ticket to three Super Bowls. Favre had a 1-1 record in the big game, while Aaron Rodgers won the Super Bowl in his only appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010. This dynasty began in 1993 but sadly, it seems as if its time has ended. The Packers have not made the playoffs since 2016, placing third place in the NFC North division in each of the last two seasons. Over the life of the dynasty, Green Bay played in 19 playoff games, with an overall record of 245-138-1 and a 2-1 record in Super Bowls.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1992-2018
The inception of the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty was in 1992. Pittsburgh was two seasons removed from their last playoff appearance in 1989, the last season that would see a playoff appearance under long-time head coach Chuck Noll, who announced his retirement in 1991. For many fans, both Steelers and NFL fans, the thought of a head coach not named Chuck Noll pacing the Steelers’ sideline was wildly peculiar. However, the 1992 season proved to be an unlikely pleasant surprise. Pittsburgh would replace Noll with a coaching assistant who was a head coaching candidate for the AFC North division rival Cincinnati Bengals just one year prior in 1991, by the name of Bill Cowher. Cowher’s rookie season as a head coach in ’92 was nothing short of spectacular. Cowher won NFL Coach of the Year and running back Barry Foster won AFC Offensive Player of the Year. Cowher’s Steelers placed first in the AFC North with an 11-5 record and advanced to the AFC Divisional Playoff, where they fell 24-3 to the Buffalo Bills. Cowher would coach the Steelers for 15 seasons, and coached two Super Bowls. Cowher went 1-1 in those two Super Bowls and had an overall record of 161-99-1.
Bill Cowher decided to resign as Steelers head coach in January of 2007 after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in the Super Bowl one year in advance to 2006. Similar to when Chuck Noll retired, this had fans uneasy about what’s to come after 15 years of pure success. Steelers fans didn’t have to wait long for Cowher’s successor. Just 15 days after Cowher’s resignation, Pittsburgh introduced Mike Tomlin as its head coach. Tomlin served as the defensive coordinator under Brad Childress with the Minnesota Vikings for one season in 2006, after serving as the defensive backs coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2001-2005. Tomlin, like Cowher, wasted no time showing the league that he’s capable of being a head coach. Tomlin’s Steelers won the AFC North division in his first season with a 10-6 record, earning a Wild Card Playoff berth, where they would be defeated 31-29 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tomlin remains Pittsburgh’s head coach today, having coached in 15 playoff games and two Super Bowls himself. Tomlin went 1-1 in his two Super Bowls as well, and has an overall record of 131-71-1.
In its entirety, the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty has a combined 271-152-2 record, 18 playoff bids and four Super Bowl appearances, with a 2-2 record in the big game.
3. Dallas Cowboys, 1966-1985
In 1960, the Dallas Cowboys hired Tom Landry as their head coach. Dallas would not need to search for another head man until 1989. During his 29-year tenure as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Landry coached in 18 playoff games and five Super Bowls. Landry had a 2-3 record in those five Super Bowls and an overall record of 208-79-2. Landry coached a whopping 14 players that would go on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The General Manager that hired him, Tex Schramm, also served from 1960-1989 with Landry. Both Landry and Schramm would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and 1991, respectively.
2. San Francisco 49ers, 1981-2002
The man behind the creation of this dynasty, Bill Walsh, started coaching the San Francisco 49ers in 1979. However, it took Walsh two seasons to get his roster how he wanted it to run his new style offense, called the “West Coast”. Walsh’s 49ers went 2-14 in 1979, but improved to 6-10 in 1980. Rolling into the 1981 season with an 8-24 coaching record, Walsh very much exceeded his expectations. The 49ers went 13-3 in 1981, sparking a dynasty that would last 21 years. The 1981 49ers marched through the NFC playoffs and earned a Super Bowl berth, where they would ultimately defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21. Quarterback Joe Montana would be awarded Super Bowl MVP. San Francisco would go on to hoist the Lombardi trophy four more times, winning world titles in 1984, 1988, 1989, and 1994. Walsh would coach in three of the four, retiring after the 1989 Super Bowl win. Walsh was succeeded by George Seifert, who picked up where Walsh left off, winning a Super Bowl at the helm in 1994. Seifert resigned as head coach of the 49ers following the 1996 season. Overall, the 49ers dynasty owns some very remarkable accomplishments. One of the most noteworthy being the only dynasty mentioned in this list to never lose a Super Bowl they appeared in. San Francisco’s glory days saw 18 playoff games, an overall record of 239-104-1 and a perfect 5-0 record in Super Bowls.
New England Patriots, 1994-Present
The history just keeps being made. Whether you like them or not — and most fans do not — the New England Patriots will not go away. Twenty-five years ago in 1994, the Patriots franchise was changed for the better, and forever. Robert Kraft purchased the team on January 21, 1994, quite possibly the best transaction he ever made, and definitely the most successful one. In their first season under Kraft and second-year head coach Bill Parcells, the Patriots placed second in the AFC East with a 10-6 record after five consecutive losing seasons. Parcells won the NFL’s Coach of the Year honors. New England followed up the 1994 campaign unexpectedly, finishing the season at 6-10 in 1995. Parcells and the Patriots would rebound in 1996 with an 11-5 season and AFC East division title, as well as the second Super Bowl trip in franchise history, one that they would lose 35-21 versus the Green Bay Packers. Parcells resigned from his position with the Patriots following the Super Bowl loss. New England hired Pete Carroll as its successor to Parcells, and Carroll picked up right where Parcells left off. In his inaugural season as New England’s head man, Carroll led his Patriots to an AFC East crown and advanced to the AFC Divisional Playoff, where they fell by just one point in a 7-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Carroll would make the playoffs again in 1997, but placed last in the division in each of the next two seasons. After Carroll’s firing in 1999, the Patriots introduced their third head coach in seven seasons in a search for successful continuity: Bill Belichick.
Belichick went 5-11 in his first season in 2000, but that would be the last losing season Patriots fans would see in the Belichick era thus far. In 2001, sixth-round draft pick and backup quarterback Tom Brady took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe and led the Patriots to the postseason. For a young and unproven Brady, however, a playoff berth wasn’t enough. He wanted more, and got more. Brady helped guide New England all the way to the Super Bowl, where they would win their first of five 20-17 over the then St. Louis Rams. After a 9-7 playoff-less season in 2002, New England found themselves back in the Super Bowl in 2003, where they would win the big game 32-29 over the Carolina Panthers for their second world title in three years.
This time, there was no Super Bowl hangover. The Patriots were once again dancing on the Super Bowl stage against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004. The Belichick and Brady duo had a successful bird hunt, winning their third Super Bowl in four years over the Eagles by a score of 24-21. The 2004 season would mark their last Super Bowl appearance until 2007, a year that saw the Patriots do something that had not been done since the 1972 Miami Dolphins: finish the regular season 16-0. The second undefeated season in NFL history was no fluke, as New England won two playoff games to punch their ticket to Super Bowl 42. Something had to give, though, with the yet-to-be-beaten team playing in the Super Bowl, and it gave. The New York Giants defeated the unbeaten 17-14, the first Super Bowl loss of the Belichick-Brady era. Fortunately for the ’72 Dolphins, their legacy lived on. Brady’s bunch would not make another Super Bowl trip until 2011, where they were once again facing the team that put the only “L” in the 2008 campaign’s loss column, the New York Giants. Revisited by unfortunate memories from four years prior, New England was defeated by the G-men once again.
With a 3-2 record over five appearances, the Patriots dynasty was still going strong. Three years removed from their second Super Bowl loss to the Giants, New England was back in the big game in 2014 against a familiar face. The Seattle Seahawks, led by former Patriots coach Pete Carroll, were New England’s next contest. In a game filled with memorable moments, including cornerback Malcolm Butler’s goalline interception to seal the deal, the Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl of the Belichick-Brady era. Fast forward two years to 2016, and there they were again for their seventh crack at it. Another team that they haven’t faced in a Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons were ready to shut down the Patriots dynasty. Throughout one half of football, it looked like Atlanta’s hopes and dreams were coming true as they held a commanding 28-3 lead. Once the clock hit 9:28 remaining in the third quarter, Atlanta’s dreams turned into a nightmare. New England somehow started to claw their way back into the contest and managed to send the game into overtime. It took the Patriots one drive to win their fifth championship since 2001, by way of a touchdown run by running back James White.
As so many fans have become accustomed to, New England looked no different after their fifth Super Bowl victory in 2016 over the Falcons. They once again dominated the AFC in 2017 en route to their eighth appearance since 2001 to face the team they beat in the Super Bowl in 2004: the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles had been led by backup quarterback Nick Foles after starter Carson Wentz suffered a torn ACL in Week 12. Thirteen years removed from their Super Bowl defeat, the Eagles did the defeating this time around, knocking off New England 41-33 in the big game. Once more, even after a Super Bowl defeat, the Patriots keep on going. New England is playing in their tenth Super Bowl since 1994 in this seemingly endless dynasty in less than two weeks. Of all the dynasties the NFL has seen, aforementioned or excluded, whether it be the 1970’s Steelers, 1990’s Bills, 1990’s-2010’s Packers, 1990’s-2010’s Steelers, the New England Patriots undoubtedly stand out the most with all the history, all the success and most importantly, the stability and continuity. Once it’s all said and done in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the Patriots dynasty will reside in its own category for the rest of time.