Dynasty: A family, team, etc., that is very powerful or successful for a long period of time. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
“A long period of time” is open to interpretation, relative to the overall history of the institution — but suffice it to say two years is not a long period in NFL time.
Plenty of people are trying to jump the gun — saying the Hawks will join the elite dynasties of the NFL if they beat the Patriots, who just happen to have been the most recent NFL dynasty.
Uh, not so fast.
If the Hawks beat the Patriots, they will become the eighth franchise to pull off back-to-back Super Bowl wins (Pittsburgh claimed double back-to-backs in the 1970s). But consecutive wins — while dynamite — do not a dynasty make.
In the NFL (or any sport really), a team is a dynasty if it wins three titles in a five-year span or four in a decade (assuming the six other years were not a bunch of duds).
No team has won three straight Super Bowls, although the Green Bay Packers won three straight NFL titles (1965-67), including the first two Super Bowls.
The league’s only Super Bowl dynasties were the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s (four wins in six years), the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s (four titles from 1981 to 1989), the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s (three in four years) and the Patriots of the 2000s (also three titles in four years).
In the mini-dynasty club: The Raiders won three titles in eight years (1976, 1980, 1983) and the Washington Redskins won three in 10 years (1982, 1987, 1991 — losing in 1983).
In the oh-so-close club: The Cowboys were 2-3 in Super Bowls from 1970 to 1978 and lost three straight conference title games from 1980 to 1982; the Dolphins lost the Super Bowl in 1971 but won the next two; the Buffalo Bills lost four straight (1990-93); and the Minnesota Vikings lost in 1969, 1973, 1974 and 1976. The Dolphins and Bills are the only teams to have reached three straight Super Bowls.
One commonality of the four true Super Bowl dynasties: They never lost a Super Bowl. In other words, if a team wants to create a dynasty, it has to win every time it reaches the final game.
Since the salary cap was created in 1993, few teams have been able to sustain success. The Cowboys of the early 1990s were a pre-cap dynasty (three Super Bowl wins in four years), but they haven’t done anything in the free agency era.
The Broncos won consecutive Super Bowls in 1997-98 — John Elway’s final seasons — but they haven’t gotten any closer to another Super Bowl win than 35 points — the margin of defeat against Seattle in last year’s title game.
Pittsburgh won two titles in four years, and the Giants somehow managed two in five seasons. Baltimore has won two during the free agency era, but they were separated by 12 years and two coaching regimes.
No one would consider those teams dynasties, because they just could not sustain it.
The only dynasty in the salary cap era has been the Patriots — certainly a neat coincidence considering the Seahawks are playing them Sunday as Seattle tries to continue building its own dynasty.
The Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years in the early 2000s and have been highly competitive since then, but they have lost their two other appearances (both to the Giants), including the season in which they were poised to become the first 19-0 team in NFL history.
Other teams have had some good runs. St. Louis won a Super Bowl and lost one with its spectacular Greatest Show on Turf, and Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts were 1-1 in the Super Bowl in the late 2000s. But the Rams faded after a great three-year run, and the Colts couldn’t get to the title game more than twice despite being the league’s best regular-season team in the 2000s (.719 winning percentage).
It all reflects just how hard it is to create a dynasty in this era of parity. The Patriots have been the best, and even they have not won since 2004 (losing to the Giants twice since then).
If the Seahawks can follow up their 43-8 Super Bowl blowout of the Broncos last season with a win over the Patriots on Sunday, they will pull off a rare double and set themselves up for the first trifecta in Super Bowl history.
But they won’t be a dynasty yet.