For the past 17 years no team has dominated the National Football League like the New England Patriots. They have had seventeen consecutive winning seasons, 15 division titles, 7 American Football Conference championships and 5 Superbowl wins. Sure the Pittsburgh Steelers won 4 Superbowls in the 1970’s but it took them 25 years to win another. The Dallas Cowboys won 5 Superbowls between 1971 and 1995, but they have yet to win another. The San Fransisco Forty-Niners won 5 Superbowls between 1981 and 1994, but also have won nothing since then. The Niners also did most of their damage before the era of free agency. Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and head coach Bill Walsh didn’t have to worry about losing Ronnie Lott or Jerry Rice to free agency. Sure Frisco won their 5 titles in a shorter span, but they were pretty much done after 1994 when free agency and age caught up with them.
How have the Patriots been able to maintain such dominance for so long? A lot of nincompoops will bellow “CHEATRIOTS!” hysterically but they are easily ignored as the jealous blowhards as they are. It all starts at the very top, which means owner Robert Kraft. The architect of the dynasty purchased the Patriots in one of the greatest hostile takeovers in recorded history. Back when the stumbling, bumbling Billy Sullivan owned the Patriots in the early 80’s Kraft began his takeover by purchasing the land around Sullivan (Foxborro) Stadium. Kraft quickly began building up shops around the Stadium and got a piece of the action on all of them. That meant that any income besides the stadium itself was going in Kraft’s pocket, not Sullivan’s. Then a few years later Billy’s even more incompetent son Chuck decided to invest every dime they had in the Jackson 5 Victory tour. The tour totally bombed and by 1987, the Sullivans were bankrupt. Sullivan put the team and the stadium up for sale in bankruptcy court. The moronic Victor Kiam of Remmington managed to buy the team, but for some reason allowed Kraft to buy the stadium for 22 million dollars. This oversight proved fatal as now Kraft owned the land around the stadium and the renamed Foxborro Stadium itself. Every dime made in and around was going to Kraft’s pocket, not Kiam. When the Patriots hit rock bottom in 1990, they were one of the most despised teams not only on the field but off of it as well. Boston media reporter Lisa Olsen claimed she was verbally assaulted by several of the Patriots and Kiam took the side of the players, calling her a “classic bitch”. What wasn’t helping was not only the team’s reputation in the toilet, they were 1-15 at the end of the season. The icing on the cake was a regular season loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Quarterback Randall Cunningham made a routine sideline scramble expecting to be pushed out…he wasn’t. The defense lollygagged after him at half speed and Cunningham took it to the house for a touchdown. If Superbowl 51 was the high of the franchise, that moment was the worst. After a 6-10 season in 1991, Kiam threw in the towel by selling the franchise to James Orthwein, descendent of Adolphus Busch, founder of Budweiser. Orthwein’s first order of business wasn’t to fix a team that won just 13 games in the previous 3 seasons, it was to relocate them to his hometown of St. Louis. Orthwein announced plans to move the team and call them the Stallions…..but he had a problem. Robert Kraft owned Foxborro Stadium which had an ironclad rule in the contract that the team could not be moved until the lease was up in 2001, nearly a decade away. At first Orthwein tried to buy out Kraft prior to the 1992 season and Robert laughed at him. With the owner’s head in St. Louis, the team’s collective heads were up their ass as they suffered through a 2-14 season bringing their win total to 14 games in 4 years. The Patriots from 2013 to 2016 won 50 regular season games not counting playoffs in comparison.
The only good thing Orthwein ever did was the hiring of a particular coach prior to the 1993 season. Future hall of fame head coach Bill Parcells guided the New York Giants to two Superbowl victories before retiring at the end of the 1990 season. After 2 years, he got sick and tired of being retired and decided to make a comeback with the Patriots. He wasn’t going to be alone, the 2-14 season netted them the first overall pick in the draft. For once they got it right, drafting rifle-armed quarterback Drew Bledsoe. The team was still littered with the remnants of the previous regime, finishing 5-11 in 1993 after starting out 0-10. Orthwein was going broke just like Kiam did since all the proceeds of the strip mall and Foxborro Stadium was still going to Kraft. Robert’s plan to ride out Orthwein until he crumbled ended when Orthwein agreed to sell out after the 1993 season. Kraft bought the Patriots for 172 million dollars and it should be noted that in the 24 years since Kraft bought the team, there have been just two losing seasons, the last of which was 17 years ago. Just to stick it up Sullivan’s long departed ass for mis-managing the franchise for so long, Kraft to this day keeps a Jackson 5 Victory tour poster in his office.
Parcells went to work in the next two years to build a winning team. Willie McGinnest, Ted Johnson, Troy Brown, Chris Slade, Ty Law and future hall of fame running back Curtis Martin were drafted between 1994 and 1995. The Patriots finished 10-6 in 1994 to make the playoffs for the first time in 8 years, losing to Parcells’ old protégé Bill Belichick’s Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately the Patriots took a step back in 1995, finishing 6-10. The 1996 draft class was arguably the best of all, Tedy Bruschi, Lawyer Milloy and Terry Glenn joined the previous draftees plus free agents Henry Thomas, Shawn Jefferson, Otis Smith, Dave Meggett and Willie Clay. Holdovers Bruce Armstrong, Vincent Brisby and Ben Coates gave the Patriots one of the best teams in the AFC. Parcells even hired Belichick to be his right hand man for the 1996 season after the Browns foolishly fired him. The problem that hung over the team like a dark cloud was the strain between Parcells and Kraft. Parcells wanted complete control of the team which means no one butts in, including Kraft. Kraft being a rookie owner didn’t know when to concede power, told Parcells HE was in charge. This was evident when Kraft overruled Parcells by drafting Terry Glenn in the first round of the 1996 draft. Glenn was a supremely talented receiver but had the reputation of being a head-case. Parcells wanted no part of him but was stuck with him anyway. Ironically Parcells rode Glenn relentlessly but seemed to be the only coach Glenn ever listened to. The 1996 season was special as the team ripped off a franchise record (at the time) 11 wins and rode a tidal wave to Superbowl 31. Trouble brewed as while the Patriots should have been preparing for Green Bay, Parcells was already negotiating his contract to leave for the New York Jets. Sure enough, after the Packers stomped the Patriots, Parcells left for New York and took Belichick with him. The next 3 years was a slow, bitter decline under lame duck coach Pete Carroll, yes THAT Pete Carroll. It wasn’t that Pete was a bad coach, the problem was he had no control of his team which is what Kraft wanted. With general manager Bobby Grier managing to bungle THREE first round picks in the 1998 draft, the Patriots went from 10-6 and coming 30 yards of the AFC Championship game in 1997 to 8-8 and out of the playoffs in 1999. That was it for Carroll who eventually found a home in USC and later Seattle where he was very successful. As for the Patriots, the dynasty was about to begin.
It began with the heist of Bill Belichick. After Bill Parcells took over as head coach of the Jets in 97, he brought along Bill Belichick as his defensive coordinator along with old Giant coaches Charlie Weis, Al Groh and Romeo Crennel. The ’97 Jets were a team on the rise and they got even stronger when Parcells lured away Curtis Martin, Otis Smith and others to the Jets where they made the AFC championship game in 1998. Parcells decided to retire again following the 1999 season to take a front office job, handing the head coaching role over to Belichick. In a shocking move, Belichick scribbled “I resign as the HC of the NYJ” on a napkin and just like that, Belichick had quit the Jets. The truth was he had spent his entire career trying to escape the shadow of Parcells and there was no way he was going to do it with him over his head in New York. Belichick was quickly hired by Kraft to coach the Patriots for the 2000 season. The 2000 draft did little to drum up interest as their second round pick Adrian Klemm could never stay healthy while JR Redmond also fizzled. Their 6th round back was a skinny bean-pole quarterback from Michigan named Tom Brady who was benched for not only Brian Griese but Drew Henson as well while in college. He ended up being the 4th quarterback on the depth chart way behind Bledsoe. The 2000 Patriots were a mess as the once proud core of 1996 had deteriorated due to age and injuries.
Then Bledsoe takes the shot from Mo Lewis, in comes Brady and the rest as they say is history. Enjoy it while it last Patriots fans, it won’t last forever.
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