Dynasty labels, coaching legacies in play in Super Bowl
PHOENIX — One franchise has carried the mantle of NFL supremacy for almost 14 seasons.
The other is trying to wrest it away.
The Seattle Seahawks will be well on their way to establishing their own dynasty with a second consecutive Super Bowl victory Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Standing in Seattle’s way is a club that has captured more Lombardi Trophies (three) and made more Super Bowl appearances (six) than any other since the 2001 season: The New England Patriots.
The two football constants in that span for the Patriots remain in place. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady hold the record for most postseason victories by a head coach/quarterback combination with 20.
Based on the past three seasons, Seattle’s tandem of Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson could someday be pushing for that record themselves. The duo has six postseason wins in that span, including a streak of five straight wins dating to the 2013 postseason campaign.
After winning three championships in a four-year span, the Patriots have lost in their past two Super Bowl appearances. With Brady at age 37, this could be his last chance to match Terry Bradshaw and childhood idol Joe Montana for most Super Bowl quarterbacking wins with four. The 26-year-old Wilson has ample time to push for that record himself.
Brady and Wilson are quarterbacking anomalies, becoming success stories despite being drafted in the sixth and third rounds respectively. Brady’s lack of mobility, foot speed (he ran the 40-yard dash in 5.2 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine) and scrawny physique prompted teams to select 198 other players before him in 2000, including quarterbacking busts like Spergon Wynn and Gio Carmazzi. Every NFL team also passed on Wilson at least once in 2012 largely because of fears that his height at 5-foot-11 would prove too great a detriment.
Belichick and Carroll have overcome their share of adversity as well. Belichick was fired as Cleveland Browns head coach when the franchise moved to Baltimore in the 2006 offseason. Carroll went through the indignity of being fired by the New York Jets and Patriots, the latter paving the way for Belichick’s arrival in 2000.
"When I hired Pete, I was coming off my first experience as an owner," said New England’s Robert Kraft, who had bumped heads with Bill Parcells about the team’s power structure before he left to coach the New York Jets in 1997. "I believed in more checks and balances like my other businesses. I think I probably handicapped Pete from doing as good a job as he could have done.
"When I was privileged to hire Bill Belichick, my evolution in trying to understand how to be a good owner and run a franchise, I think I matured to the point where I knew how to set it up and then see how the person performed. Having Bill as my head coach, I don’t think I could have a better one. I also think my partner (Seahawks owner) Paul Allen has done very well with Pete Carroll."
Carroll and Belichick share something else in common that isn’t so pleasant. Each was involved in scandals that have tainted their reputations.
The University of Southern California, which is where Carroll went to reinvent himself following his firing in New England, received major NCAA sanctions for violations committed under his watch. The Trojans also were stripped of their 2004 National Championship. Carroll had already left to Seattle by the time those penalties were announced in 2010.
Belichick was sullied by the 2007 Spygate incident in which the Patriots were illegally caught videotaping an opponent’s sideline signals. Belichick is back in a negative spotlight again with the NFL investigating whether the Patriots had illegally deflated footballs for a competitive advantage in their AFC championship game victory against Indianapolis.
Belichick and Brady have professed their innocence and received a strong public show of support from Kraft. The league said its investigation will continue with player interviews following Super Bowl XLIX.
By then, the impact of winning or losing Sunday’s contest will have already shaped the legacy that Belichick and Carroll will someday leave behind. Not that either coach cared to discuss that topic Friday during their final pre-game media availability.
"If there’s reason to look back and say, ‘We did this,’ and, ‘We did that,’ and make connections and storylines for all that, that’s really for you guys to do that," Carroll told reporters. "That has nothing to do with what’s going on and it’s not really our focus at all. It’s this great matchup that we have."
Said Belichick: "Whatever we have or haven’t done in the past — the Super Bowls we’ve won, the ones we didn’t win, championships and so forth — really, it’s not about that right now … It’s about what’s going to happen Sunday."
That’s when we’ll know whether the Patriots or Seahawks should be regarded as the NFL’s gold standard.