There are three core tenets to the modern NFL dynasty, or the New England Patriots.
- An all-knowing head coach
- Resiliency and adaptability
- A low-maintenance quarterback
- There's a reason Belichick always keeps one of the smallest coaching staffs in the NFL. He has a precise view of how he wants his organization run, and all he needs are people that he trusts carrying out specific tasks. That's where the phrase, "do your job" comes from. This, by the way, is how most great institutions are built. One irreplaceable person with an exact vision, with a bunch of replaceable pieces that help to build. Think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos. What this enables is sustainability. Bill Belichick lost his defensive coordinator two years in a row (Matt Patricia and Brian Flores) from 2017 to 2018, and his unit actually improved in 2019. Everybody's replaceable, except the man in charge.
- The Patriots have thrived through Spygate, Deflategate, Massagegate, Aaron Hernandez, the Malcolm Butler benching, and a report by Seth Wickersham detailing an imperfect relationship between Kraft, Belichick and Brady. They've been incredibly resilient. They just don't stop. It's a key tenet of any dynasty. The Golden State Warriors were immersed in drama for two years before Kevin Durant parted ways. Michael Jordan punched Steve Kerr in the face in the midst of the Bulls' run. When alphas are forced to spend years together, things are going to ignite at times, and things are going to get stale at times. Perhaps the most impressive part of the Patriots resiliency is their refusal to have let-down years after Super Bowl appearances. But resiliency would be shipwrecked without adaptability. The Patriots have been four or five different versions of a football team during the last 19 years. Defense-driven, the Moss-Welker era, the Gronkowski era, the James White-Edleman Super Bowls, and now back to defense. In a league that is so gameplan driven, the Patriots make sure you're never fully prepared for them.
- Tom Brady is a lot of things, but he's not high maintenance, and I think a lot of that has to do with his physical limitations. He doesn't have the biggest arm, he's not athletic and compared to other quarterbacks he's physically limited. So, the Patriots have never felt beholden to his talent. When Patrick Mahomes is on your team, you're an idiot if he doesn't throw 30 times a game. When Allen Iverson's on the floor, why give the ball to anyone else? When you have Aaron Rodgers, you're better off just letting him make plays. Tom Brady was never any of those guys, and it enabled the Patriots to be as agile as any NFL team we've ever seen. Completely disciplined in the passing game because Tom Brady couldn't go off script. Not beholden to the pass, because Tom Brady's talent level never determined that running was a bad idea. The Patriots created complete balance and unpredictability in their offense, and a big reason for that was the low maintenance of Tom Brady.
The 49ers have displayed all three of these core tenets.
- There were some very enlightening NFL voices during and after the 49ers won the NFC Championship game. First, Troy Aikman pointed out that what's perhaps more impressive than Kyle Shanahan's play calling is his ability to evaluate players. Then, former NFL GM Michael Lombardi said on his podcast, The GM Shuffle, that nothing happens in the 49ers building without the approval of Kyle Shanahan. He said Shanahan has Bill Walsh type authority, and that 49ers GM John Lynch sits below Shanahan in the power dynamic. So, Kyle Shanahan is the aforementioned all-knowing head coach.
- The 49ers have been resilient. They faced the toughest schedule in the NFC this year, with games against the Seahawks, Packers, Ravens, Saints and Rams over their last 8 games. In the midst of that, their backup quarterback C.J. Beathard lost his younger brother in a brutal stabbing outside of a bar in Nashville. The 49ers persevered. And through it all, they were incredibly adaptable. The 49ers present one of the most unpredictable offenses in the NFL. Just last game, their third string running back, Raheem Mostert ran for over 200 yards. Sounds like the famous 200-yard Jonas Gray game of 2014, doesn't it? Although they've leaned more run heavy all year, they've shown the ability to air it out when need be. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for at least 3 touchdowns and at least 295 yards three times this season, including a 48-46 shootout win in New Orleans.
- But Jimmy Garoppolo's talent doesn't demand anything. It doesn't suck the energy out of the room. He's talented enough to win a shootout, but he's system-dependent enough to only have 8 passing attempts during the NFC Championship game. In that way, he's very Brady-like. He's low maintenance. Jimmy Garappolo allows you to do whatever you want to do on offense, but never calls for a disproportionate amount of the playbook. Remember, Brady too played a more limited role his first six years with the Patriots. He didn't start airing it out until Randy Moss arrived in 2007.
Here's the hope for Cardinals fans. This all will take years to play out, dynasties are hardest to come by in the NFL, and the NFC West is the most well-coached division in football. The Patriots, on the other hand, played in the AFC-Least.