What is the greatest dynasty in NFL history?
When Tom Brady announced he was leaving the New England Patriots after two decades, it marked the end of one of the most dominant NFL dynasties. Few teams in NFL history come close to the Patriots’ incredible dynasty, but quite a few teams stand out for their own impressive achievements.
From iconic teams like the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns dominating during the pre-Super Bowl era to recent dynasties within the past two decades. Here are the 20 most dominant NFL dynasties ever.
20. Seattle Seahawks (2012-present)
It started with a third-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. NFL teams doubted Russell Wilson for his size, but he’s towered over his critics ever since. An offense led by Wilson and Marshawn Lynch was the perfect combination to keep opposing defenses off balance. The Seahawks matched it with the Legion of Boom, one of the NFL’s most historically dominant defenses in decades. To top it all off, CenturyLink Field was always hostile for opposing teams thanks to the incredible crowd.
Russell Wilson’s career with the Seahawks is remarkable. A Lombardi Trophy, two Super Bowl appearances, eight playoff appearances and a 98-45 record across nine seasons. THe 2021 NFL season will mark a decade together, but it will likely be Wilson’s last season in Seattle.
19. Indianapolis Colts (1999-2010)
After throwing 28 interceptions as a rookie in 1998, some started to wonder if the Colts made a mistake taking Peyton Manning. A year later, the Colts went 13-3 and the dynasty started rolling. Bringing in Tony Dungy provided this team with the leadership it needed. The Colts ripped off seven consecutive playoff appearances under Dungy, followed by two more with Jim Caldwell. Manning’s Colts went 138-54 in the regular season during their 12-year run, appearing in two Super Bowls and won one ring. If not for Patriots, Manning likely would have a few more rings on his fingers.
18. St. Louis Rams (1999-2003)
The Greatest Show on Turf didn’t last for long, but it was a thing of beauty when it was around. The offense boasted four Hall of Famers (Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace, Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce) and Torrey Holt might just miss out on his spot in Canton. The offense scored 500-plus points in three consecutive seasons — numbers that came in a league that wasn’t as offense-friendly as it is now. The Rams hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 1999, but their last-second loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI still stings.
17. Minnesota Vikings (1969-1977)
It might seem ridiculous to call a team without a Super Bowl a dynasty and it’s why the Vikings are towards the bottom of this list. But while they didn’t come out of this incredible stretch with a ring, head coach Bud Grant coached one of the sport’s most dominant teams. Minnesota went 96-29-1 across nine seasons. Of course plenty of credit must go to the Purple People Eaters, a group that utterly destroyed opposing offensive lines. Four trips to the Super Bowl (1970, ’74, ’75 and ’77) is also impressive, even if the Vikings couldn’t put a ring on it.
16. Buffalo Bills (1988-1993)
There will always be a massive elephant in the room for this franchise during this run. The Bills went to the Super Bowl in four consecutive seasons and didn’t come out victorious once. The one-point loss to the Giants, the unfortunate result of Scott Norwood’s missed game-winning kick, stung this franchise for decades. A 70-36 record with four trips to the Super Bowl is still remarkable and Jim Kelly earned his place as a legend in Buffalo.
15. New York Giants (2005-2011)
The Patriots’ reign has prevented multiple other dynasties from achieving even greater success. Yet the Giants have always come through as the foil to even more rings for Brady and Bill Belichick. Eli Manning and Co. couldn’t make it past the wild-card round in 2005 and 2006. But Manning and David Tyree delivered the late-game heroics to end the Patriots’ pursuit of a perfect season in 2007, bringing a title back to New York. After missing the playoffs in two of the next three seasons, Manning took Brady down again in Super Bowl XLVI with some clutch throws in the closing minutes. While many love to focus on Manning’s career 117-117 record, he twice did what few others ever could.
14. Chicago Bears (1932-1946)
The Bears boast two eras with a compelling case for this list, but the nod must go to the team that racked up championships with regularity. Hall of Fame coach George Halas proved why he is one of the greatest to ever do it, winning five titles in this span with Chicago. Of course, the Bears started and ended their incredible run with an NFL Championship. A team loaded with legends like Bronko Nagurski, Sid Luckman and George McAfee, the Bears earned their spot in NFL history.
13. Denver Broncos (1983-1998)
The John Elway era proves to be one of the most fascinating when comparing it to other dynasties. Under the Hall of Famer, the Broncos went 90-52-1 in their first nine seasons, losing three Super Bowls along the way. After a rough loss in the ’91 AFC Championship Game to the Bills, Denver only made the playoffs once in the next four seasons. On the verge of ending his career 0-3 in the big game, Mike Shanahan helped save Elway’s legacy with consecutive Super Bowl titles before the quarterback walked off into the sunset.
12. Miami Dolphins (1970-1995)
Don Shula’s reign in Miami lasted 26 seasons and few come close to matching the success he had in NFL history. The iconic coach posted a 257-133-2 record in more than two decades with the Dolphins. Along the way, they won two Super Bowl titles and pulled off the only perfect season in NFL history. Unfortunately, the Dolphins could only reach one Super Bowl with Shula and Dan Marino, slightly diminishing an otherwise historic stretch of success. Between the perfect ’72 season and Shula’s record of success, the Dolphins’ dynasty easily stands out among the NFL greats.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (2004-2017)
It seems impossible that the Steelers’ recent stretch of greatness isn’t even considered the best dynasty in team history. Ben Roethlisberger stepped on the field as a rookie and gave this team the quarterback it needed to become an instant contender. While the Steelers fell short after a 15-1 season in 2004, they roared back the following year to win the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh’s iconic defense shut down opposing teams while Roethlisberger ripped secondaries apart with his arm.
During this 14-year, the Steelers recorded a 150-74 record with two Super Bowl titles and one Super Bowl ring that slipped out of their fingers. Big Ben might have another year left in him, but he likely finishes his career with two championships before heading into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
10. Dallas Cowboys (1970-1979)
Things didn’t start well for coach Tom Landry and the Cowboys. After posting a 25-53-4 record across his first six seasons, things didn’t look promising heading into 1966. But Landry found his way in the NFL, making the playoffs each of the next four seasons. After losing the Super Bowl in 1970, the iconic duo of Landry and Roger Staubach marched toward a dynasty. From 1970-1979, the Cowboys had a 105-39 record in the regular season, four Super Bowl appearances and won two rings. It proved to be quite the decade for iconic franchises. Much like the Steelers (2004-2017), though, it’s not quite enough to be the best era in team history.
9. Washington Redskins (1982-1992)
It’s been a long time since the Redskins were viewed as a contender, but this team used to be the class of the NFL. Joe Gibbs became the most beloved person in the nation’s capital, helping build a team that went from a .500 record in his first season to a Super Bowl champion. Grand success became the standard under Gibbs. The Redskins got rolled over in Super Bowl XVIII, but the team rebounded with two more Super Bowl celebrations before Gibbs retired following the ’92 season. Three Super Bowl rings in a 12-year span. Things are a lot different now for an organization that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005.
8. Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1974-1985)
It’s not often that a dynasty features two coaches in two different cities, but the Raiders always seem to find a way to make history. Of course, the memorable years of John Madden and Kenny Stabler made Oakland the place to be in the early 1970s. The duo posted a 65-20-1 record from 1973-1978 and won a Super Bowl along the way. Following Madden’s retirement in 1979, Tom Flores took over and the Raiders kept rolling. Even after leaving Oakland for Los Angeles in 1982, Flores and Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen kept winning. Two coaches, two cities and plenty of greats on the field and the Raiders came out of the era with three Super Bowl rings.
7. Cleveland Browns (1946-1965)
Yes, the Browns used to be good. In fact, the Browns were the Patriots of the NFL for nearly two decades. Much of the credit goes to Paul Brown, the namesake for the team and the man who basically built this team from the ground up. Brown had his quarterback in Otto Graham and the Hall of Fame pairing achieved insane success. Cleveland dominated the All-America Football Conference until it merged with the NFL. Brown’s team proved it wasn’t a fluke, winning the NFL Championship in 1950 and then two more in 1954 and 1955. After the team fired Brown in 1963, Blanton Collier took over and winning another title in 1964.
6. Green Bay Packers (1929-1944)
Much like Brown, Curly Lambeau is responsible for one of the most storied franchises in sports getting started on its path to greatness. After serving as a player-coach from 1919-29, Lambeau focused on coaching in 1929 and the Packers immediately won a championship. They’d pull off a three-peat and then go on to win three more titles from 1936-1944, only losing once in the NFL Championship Game along the way. A 137-46-8 record with six titles across 16 years, a dynasty in every way.
5. Dallas Cowboys (1991-1996)
Taking over for Tom Landry is an impossible task and things started slow for Jimmy Johnson. But after building a champion at Miami, Johnson brought that same energy and leadership to Dallas. Before long, the Cowboys were a powerhouse once more. Johnson, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, a collection of legends like few others in NFL history. It won back-to-back Super Bowls before Jerry Jones’ ego caused Johnson to leave town. Barry Switzer inherited an incredible team and the Cowboys won their third Super Bowl in a four-year span. We can’t help but wonder how many more rings the Cowboys would have had if Johnson stayed.
4. Green Bay Packers (1960-1967)
Countless organizations would love if their best stretch in team history resembled Green Bay’s from 1929-1944. Incredibly, that’s not the best in this franchise’s remarkable history. Vince Lombardi, one of the best coaches in the history of sports, was so dominant during this stretch that the Super Bowl trophy now carries his name. Lombardi’s Packers won made it to the NFL Championship in his second season and lost. They went on to win it in each of the next two seasons. He’d add another championship to his resume in 1965, before taking home the first two Super Bowls in NFL history. Five titles in eight years and a roster with 10 Hall of Famers on it. It’s the definition of a dynasty and an era that will never be forgotten.
3. San Francisco 49ers (1981-1994)
The architect of the West Coast offense, Bill Walsh’s impact on the NFL goes beyond how he built the 49ers’ dynasty. For as impactful as Walsh’s offensive philosophy remains today, his list of accomplishments is equally incredible. He drafted Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley and Jerry Rice, then identified Steve Young’s talent and traded for him. A brilliant mind on the field and in the front office, Walsh helped the 49ers dominate the 1980s. San Francisco won three Super Bowls under Walsh before he retired following the 1988 title. George Seifert took over, winning a Super Bowl with Young in 1989 and 1994. During this 14-year stretch, the 49ers won five Super Bowls, lost it to the NFC Championship Game four times and posted a 159-56-1 record.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (1972-1979)
The Steelers’ history of winning is incredible and this organization’s story can’t be told without Chuck Noll, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann and the Steel Curtain. Pittsburgh rode its cast of Hall of Famers, with an equally legendary coach, to a level of success that was unprecedented for a majority of the Super Bowl era. The Steelers won four Super Bowls across nine seasons, with a defense that crushed the hopes of opposing teams and an offense that always came through in the clutch. If not for the Patriots, there would be an incredible argument for the 70s Steelers to be the best dynasty ever.
1. New England Patriots (2001-2019)
A sixth-round pick and a head coach with a 35-44 record with the Cleveland Browns. The most unlikely pairing became the greatest dynasty. It all started with Drew Bledsoe going down in Week 2 of the 2001 season and the rest is simply history. When Tom Brady wasn’t elite, Belichick’s defense was historically dominant and Adam Vinatieri delivered in the clutch to help the Patriots win three Super Bowls.
Brady then reached a level we’ve never seen before. The Patriots made 17 playoff appearances in 19 seasons, went to nine Super Bowls and have six rings in 20 seasons. Easily No. 1 among NFL dynasties. As for the Brady vs. Belichick debate, just look at Super LV.