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One man’s ranking of the greatest teams of the Super Bowl era

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Why, the world has never seen a run like the New England Patriots, has it?

It’s never seen a coach quite like Bill Belichick. Or a quarterback quite like Tom Brady? Or championships spat out by the photo copier? Has it?

Well, yes. It has.

Throughout the history of the Super Bowl, there have been a lot of impressive eras. The Packers. The Dolphins. The Steelers. The 49ers. The Cowboys. And so forth.

The impressive part of the Patriots is that they have put their run together in the age of free agency, when players can always bolt in pursuit of a bigger paycheck. The Patriots also have had to face a larger playoff pool, which means more chances to get beat.

Then there is the way you keep score. Are the Patriots, who are 4-2 under Belichick, more impressive than the Joe Montana’s 49ers or Chuck Noll’s Steelers, both of whom were 4-0? How about Vince Lombardi’s Packers, who were 2-0 in the Super Bowl, but who had won three of the previous five NFC title games?

Here we go then, ranking the runs of the Super Bowl era:

1. San Francisco 49ers (1981-1990 seasons): They had one of the best coaches in Bill Walsh. They had arguably the best quarterback in Montana. They had without argument the best wide receiver in Jerry Rice. And they won their four (over nine seasons) Super Bowls by a combined 76 points. If you count the Steve Young game after the 1994 season, the 49ers have won five Super Bowls.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-1979): The Steelers won four in six years with a dominating defense. Pittsburgh had to hold off Dallas twice in their run, but undefeated is undefeated. (The Steelers also won two games behind Ben Roethlisberger, reflected below).

3. New England Patriots (2001-2014): The Patriots have won four games, too, but they’ve lost two. If you’re counting losing Super Bowls, heck, don’t the Bills and Vikings qualify? Of course not. Successful runs are successful runs. The Pats’ four wins have come by a combined total of only 13 points. More impressive? At one point, the Patriots won three titles in four seasons.

4. Green Bay Packers (1966-1967): The Packers were packed with Hall of Famers. They won the first two Super Bowls by a combined 44 points. Their legacy, however, includes three other NFL title games in five years before the Super Bowl was started.

5. Dallas Cowboys (1992-1995): The Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four seasons behind the triplets of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. Jimmy Johnson fashioned the Cowboys, and they won the third title under Barry Switzer.

6. Washington Redskins (1982-1991): Washington won three Super Bowls in 10-years. The Redskins had three different quarterbacks in their run, which was led by a good defense and a fine offensive line.

7. Miami Dolphins (1972-1973): The Dophins, with a bruising running game and the No-Name Defense, actually went to three Super Bowls in a row. Miami also has the only modern day unbeaten team, as the ’72 team went 17-0 against a weak schedule.

8. Denver Broncos (1997-1999): John Elway spent the early part of his career losing title games, but once he got together with Terrell Davis, that all changed. The Broncos won two in a row, beating Green Bay and Atlanta.

9. New York Giants (2007-2011): The Giants and Eli Manning twice upset the vaunted New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, including once when the Pats were 18-0. For Belichick, these are the Super Bowls that got away.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (2005-2008): No, they won’t make anyone forget about Noll’s teams, but the Steelers won two in four years, beating Seattle and Arizona. Combined, the Steelers have six Super Bowl titles.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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