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Has chasing perfection become too easy?

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Has chasing perfection become too easy? Not that actually being perfect has become any simpler, but teams have increasingly been in the hunt to match the 1972 Miami Dolphins – a feat once perceived as football’s version of Mount Everest. ...

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Old 11-27-2009, 11:10 AM   #1
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Has chasing perfection become too easy?

Not that actually being perfect has become any simpler, but teams have increasingly been in the hunt to match the 1972 Miami Dolphins – a feat once perceived as football’s version of Mount Everest.

As the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints put their matching 10-0 records on the line in Week 12 against the Houston Texans and New England Patriots, respectively, neither has really generated the type of buzz normally associated with chasing perfection this deep into the season. Former Dolphins running back Mercury Morris hasn’t been heard rapping anywhere and there hasn’t even been much discussion about chilling champagne.

That’s because 10-0 is almost passé these day. Including the Colts and Saints, there have been five teams in the five seasons (Tennessee Titans in 2008, New England in 2007 and Indianapolis again in 2005) that have won at least their first 10 games. New England took it the farthest, getting to 18-0 before losing in Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants.

The five-over-five rate is a sharp spike compared to the previous 32 years since Miami went 17-0. During that time, only seven teams got as far as 10-0 and only one (Denver in 1998) made it as far as 13-0. Strangely, even as the NFL gets deeper into the era of parity under the salary cap, teams seem to find it easier to open the season with double-digit win streaks.

“That’s interesting, somebody ought to do a story on that,” deadpanned Dolphins radio color analyst Jim Mandich, a tight end on the 1972 team. “One reason, I suppose, is I am seeing some really dreadful, god-awful teams out there that make getting wins seem a whole lot easier.”

Mandich hits on a point that’s been a recurring theme this season. Four teams (Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) are a combined 5-35. That includes two victories against each other (Detroit beat Cleveland and St. Louis beat Detroit). Five other teams (Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks) are only a tad better at 3-7 each for a combined 15-35.

Overall, nine of the NFL’s 32 teams are a combined 20-70.

However, that really only explains this season. Furthermore, Indianapolis and New Orleans are only a combined 6-0 against those nine teams.

From a longer-range perspective, former St. Louis head coach Mike Martz, who was the offensive coordinator for the Rams when they won the Super Bowl in the 1999 season and led them back to the title game two seasons later as head coach, said he sees something rare by today’s standards that is contributing: continuity.

Specifically, four of the five teams during the past five seasons have been quarterbacked by players who have spent a significant time in the same offensive system and/or with the same coach. In Indianapolis, quarterback Peyton Manning(notes) is in his 11th season with the same offense, same offensive coordinator (Tom Moore) and same offensive line coach (Howard Mudd).

In New England, Tom Brady(notes) has played his entire 10-year career for Bill Belichick. Finally, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees(notes) is in his fourth season with head coach and offensive mastermind Sean Payton.

“That’s an unbelievable amount of continuity in the NFL these days,” Martz said. “You have quarterbacks of that caliber with good coaches who they trust … that’s the kind of results you can get. But that says a lot about those teams that they have the foresight to keep a staff together.

“It allows the quarterback so much more freedom and understanding of everything you’re trying to do: how you run the two-minute drill, where people are going to be in certain situations, how you want to protect the ball. It all works together that way, and it’s special. Those are the top three quarterbacks right now in an elite era for quarterbacks.”

Former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick agreed with that assessment.

“You’re talking about an era when games are so close, where little things decide games all the time,” Billick said. “To have a quarterback knowing exactly what you want to do in a given time without having to slow things down, explain what’s going on, that’s a huge advantage for those team.”

… While Brady (left) and Manning have flirted with perfection previously.
(Brian Spurlock/US Presswire)
Mandich added that the continuity goes beyond the quarterback for those teams, almost mirroring the type of stability the Dolphins had in the 1970s when they not only had the perfect season, but also won back-to-back Super Bowls and went to three straight title games.

“You look at those teams and they have a core of players who have been around for a long, long time in today’s world,” Mandich said, referring to the likes of wide receiver Reggie Wayne(notes), center Jeff Saturday(notes) and tight end Dallas Clark(notes) to go with Manning in Indianapolis. “The starting lineup [for Miami] in 1970 was essentially the same as in 1976, with the exception of [Jim Kiick, Larry Csonka and Paul Warfield]. You keep a group together that long, you change the way they play because they know each other so well.”

All of that said, Mandich isn’t terribly worried about either Indianapolis or New Orleans going undefeated. At least not yet.

“New England moved the bar awfully high here a couple of years ago,” Mandich said, referring to the point where anxiety sets in. “To win 19 games in a row, I think it’s damn near impossible. New England got close. Most of the guys [from the ’72 team] were surrendering the flag that year.”

After that scare, 10-0 really doesn’t quite mean all that much. Really, those teams are just past the halfway point.

“Even at 10 wins, you still have miles and miles to go,” Mandich said.

Threat of perfect season becoming more common - NFL - Yahoo! Sports

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