Every season, NFL teams attempt to better their standing within the league by firing and hiring coaches, cutting and signing players, and the draft. Season after season however, teams don’t do as well as they had hoped and miss when they should have hit. But for these 5, their coaches, GMs, and owners usually don’t let that happen. Becoming a perennial playoff squad isn’t an easy task. That’s what makes these regimes so impressive.
Here’s my take on the NFL’s top five:
5. San Francisco 49ers
The NFC West as a whole used to reside at the bottom of the totem pole. Not anymore. The San Francisco 49ers have won the division twice in a row now and are poised to attack the competitors for a 3rd title in as many years.
The hiring of Jim Harbaugh in 2011 seemed to change the culture of the team immediately. They became a much more physical-style organization that doesn’t take any lip from the opposition.
The 2012 draft, GM Trent Baalke decided to take a lesser-known QB out of Nevada with the 36th overall pick in Colin Kaepernick. Apparently he and Harbaugh knew something about Kaepernick that the rest of the world didn’t, as the Harbaugh-Kaepernick combination took the 49ers to their first Super Bowl since 1994.
With the additions this year of wide receiver Anquan Boldin, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, and safety Eric Reid, they will be looking to make their way straight back to the big dance.
4. Baltimore Ravens
From one Harbaugh to another. John Harbaugh has done a masterful job of making the Baltimore Ravens a serious contender every season. As shown by their victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 47.
The Ravens have made the playoffs every year since he was hired in 2008 by Ozzie Newsome.
Pundits will say that the front office made some bad choices this offseason by letting so many of their championship team members leave in free agency, but the Baltimore organization surely has a plan in mind to counteract the talent that they’ve lost.
Baltimore will be looking to do the rare act of a repeat Super Bowl this new season. Time will tell if their plan is worth it.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Owner Jim Irsay did the unthinkable last offseason, he cut future hall-of-famer Peyton Manning.
However, he and head coach Chuck Pagano knew exactly what they were doing. They used the number 1 pick in the draft to grab their quarterback of the future, Andrew Luck. The installation of Luck at the QB spot is one of the factors that got them straight back into the playoffs after an abysmal previous season that ended 2-14.
Coach Pagano wasn’t able to be on the sidelines for most of the 2012-13 season, but he has instilled a new emotion in the Colts. They play like they are trying to appease their dear father, to earn his respect. Pagano has a team that wants to win. The Colts are only going up behind their great owner and an equally great coaching staff.
2. Denver Broncos
Nobody knows quarterbacks like John Elway, and when the opportunity to sign Peyton Manning arose, he was right there to jump at it and strike a deal.
The Denver Broncos have skillfully crafted their team into a powerhouse through the draft over the years, all that was missing was the quarterback. Until the Manning trade came along.
Now, the team has an extremely bright future with Manning under center and the direction of head coach John Fox. Expect this team to be in a Super Bowl or two in the very near future.
1. New England Patroits
Nobody can dispute the New England Patriots as the number 1 spot. Owner Robert Kraft has kept this team in playoff contention and Super Bowl contention continuously for the past 19 seasons.
Head Coach Bill Belichick has proven himself to be one of the best coaches of all time. The Belichick-Brady combo has been a great thing for the organization. At one point the Patriots had won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years. That’s unheard of.
As long as Robert Kraft owns this team, they will be a force to be reckoned with. He obviously knows much more about the nuances of the business-side of the game than the average man. Look for this team to be in contention, once again.
As I said earlier, it is quite difficult to put together a team that can consistently make it to the playoffs and contend. Most of the organizations I’ve listed have been in contention almost every season, but that’s not the most important variable here. The one thing that makes these teams better than the rest is the fact that their owners and front office work diligently to improve the team every single year. They don’t ever rest on their laurels or sit on their hands waiting for something to happen. They make things happen.