ESPN Senior Writer Ian O’Connor published an entertaining article over the weekend regarding the 16-year dynasties of both the New England Patriots (2001-2016) and the Yankees (1996-2011). O’Connor kept each time frame to 16 years to provide as accurate a comparison as possible.
O’Connor went into great detail comparing different players and events of each dynasty, from Tom Brady vs. Derek Jeter to the Tuck Rule play vs. the Jeffrey Maier play. In the end of what was a very fun read, O’Connor gives the ever-so-slight edge to the Pats. Well, I can’t just sit here and let the greatest dynasty in recent memory be dwarfed by a dynasty from New England of all places. Of course it is not as heated as a Yanks/Red Sox argument, but it’s still the Boston area, so the case for the Yankees has to be addressed.
The first main argument is between the faces of each respected dynasty: Brady and Jeter. O’Connor gives the edge to Brady because of the fact that he is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time (which is difficult to argue), and can match Jeter’s ring count by this Sunday. He also declares the quarterback position to be more crucial than shortstop on the baseball diamond. True, but it is also important to remember that Jeter made his impact felt on both sides of the ball while Brady is strictly a factor on offense. Yes, I know all about the advanced defensive statistics on Jeter, but he has a plethora of playoff-changing defensive plays to his credit (we’ll visit one in just a second).
I’ll agree with O’Connor that Brady’s case for the greatest quarterback of all time is more compelling than Jeter’s is as the greatest shortstop of all time, but in regards to each player’s impact on their team’s dynasty, this conversation should be much closer, possibly an even draw.
Another argument O’Connor presents is Malcolm Butler’s game-saving interception in Super Bowl XLIX against Jeter’s flip play in the 2001 ALDS. He gives the edge again to the Patriots, saying that Butler’s instinctive play occurred in the final seconds of a championship game while The Captain’s more instinctive play occurred in the third game of the first round of a playoff series.
Put aside when each play occurred for a second and look at the plays themselves. Both took incredible instincts, as noted by O’Connor, but he gives the nod to Butler because it was when the Super Bowl seemed to be out of reach. What he doesn’t mention is how the Yankees’ hopes of a four-peat were all but lost before Jeter appeared out of nowhere and backhand-shuffled the Yanks back into the ALDS. The Yankees dropped the first two games of that series at home, and became the first team in history to come back from such a deficit, thanks to Jeter.
Butler’s interception was also only possible because of an absolute bonehead play call by Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who elected to pass on the two-yard line when he had one of the best running backs in the league in the backfield. Jeter simply created a magical play on his own, and without it, there are no World Series highlights like the Mr. November homer. The Yanks didn’t win it all in the end, but at the time, the flip play was one of the most clutch and unbelievable defensive plays in baseball history.
O’Connor goes on the compare the 2004 ALCS collapse to the 2007 Patriots being denied perfection by David Tyree and his helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII. He declares the ALCS nightmare to be worse, which I am certainly not going to argue because A) he’s right, and B) I don’t want to talk about it.
In the end, O’Connor concludes with his take that if the two dynasties played a hypothetical seven-game series, the Patriots would win in the tenth inning of game seven. The contest would indeed be very close, but going in the other direction to the pinstriped dynasty. There’s a few reasons why.
A common argument is how the Patriots’ run is more impressive because each playoff round is one game, leaving little margin for error. How about having to win three or FOUR time just to advance? The Yankees consistently had to win 11 playoff games to be crowned champions. Thanks to the NFL playoff format and byes, the Patriots had to win just three games.
Both the Yankees and Patriots boast a specific team that can be argued as the best of all time in their respective sports. The 2007 Patriots entered the playoffs with a 16-0 record after setting numerous offensive records, while the 1998 records set a major league record with a 114-48 record. The difference between the two teams? The Yankees weathered the heavy expectations in October and lost just two playoff games before sweeping the World Series, while the Patriots faltered in the Super Bowl against the heavy underdog Giants.
The nature of their victories is vital to the comparison, too. The Yankees began their dynasty in 1996 by defeating the Braves and arguably the best starting rotation in baseball history. They then won three World Series in a row, losing just one game in the process, and they only lost twice in the 2009 World Series.
Meanwhile, the Patriots had a similar surprising opening championship by beating the heavily favored St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, but they needed an Adam Vinatieri field goal to win Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers. They somehow gave up 29 points to Jake Delhomme, who threw just three more touchdowns than interceptions that year. New England squeaked by teams like the Panthers and Eagles and got a huge gift from the Seahawks; meanwhile, the Yanks won 14 straight World Series games en route to three straight titles. What happened when they met a Mariners juggernaut in the playoffs trying to dethrone them as the best team in history? They absolutely dismantled them in the 2001 ALCS, leaving Seattle’s 116 regular season wins all but meaningless.
The Patriots have 14 division titles compared to 12 for the Yankees. No way am I holding that against the Yankees given their competition in the AL East (Orioles of the mid-late nineties, Red Sox of the early-mid 2000s) as opposed to the Patriots’ competition in the AFC East (the lowly Bills, Dolphins and Jets). As of now, the Yanks still have more titles, including a three-peat, which the Patriots never achieved. When it comes to dynasties, titles are everything.
O’Connor ends with “Tom Brady connecting on a Mariano Rivera cutter for a walk-off homer in game seven” to show his final position. Instead, it would be Derek Jeter making a circus catch in Patriots’ territory to set up a game-winning field goal by Paul O’Neill as time expired (after all, he has experience).