Who will be the NFL’s ‘Team of the Decade’?


In the Super Bowl era of the NFL, never has the first six years gone by in a decade without a team winning at least two championships. However, the 10-year span beginning in the 2010 season has seen six Lombardi trophy’s hoisted in the air by six different organizations. With only four years remaining, the question is: in the 2010’s who will be the team of the decade?

Before we dig into the contestants and review their résumés, let’s briefly review the results of each of the previous five Super Bowl era decades and how each yielded an undeniable top team and team of the decade:

1960’s Team of the Decade: GREEN BAY PACKERS

The 1966-67 season was the first to culminate with a Super Bowl champion. This means there were only four NFL seasons available to establish a team of the decade. No worries, as one team based in the beer-drinking capital of the U.S., Wisconsin, captured two of the four, including Super Bowl 1, and then repeated the feat the following year. The Green Bay Packers defeated Kansas City and Oakland in convincing fashion, wasting no time in declaring themselves the team of the 60’s.

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1970’s Team of the Decade: PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Check this out- the Miami Dolphins appeared in three straight Super Bowls in the 70’s, winning two of them, with one of those teams being the only undefeated team in modern NFL history (1972)… and they still aren’t the team of that decade.

Buoyed by incredible college player scouting and arguably the greatest single draft class the NFL has ever known in 1974 that yielded 4 future HOF’ers, the Pittsburgh Steelers won all four Super Bowls in the 70’s in which they appeared. This stretch of success by a juggernaut of a professional football team uplifted an entire city when it was crippled by steel industry job losses. It created pride in its people and a vibrancy in the city that has since never waned. Sometimes sport DOES matter.

1980’s Team of the Decade: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Just as the 80’s churned out the best music and horror movies the world has ever known, it also was loaded with historically great NFL teams. The Redskins won two titles. So did the Raiders, once in Oakland and again in Los Angeles. Though the middle of the decade was dominated by the Chicago Bears, Chi-Town’s greatness only yielded one championship.

The class of the league was undoubtedly the 49ers, the team of the decade in the 1980s who claimed 4 trophies, including the last two of the decade- just like Pittsburgh accomplished in the late 70’s. Littered with all-time greats at several positions, a couple of these S.F. squads can claim to be on the list of greatest-ever NFL teams.

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1990’s Team of the Decade: DALLAS COWBOYS

John Elway’s last two seasons in Denver ended in fairy-tale fashion with Super Bowl victories. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to stake a claim as the 90’s Team of the Decade. That honor goes to the Dallas Cowboys, who won three rings. Despite this fantastic accomplishment, people still wonder to this day about what could have been had the band been kept together longer than it was, as the inability of owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jimmy Johnson to even coexist, let alone get along, led to an abrupt divorce and dismantling of the roster.

2000’s Team of the Decade: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

In a decade that frankly didn’t feature very many truly great teams, the Patriots- uhh- used various means and ways to put themselves in position to claim victory in three Super Bowls and leave people no other option but to declare them the team of the decade. All were by three points and two were last-second field goals coolly knocked through the uprights by Adam Vinatieri.

This ten-year span also saw Rex Grossman of all people quarterback a team to the final game and Brad Johnson triumphantly bring a championship to the city of Tampa, FL, so, yeah- this was not a great decade for fans of superteams. Or playing within league rules. There may have even been some officiating inconsistencies in one of the games. I don’t remember. I DON’T REMEMBER*.

*- I do remember.

Anyway, you can see that each decade in the Super Bowl era clearly had a team that outperformed all others in it. What makes this interesting is that so far in the 2010’s, no one is staking a claim to be named as a favorite for best team of this decade. In six years, there have been six different champions and personnel turnover through free agency is making it difficult to have faith in any one of them to go on a run in these last four seasons. Someone needs to step up and take control of the league.

It’s time to take a look around the NFL, identify the qualified contenders for the throne, and today name one of them the odds-on favorite to be remembered forever as the Team of the 2010’s!

We’ll break the league into categories: Primary Contenders (the six champions to date), Viable Threats, Dark Horses and No Chance.

Let’s begin with the obvious- teams that have already won a title in the 2010’s.

Primary Contenders- Baltimore, Denver, Green Bay, New England, New York Giants, Seattle

The Ravens have a quarterback that they desperately want to convince others is elite because they pay him as if he is just that. Whether Joe Flacco is truly elite or not (he isn’t), he is good enough to lead the team to the final game. The question is if the supporting cast is also good enough, as the Ravens are coming off a disastrous 2015 season thanks in large part to injuries to key players but also an aging roster that just didn’t scare anyone on offense or defense. Expect them to bounce back and be in the thick of the playoff race, but divisional competition in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati could thwart Baltimore’s big plans.

Denver rode a dominant defense to last year’s title. Can they repeat? It’s unlikely. They don’t have a quarterback, they lost a couple of key pieces on defense, and it’s just really hard to win back-to-back Bowls. The free agency spending spree Denver undertook to be as competitive with Peyton Manning at QB as possible paid off handsomely but will have to be paid back in pain and losses sooner or later. Probably sooner.

The Packers have the best player at the most important position in the NFL, and for that reason alone they must be considered annual threats to the crown. Throw in the best way to roster build (through the draft, keeping home-grown talent in the building) around Aaron Rodgers and the emergence of good, young players on defense and Green Bay is certainly in the running to take the decade’s title.

The Patriots are once again/still embroiled in controversy over rumors of cheating and their quarterback is scheduled to be suspended for four games even though it seems entirely natural to smash your phone into a thousand pieces when someone asks to see it. I mean, I have three different friends that I call “The Deflator”, don’t you? It’s a pretty common nickname. Anyway, until the other teams in their division stop being dysfunctional, the Patriots will continue to sleepwalk to a 1 or 2 seed in the playoffs by default and be considered more of a threat to another Team of the Decade title than their modest overall roster talent would otherwise suggest.

It seems really weird to think the Giants actually won a Super Bowl in this decade. I mean, the Giants suck. Really bad. Did that really happen? Wikipedia says they did, so I guess I’ll assume it happened. Of all the teams that have won a title in the 2010’s, the Giants are far and away the least likely of the bunch to do it again. If percentages could be negative, that would be the chance the Giants have of winning another Super Bowl this decade. They’re awful.

The Seahawks were of course three feet from winning back-to-back championships just over a calendar year ago before something bad happened and caused them to not get the victory. I don’t remember what it was. I DON’T REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS*.

*- I do remember what it was.

The question now is whether they have the horses to get back to and win another one. Well, consider this- last year they had championship-caliber talent at all positions…except one. Some, including yours truly, were afraid the offensive line was so rotten that it alone could cost the team a title. On cue, an unacceptable first quarter immediate pressure that led to a pick-six against Carolina in the Divisional playoff lit a fuse that the Panthers used to blow the game open in the first half and cruise to a victory. Clearly, if this team had designs on hoisting another trophy, the O-line must have been addressed in the offseason.

It was.

Team of the Decade
Sep 27, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies tackle Germain Ifedi (74) in action against the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

If the draft picks and free agents Seattle acquired can pull the offensive line up from one of the all-time worst to just something that is average or even just better than putrid, the Seahawks have plenty of firepower on both sides of the ball to get where they want to go. Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and a bevy of young, hungry running backs will pressure defenses in different ways all game long. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and several others will lean heavily on an opposing offense every play of every game, all year long. This team, assuming it stays within the normal range of healthy, is a viable threat to the crown for the remainder of this decade.

Viable Threats- Arizona, Carolina, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Pittsburgh

I admit it. When Bruce Arians was hired as head coach of the Cardinals, it seemed like an uninspired hire and as a fan of another team in the division, I was happy with it. How could a life-long assistant in the league just now get a HC gig and succeed? What a dumb thought process that was. Arians is an offensive genius and maybe better than any of his peers takes advantage of league rules that cater toward the passing game. He is spatially acute and an aggressive play-caller that has his team frothing at the mouth for a title shot. It must happen soon, however, as Carson Palmer is nearing the end of his football life.

Team of the Decade
Jan 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) walks off the field after the NFC Championship football game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers won 49-15. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

As aggressive as the Cards are on offense, they may be even more in-your-face on defense, looking to cause havoc and turnovers from the beginning to the end of every game. They are fun to watch. And scary. If Palmer can solve his most recent January woes, this team is primed to capture a title and is a very real threat to win more than one in the next few years.

The Panthers are rough, tough, rugged and stocked with talent on both sides of the ball. Falling just short of a championship last year, they have what it takes to get back to the big game and finish the job this time. Hate him or really hate him, you have to respect the talent of Cam Newton and the myriad problems he presents to his opponents. This team could easily win more than once before the 2010’s are gone.

The Bengals are a consideration just because they keep knocking on the playoff tournament door and by the law of numbers you would expect them to break through it at some point. While it’s hard to lose every playoff game you show up for, Cincinnati manages to do it and I can’t help but think the complete meltdown this past January versus Pittsburgh may have lasting effects on their psyche this time around. Their record and talent say they are a threat to the rest of the league, but at some point- maybe this year- the window of opportunity slams shut.

Anyone surprised by the Vikings appearance on this list? Don’t be. When I look at this roster, especially the defense, my eyes bug out. This team is LOADED with great players. All they need is for Teddy Bridgewater to continue to develop, albeit a little faster than he currently is progressing. If Teddy B can take that next step in his career, the one where you become the unquestioned leader of all the men in the locker room and the face of the organization, I could see this team playing in February as soon as this season, especially with the boost a new stadium gives a team. The arrow is pointing straight up on this squad and it could vie for multiple titles over the next handful of years, and it could challenge for Team of the Decade.

As long as Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback in Pittsburgh, the Steelers will be an annual threat to win the Super Bowl. As long as Ben has top-of-the-food-chain caliber weapons like Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell around him, the team is a weekly threat to drop 40 on the heads of their opponents. Now, the defense is slowly doing their part, improving immensely versus the run as the 2015 season wore on. If they can shore up their pass defense, look out. They could go back-to-back or better in the next few years.

Dark Horses- Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Oakland

If the Cowboys can figure out a way to stop anybody on defense, the return of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and the addition of Zeke Elliott to an already fantastic offensive line could catapult Dallas from underachiever to Super Bowl contender immediately. In a very winnable division, the Cowboys could go from worst to first and be a thorn to everyone else in the playoffs.

In Houston, it’s all about the quarterback. With Nuk Hopkins on offense, JJ Watt on defense and plenty of talent in between, the Texans also find themselves in a sluggish division that is easily winnable. Can Brock Osweiler be the puzzle piece that elevates the Texans to the point where the big stars of the team can dominate playoff games? I have my doubts, but several pieces are in place to make a sustained run at Team of the Decade.

Boy, if Jeff Fisher could figure out a way to get his team up to play 16 times a year instead of 8, this team could be ultra-dangerous now that they have a possible NFL-level player taking the snaps from center. The defensive line is so talented and destructive it’s borderline insane. Todd Gurley is going to be a monster at running back for as long as his body will allow it. Will the move to LA be the magic potion that takes this group to the next level? There is enough raw talent to get to January and win if it can be harnessed and display focus for an entire season.

Speaking of talent, it’s been nothing short of amazing what the Raiders have done in terms of roster improvement over the last couple years. They’ll probably need more time to develop than this decade has remaining, but if it comes together sooner than later, this team could surprise people and become a dominant group if they continue to follow the path they are currently on at the moment. It will be fun to see how much and how fast the Raiders improve, beginning this September. The quarterback has the arm and the leadership to take the team to the top. Can they stay focused on the task at hand with all the relocation rumors swirling around them?

No Chance- Everyone else

Sorry, Indianapolis. Even with Andrew Luck at quarterback, as long as your GM is Ryan Grigson, you have no chance. What a waste of a generational talent in Luck. How many panicked free agent signings does Grigson have left in him (Gosder Cherilus, anyone?) before somebody mercifully shows him the exit? This team would be far better off with someone else surrounding Luck with talent. Somebody with an organized, actionable plan on how to structure a roster would be welcome.

No need to wax poetic about why the Browns or Jets aren’t going to win Super Bowls in the next four years. Some things in life are obvious.

So who’s it gonna be?

When I review the list of candidates to be the team of this decade, it boils down to a select few- Carolina, Green Bay, New England and Seattle.

The only reason New England is on the list is because of the feeble play of their divisional opponents. It’s about time one of Mo, Larry or Curly decides being a slapdick franchise isn’t acceptable anymore and actually stands up to and takes down the neighborhood bully. I choose to believe the Patriots run of divisional good fortune is over, as is their chance of being team of the decade.

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Green Bay is a clear and present danger to the rest of the league, but it is my belief that they are being passed up by the Minnesota Vikings within their division. As a result, it’s monumentally tougher to get through the playoffs by winning 3 games, with likely all of them on the road. I do not choose the Packers to claim the crown only because of the Vikings ascension.

Carolina is poised to be the king of the NFC South hill for the foreseeable future thanks to the other squads either being bad (New Orleans), too young (Tampa Bay) or a team that tries to copy-and-paste another’s blueprint- all the way down to the basketball hoop in the facility (get your own personality, coach Quinn). This gives the Panthers the inside track to future Super Bowl appearances, much like New England’s.

Team of the Decade
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Confetti falls as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) reacts during his walk off the field following the game against the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl 50 at Levi /

However, the trump card here is the ring Carolina did not collect in February versus the one Seattle beat the Broncos up for a couple years ago. It is so hard to win it all in the NFL. I can not choose a team that does not already have one in the bag through the first 6 years of the decade. As a result, the team that I believe will become the Team of the Decade for the 2010’s is…

The Seattle Seahawks.

With a franchise quarterback under contract and entering his prime, a head coach/GM relationship (that hopefully re-ups their deals soon) that rivals any in football in the areas of culture/roster building and a home field advantage second to none in the league, the Seahawks are as good a bet as any to win one or more Super Bowls in the next four years. Whether they accomplish the feat depends largely on good health and their ability to secure division championships and therefore home games in January.

Stability in the coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball allows Wilson to add more layers of knowledge and experience (as Pete Carroll calls it- a ‘Masters class’) to what he already knows and has seen on the field. With just satisfactory protection from his linemen, Ciara’s fiancé is primed to make this the most dangerous Seahawk team opponents have faced in years on that side.

Seattle will stress teams in every way. They will run with power behind giant humans in Ifedi and Webb and with ball carriers Rawls, Michael and Collins. They will run read option and outside zone plays, testing defensive decision-making and lateral movement skills. They will throw vertically to burners Richardson and Lockett and horizontally to Baldwin and Prosise. In every way imaginable, Darrell Bevell and Russell Wilson are going to force teams to defend every square inch of in-bounds space there is on a football field.

Team of the Decade
Jan 10, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell against the Carolina Panthers in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field.The Seahawks defeated the Panthers 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Though the defense is collectively much older than the offense, the mainstays are still in the primes of their careers and recommitted to achieving team goals. They’re hungry and ready to again lead the league in points against thanks to some new/old wrinkles that will allow them to better match up against WR-heavy formations.

Together these players understand that team success yields individual success. It’s time for them to climb back to the mountaintop and plant another team flag.

Next: Seahawks 53-Man Roster Prediction Take 1

The Seattle Seahawks are primed to seize the title ‘Team of the Decade’ for the 2010’s.