Dynasties for the ages

On Sunday, the New England Patriots will play to win their third Lombardi Trophy in four years. It's fitting because the Patriots are on a collision course with joining Vince Lombardi's Packers and becoming one of the greatest teams in the history of the National Football League.

The word "dynasty" has been thrown around a lot as the Patriots marched through the regular season and then dismantled the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers in their two playoff games. Lombardi's Packers were the definition of dynasty, claiming five NFL championships in a seven-year span in the 1960s.

At least one member of those famed Packers teams sees definite similarities between the Lombardi teams and Bill Belichick's Patriots.

"In the end, the game is about execution and belief in yourself and your teammates," Packers hall of famer Jerry Kramer wrote in a first-person story appearing in Sunday's New York Times. "That belief must be built on a solid foundation involving every aspect of preparation: knowing your assignment, the assignment of everyone else on the team, the tendencies of the defense, your physical conditioning. Discipline, consistency, perseverance and emotion are other building blocks. I forever remember Lombardi barking, ‘You don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.'

"All these qualities form the foundation upon which your belief settles. Once you believe, you begin to fly. You don't think and then react; you do your job instinctively. Playing without doubt or hesitation leads to execution and will turn an average player into a great player, an average team into a great team.

"That is what made Lombardi's Packers a dynasty, and it's what makes Belichick's Patriots the favorites to win their third Super Bowl on Sunday."

While it may be sacrilege among Packers fans to compare Lombardi to Belichick, Kramer says the comparison may not be so farfetched. He sees the similarities most clearly in the teams' all-for-one, one-for-all philosophy.

"On the first night," Kramer recalled, "Lombardi addressed his team this way: ‘If you're not willing to subjugate your individual needs, wishes and wants for the benefit of the team, if you're not willing to pay the price to prepare yourself properly, if you're not willing to work hard and do things necessary to win, then get the hell out!'"

For the Packers, any one of a number of weapons could win the game, whether it was Paul Hornung or Jim Taylor or Travis Williams or others at running back, or Bart Starr hooking up with Boyd Dowler or Max McGee or Carroll Dale. It's no different with these Patriots. Tom Brady is the reluctant superstar at quarterback, as happy to deflect praise as he is to hand the ball to Corey Dillon. His receivers are easily overlooked but all dangerous.

It's no different on defense for the Patriots. When all-talk, little-game Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell was unable to name the Patriots' cornerbacks and then said he wanted a piece of hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison, Harrison said the team — not himself — would take care of business.

"You have to understand that if you attack me, you are attacking 10 other guys on defense as well as the substitutions that come in," Kramer wrote in quoting Harrison.

"Linebacker Willie McGinest has taken the all-for-one theory a step further," Kramer continued, then quoted McGinest. "‘We're all one. Mitchell called out our offense and special teams, too. What he doesn't get is that Rodney is me, is Bruschi, is Vrabel, is Seymour and is everybody on our team. If you call out one guy, you're calling out the whole team.'"

The whole in Green Bay and New England is larger than the sum of their parts.

Wrote Kramer: "So put all the ingredients into the Lombardi-Belichick stew — preparation, discipline, belief and execution. Then add emotion, friendship, affection and spirit. The result is a special team, like the one we had in Green Bay, and like the one I see developing in Foxboro."

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