Sidelines: Packers-Patriots

Interesting comparisons between two teams

Let me make it clear from the outset. I'm not in any way suggesting that today's Green Bay Packers are at the playing level of today's New England Patriots. The Packers have some serious steps – namely Super Bowl victories - to take over several seasons before one could make that kind of comparison.

No, the comparison I'd like to draw is more historical in nature. It's more about the path these two franchises have taken to get to the stop and STAY at the top. Winning the championship is extremely difficult but repeating championships is a monumental task. In today's era of professional football, one can easily make the argument that Coach Bill Belichick's Patriots are the modern version of Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers. Comparing teams across eras is never completely fair because of all the differing circumstances, especially with free agency. But Belichick's approach and his record mirror Lombardi's in many ways.

Lombardi's dynasty teams of the 1960s won five NFL Championships and the first two Super Bowls in seven seasons and they are still the only team – in any era - to win it all three seasons in a row. Belichick, on the other hand, is the only NFL coach to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span. Last season he moved ahead of Lombardi (9-1) to claim the best postseason record in NFL history (10-1).

Equally interesting is the approach and style that both teams took to reach their championship goals. They've stressed the fundamentals of the game. Crisp blocking. A bruising defense featuring sure tackling. Hard running. Precision passing. Solid special teams. They've also stressed a psychology of winning, the notion that there is no "I" in "TEAM." You won't find a Terrell Owens playing for Belichick and I doubt Owens would have lasted a week in Green Bay playing for Lombardi with his attitude and antics. No one guy is bigger than the team, period.

Neither Belichick nor Lombardi would allow their players to provide the opposition with bulletin board material. The idea was (and is) to play the game, shut your mouth and do your job. Lombardi's locker room had a sign which read, "What You See HERE, What We Say HERE, What We Do HERE, Let It Stay HERE When You Leave HERE." I haven't had an opportunity to peek inside the Patriots' locker room but I suspect the same type of sentiment exists.

At the focal point of any winning team is its quarterback. In Bart Starr's day, it was the Baltimore Colts' Johnny Unitas who grabbed most of the headlines, at least with individual statistics. All Starr did in the 60s was most of the winning. In today's game, the Colts' Peyton Manning grabs the headlines with incredible individual statistics. But, like Starr, New England's Tom Brady is an ideal TEAM quarterback. He'll do exactly what he has to do to beat you. The final score is the only stat that really counts.

When the Packers and Patriots strap it up at Lambeau Field tomorrow night, there will also be some notable connections between the current teams. Mike Sherman grew up in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston and played his collegiate ball at Central Connecticut State. He's an avid Boston Red Sox fan. Patriots safety (and former cornerback) Antuan Edwards was the Packers' top draft pick in 1999. Packers guard Adrian Klemm was the first draft pick of the Bill Belichick era and New England and he played with the Patriots for five seasons until signing his free agent deal with the Packers this off-season.

Don't expect this game to mean very much beyond the usual preseason tune-up for both teams. Both will be happy to escape without any major injuries regardless of the final score. But as you watch these two teams collide, remember that you're seeing a couple of franchises that have done a lot of things the right way for a long time. Football, the way it was meant to be played. A fan can't ask for much more than that.


Tom Andrews

Editor's Note: Tom Andrews began covering the Packers in 1974 as a reporter for Milwaukee radio stations WZUU and WOKY. He has been a contributing writer to Packer Report since 1999 and his articles have also appeared in the Green Bay Packers Yearbook, Packer Profiles, Packer Tracker and Sports Collectors Digest among other publications. Andrews is also president of Andrews Media Ventures, a Milwaukee area media and communications consultancy. Email him at toma@andrewsmediaventures.com.


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