It happens every decade.
Which team will dominate the ten year period?
In the 70's, the Pittsburgh Steelers ruled the league. In the 80's, the San Francisco 49ers ran a lot of the tables. In the 90's, the Dallas Cowboys were lighting teams up. On to the 00's and it was, for the most part, a showcase for the New England Patriots.
Who is it going to be in the 10's? Will it be the fast rising Atlanta Falcons? Will it be Saints quarterback Drew Brees and company in New Orleans? Will the supposed parity finally take place in the NFL? Will it even out the playing field and have no more teams dominating at all?
The decade that we just lived through will carry into the 10's. Bill Belichick has set himself and the New England franchise up for success in the future. He has been the "mastermind" of a number of very good draft choices and this 2011 should be more of the same.
The defensive unit for this year's Patriots team only averages 25 years of age. After drafting players like Patrick Chung (2009), Devin McCourty ('10), Brandon Spikes ('10) and Jerod Mayo ('08), the Patriots have begun the movement toward installing new leadership and youth.
The defense has grown each week this year under the tutelage of Belichick. Adding players to compliment the defensive unit like Tully Banta-Cain and Rob Ninkovich were also crucial to the improvement of the group. Belichick didn't add splashy free agents like Albert Haynesworth or Julius Peppers, preferring to focus on team players. He wanted hardworking, blue-collar workers like those he had in the past; a Tedy Bruschi or a Troy Brown. Players who set the example of what it takes to be a Patriot.
This 2010 team is a collection of players that make a better sum of its parts. It is a machine without drama or strife in the locker room.
More important to the success of the Patriots moving forward than what Belichick has already done in the post Bruschi era is the way the coach has set up the Patriots for success in the future, through the Draft. The PPatriots have 6 draft choices in the first three rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft (2 first, 2 second and 2 third).
With a young defense improving every week under his guidance, Belichick is set to continue building a strong foundation for years to come. In a year or two, the rookies and inexperienced players starting this postseason for New England will be able to set the example for new players the next class new faces to arrive in Foxboro. Belichick is building a foundation, and he already has the first key blocks in place.
One other major piece to this puzzle is the re-signing of Tom Brady and Vince WIlfork during the offseason to new, long-term deals.The foundation is set. The future looks bright.
Can anyone question if this team (with the best regular season record in 2010) will continue their winning ways? One look at the big picture in New England leaves little doubt the Patriots are in a good position to be a big part of the next decade, much like they were for the last one. They're starting it off the right way with top seed in the playoffs.
Shane Leketa is a long time Patriots fan who bleeds red white and blue. Leketa runs the site @MyPatsSpace