Feb. 3, 2004, 7:13 p.m. (CST)
least the Cowboys got two Super Bowls in before the cap and free agency hit, and at least they had their base team, even if it began to unravel following that 1993 season.
But the Patriots have been able to not only hold this team together, but they have found ways to fortify it with some savvy drafting and free-agent moves. And that doesn't mean just spending lavishly in free agency. More so, that means allowing high-priced veterans past their prime to walk - Drew Bledsoe, Damian Woody, Lawyer Milloy - which keeps the cap fluid and prevents having to eat bonus money in the end.
They've also been able to do this without an expensive star system in place. Who knew of Tom Brady four years ago? The Pats spent little money there at the league's most important position, and at running back and at wide receiver, too, positions normally a drain on a team's cap.
And let's not kid ourselves. They've done this with coaching. Bill Belichick has, well, let former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson explain.
"Coaching is more important today than it's ever been in the NFL, and these are the two best coaches in the game," said Johnson, normally not one who dabbles in hyperbole. "What Belichick has accomplished in the past four or five years is the best coaching job in the history of the NFL."
So factoring in the difficulty to maintain consistency in this era, what the Patriots are doing - again if they can win Sunday - might be the most dominating performance in the history of the NFL.
Aikman, Johnson's partner in dominance, would agree.
"I think it's more meaningful than what we accomplished," "said Aikman, who will be calling Sunday's game in the Fox three-man booth. "Now the cynics would say, how good is (this accomplishment) when teams regularly go from first to worst.
"But the Patriots, they are doing this when no one else is having that consistency. What New England has been able to do is outstanding, and I can see where they could maintain this for years."
Now don't misunderstand all this. We are not talking about the Patriots being a better team than what the Cowboys were during their string. And we're not saying the Patriots could beat the Cowboys of those days.
In fact, Aikman and Johnson basically said don't even go there.
"You know the answer . . . the Cowboys would win," Johnson said.
But what we are talking here is the accomplishment, and just where the Patriots' place in the history of the NFL should be if indeed they can beat Philadelphia to stretch their run to three Super Bowls in four years.
"We were considered a dynasty for winning three out of four Super Bowls, so why wouldn't (the Patriots) be?" Aikman said. "And It's harder today to win consistently.
"And hey, I don't think the Patriots are going away regardless if they win this game."
Because that succession of prominent and powerful people in this Patriots family doesn't seem likely to be broken any time soon.
Let's talk again late Sunday night.
|!||More Maurice Carthon: When Romeo Crennel interviewed for the Cleveland job, he put together a list of assistants he'd like to hire, and the Cowboys' offensive coordinator/running backs coach was on that list. And after the Cowboys first balked at allowing Carthon to make a lateral move to the Browns, seems as though they have changed their minds. So if Crennel gets the job, and it seems he will, chances are Carthon will be gone. And remember, Crennel was on Bill Parcells' Giants staff when Carthon was there as a player.|
|!|| More Browns fallout: Dave Campo, technically still the Browns' defensive coordinator, apparently is in line for the secondary job here in Jacksonville. But he hasn't been released from his Cleveland contract. But if he's fired, then the Browns would be responsible for his contract, or the difference between his next contract if less, which financially would make Campo
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