|New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick (left) and owner Bob Kraft have won three Super Bowls together.|
Twelve years ago, shortly after New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft completed a deal to trade a first-round draft pick to the Jets to acquire the services of coach Bill Belichick, Kraft credited his decision to an unequivocal level of conviction.
"For a No. 1 draft choice, we can bring in a man that I feel certain can do something, rather than the uncertainty of a draft pick," Kraft said. "And it wasn't even close when I thought about it that way."
Within two years, the Patriots had turned the corner, ascending from a team with a different coach, quarterback and general manager to a Super Bowl-bound organization on the brink of a dynasty. Kraft's gamble -- er, certainty -- paid off big, and it paid off fast. To this day, it might be the ultimate example of just how quickly the tide can turn.
There's other examples, too. Sean Payton's arrival in New Orleans kick-started the organization's current state of success, which remains on a nice track to date. So take solace, fans of maligned teams (this means you, state of Florida): Things can change! Success is right around the corner. It's just one giant wonder what might then be down the street.
Despite the hope that teams like the Patriots and the Saints can provide -- the pleasure of a quick turnaround -- few other seasons have managed to show with such harsh circumstances that long-term success requires more than a good year or two.
Heck, the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears were playing each other in the Super Bowl just five years ago. Now, the men who constructed those teams (Bill Polian and Jerry Angelo) no longer have jobs.
Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano is another example: In 2008, his first year as an NFL head coach, he was one vote shy of being named the league's Coach of the Year after leading an 11-5 playoff charge on the heels of 2007's dismal 1-15 finish. Three seasons after that? He's done. Same thing for Raheem Morris, who received universal plaudits for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 10-6 record in 2010 and now finds himself out of work after ending 2011 on a 10-game skid.
Four brutal examples -- two in the front office and two on the sidelines -- delivered all of us around the league one great reason why it's always wise to refrain from anointing the next great dynasty before the full body of work reveals itself.
Then again, perhaps that taste of success (which was much longer and stronger in Indianapolis than, say, Miami) is worth it. Would the Bucs rather their 2003 Super Bowl never occurred even though Jon Gruden didn't work out, winding up fired six years after he won a ring in his first season? Former Ravens coach Brian Billick won a Super Bowl in 2000 but didn't work out, either. Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt got there after the 2008 season, but who knows if he'll ever get another sniff?
In those cases, much like the Bears and the Colts, you take what you got and you move on in search of more. This is exactly what Chicago CEO Ted Phillips said in the wake of Angelo's departure. Two NFC Championship games. A Super Bowl appearance. Four division titles. That's some good work, but it wasn't enough anymore. It no longer validated the decisions that were made in more recent years, which included a multitude of squandered draft picks, particularly in the first round.
Had Bears quarterback Jay Cutler not suffered a broken thumb at a point when Chicago seemed to be rolling toward a legitimate playoff run, perhaps success would have continued to mask the inadequate depth and bad drafting that led to Angelo's firing. But just like all of those other coaches -- just like all of those other general managers -- everyone in the NFL eventually learns the reality of the NFL.
The body of work dictates a legacy, but short-term success (or failure) dictates the job security. It's a harsh sentiment in a brutally harsh industry, and it makes situations like the ones in New England all the more impressive as time continues to pass.
Will another team soon experience the beauty of a turnaround? Perhaps. But this year has proven there's a better question to be asked: How long will it last?
Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington