4 Reasons We’ll Never See Another Undefeated NFL Team
The classic saying dictates that records were made to be broken, but there are some records in sports that will never come down. Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak. Richard Petty's win total. Every scoring record Wayne Gretzky ever broke.
It's time to add "undefeated NFL record" to that list as well.
The feat, which requires the record setting team to pull a 19-0 NFL season, doesn't have a big number attached to it, like DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak, and we've seen teams get exceptionally close to it in the past decade, most recently the Carolina Panthers, who saw their run of perfection end at 14-0 with last Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It allowed the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the lone team who achieved perfection in NFL history, to pull off their famous champagne toast, a tradition acted upon when the last current unbeaten NFL team falls.
Stock up on the Korbel and Dom Perignon boys, because here's why your record is never being broken...
1. Today's Game Is So Much Different Than 1972
Putting aside the fact the '72 Dolphins had to be two less games to get to that unblemished mark, today's league barely resembles the one back in 1972. Today's league relies wayyyyyy more heavily on offense for example. The Dolphins, in their 14 games, scored a total of 385 points during their run to immortality. This year's Panthers, on the other hand, had score 449 points over their first fortnight of contests, a whopping 65 points more. Joe Namath led the league with 2,816 passing yards, a mark most quarterbacks these days have demolished by Thanksgiving. In addition, what we know now about football injuries and player safety ensure that some teams may be more cautious, even when going for an undefeated season.
2. The Technology Has, y'know, Improved (For Better or Worse)
On a somewhat related note, the NFL has become such a juggernaut in terms of sports popularity, that it's almost sickening how much we as a nation crave football. The popularity of the game has put games on not just Sundays, but weeknights as well, like Monday and Thursday. While the Dolphins did have a game each on Monday and Saturday in 1972, each of their games took place no less than 6 days apart. Thursday Night Football was unheard of back in that day, leaving the Dolphins unexposed to the ridiculous mere 3 days rest that TNF participants must face.
Further more, today's technological advancements in terms of camera and game prep have done the job of keeping up parity in the game. Teams prepping for Sunday now resemble countries on international spy missions, with film, intel, playbooks, etc. You didn't see Mercury Morris with a Microsoft Surface tablet on the sidelines did you?
The expansion of the NFL has also allowed for six more teams than there were in 1972. Miami's schedule helped matters, as, in addition to the ample days of rest compared to modern standards, the most strenuous road trips (to Kansas City and Minnesota) were taken care of early in the season. Visits from the western side of the country, not as populated back in the 70's, were taken in the friendly confines of Miami. Today, with 32 teams and two extra games (i.e. two more opportunities to suffer injuries), the task becomes even harder.
3. There's Too Much Pressure
Today's NFL constantly dominates the Nielsen TV ratings, With NBC's Sunday Night Football taking the top spot in the Nielsen's yearly television series ratings. When you look at the top rated programs in 1972, it's filled with (gasp!) actual shows. At the end of the 1972 television season, you'll find Monday Night Football, then an ABC mainstay, "buried" in 25th place, just a spot behind a tie shared by The Carol Burnett Show and The Doris Day Show (All in the Family took home the top spot that year).
In other words, the NFL wasn't as much as a public obsession as it is today. This stems from the technology part mentioned above, as we now live in a 24 hour news cycle that requires constant updating (can you imagine what 72 Dolphins related chaos would go down in the era of Twitter and hot takes?).
Besides, when the Dolphins went unblemished, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, expected them to do that. Heck, Miami was the UNDERDOG in their Super Bowl VII matchup with the Washington Redskins. These days, if a team is leading after the first quarter of Week 1, it seems we get 20 thinkpieces with the general theme of "OMG CAN (insert team that is probably going 7-9 here) UNDEFEATED?!?!?" Media exposure has changed the game, again, for better or worse, as we know it, but in this regard that's a negative.
4. In Today's NFL, You Almost Want To Lose A Game
This may sound like a silly reason, as no one, not even Cleveland, goes into a game intending to lose it. However, it could be argued that taking a loss may be a necessary evil in today's NFL. Look at what happened to teams who came oh so close to perfection, like the 07 Patriots or, to a lesser extent, the 98 Vikings. The two of them fell behind in a game at the worst possible times, and both of them abandoned game plans and panicked. With a loss, you get to see what's wrong with your team and you get to work on it. Of course, you have to be sure to not let these losses pile up, but if you learn from them, they can end up being great learning experiences. Yeah, that sounds like the ending to an awful after school special, but when that special ends with raising the Lombardi trophy, you won't be complaining one bit.
Geoff Magliocchetti believes we have a better shot of an MLB team going 162-0 than an NFL team going 19-0. Just kidding, but tell him that's dumb anyway on Twitter @GeoffMags5490
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