The Patriots are making (more) history in the 2010 decade

Tom Brady photo courtesy of USA Today

Twenty-three NFL franchises have never had a 100-victory decade. The Patriots now have two of them.

Only nine NFL franchises have ever won 100 games in single decade.

That fraternity club could expand dramatically in 2019.

The New England Patriots are already putting the finishing touches on the greatest decade in NFL history. They have won 113 games, nine division titles and three Lombardi Trophies. The Indianapolis Colts hold the record for most victories in a decade with 115 in the 2000s. A 3-13 season in 2019 would still allow New England to break that record.

The Patriots have posted an overall 113-31 record this decade for a winning percentage of 78.5, another NFL record. That tops the winning percentage of 73.3 set by the Cleveland Browns of the 1950s. The Patriots could go 5-11 this season and still claim the record for best winning percentage in a decade at 73.7.

But don’t look for the Patriots to collapse in 2019 with the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and the calendar flipping into the 40th year for Tom Brady. New England now has two 100-win decades, also winning 112 games in the 2000s. The engine behind all that success has been Brady, who has taken the snaps in New England for the last 18 seasons.

How important are quarterbacks? The only other franchises with two 100-win decades are the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. The Cowboys won 105 games with Roger Staubach in the 1970s and 101 with Troy Aikman in the 1990s. The 49ers won 104 games with Joe Montana in the 1980s and 113 with Steve Young in the 1990s. All four of those quarterbacks are now in the Hall of Fame.

The other six franchises with 100-victory decades are Miami and Oakland in the 1970s, Kansas City in the 1990s and Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the 2000s. The Dolphins (Bob Griese) and Raiders (Ken Stabler) both had Hall of Fame quarterbacks and the Colts (Peyton Manning) and Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger) had quarterbacks with Hall of Fame resumes.

It should be noted that the NFL went from a 12- to a 14-game season in 1961 and from 14- to a 16-game season in 1978. More games, more chances for 100.

So as great as Cleveland was in the 1950s with seven championship game appearances, the Browns managed to win only 88 games. But Cleveland played only 120 games in the decade. And as great as Green Bay was in the 1960s with six championship game appearances, the Packers managed to win only 96 times. But Green Bay played only 138 games in the decade. In today’s NFL, teams get 160 games in a decade.

Regardless of the number of games, winning 100 times in a single decade is quite an achievement. The Broncos only won 93 games in the 1990s with John Elway at quarterback and the Packers also won only 93 games that decade with Brett Favre taking the snaps. The 1970s Steelers, with four Super Bowl rings and a Hall of Fame quarterback (Terry Bradshaw), only won 99 games that decade.

That said, six other NFL teams have a mathematical chance of joining the Patriots with 100 victories in the 2010 decade, although two of them are longshots. The Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs both have 84 victories heading into 2019, meaning both would need perfect 16-0 seasons to reach 100.

The Steelers need only six victories to reach 100 and join the Cowboys, 49ers and Patriots with a pair of 100-win decades. The Packers and Seattle Seahawks would need 11 victories apiece in 2019 to reach 100 and the New Orleans Saints would need 13 victories to get there. Keep in mind the Saints are coming off a 13-3 season in 2018.

The Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger), Packers (Aaron Rodgers), Seahawks (Russell Wilson) and Saints (Drew Brees) all have the quarterbacks to deliver 100 victories this decade. If all four hit the mark, the NFL will set a record with five teams in the 100-decade club. The record is four in the 2000 decade. Green Bay, New Orleans and Seattle also would push the number of franchises with 100-victory decades to 12.