Having just finished the wonderful Netflix documentary series ‘The Last Dance’ about Michael Jordan and with Tom Brady announcing that he is going to be the centre of a similar documentary series in 2021. I thought now is as good a time as any to think about which teams deserve a deep dive documentary series as well. As it is my list I’m going to be placing a range of teams on here, from dynasties, one-season wonders, to the worst of the worst. This is in no particular order because at the moment due to Coronavirus I would love to watch any NFL documentary series!
New England Patriots 2000-2020
Due to their unparalleled success this millennium, you could, in theory, use the 6 different ‘America’s Game’ for each Super Bowl they have won and just add in a few extras here and there. However, fans will want to see much more than that. Such as Tom Brady’s rise under the tutelage of Bill Belichick from a lanky over competitive 6th round pick to a Hall of Famer as well as the inner workings of their relationship both on and off the field would provide the main pull for viewers.
With Belicheck also being the GM, a look into his cold and calculated moves with players such as Randy Moss, Antonio Brown, Jamie Collins and Rodney Harrison is something that will fascinate audiences. Is he as interested in special teams and reminiscent about the 1975 Colts as he is in his press conferences? From their 6 Super Bowls to 17-1, the lost 2008 season with Matt Cassel and finally Tom Brady’s departure this offseason to Tampa Bay. The Patriots dynasty would surely be atop of every network’s list for an NFL documentary series.
Buffalo Bills 1990-1993
From the sublime to the schadenfreude, this is the contrast between the Bills and the Patriots. The Buffalo Bills were a juggernaut in the early 90s, they reached and lost 4 straight Super Bowls with Hall of Famers: Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, Andre Reed and James Lofton. Who were all under the tutelage of Marv Leavy their head coach another member of the Hall of Fame.
With 30 years behind them, it would be fascinating to see how all of the players and coaches have each handled their unparallel streak of defeats. Whether or not they would place more emphasis on kicker Scott Norwood or Thomas losing his helmet before the start of Super Bowl XXVI. Due to Kelly’s health issues, getting maybe his last thoughts on the franchise and his time there would be an emotional centrepiece of the show.
Oakland Raiders 1969-1978
The Oakland Raiders of the 70s with John Madden as their Head Coach and Al Davis leading from the top are one of the most interesting teams of all time. Under Madden’s guidance, the Raiders never had a losing season but only captured one Super Bowl in 1976. With a cast of characters as mad as a barrel of drunk monkeys such as Ken Stabler, George Atkinson, Jim Otto, Fred Biletnikoff, Ted Hendricks and Jack Tatum. The absurd stories that could be told by the players and coaches on this team would have NFL fanatics like myself sitting on cloud nine for the whole series.
The journey from Madden’s hire to departure is an amazing rollercoaster of emotions. The Raiders of this era played in more historic games than you could shake a stick at, such as the Ghost to the Post, the Immaculate Reception, the Sea of Hands and lastly the Holy Roller which to me contains the best piece of NFL commentary of all time. If you’ve never heard it here is a link, sit back and drink in the glory of Bill King’s narration. After all of this drama, a world championship and a sudden retirement by Madden this series would be rewatched for years.
St Louis Rams 1999-2001
The 1999 St Louis Rams were the ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’. A nickname bestowed upon them during their magical 1999 season. Who with backup former shop assistant Kurt Warner at quarterback, a plethora of offensive stars surrounding him such as Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Orlando Pace and emotional Head Coach Dick Vermeil won Super Bowl XXXIV. Their explosion from mediocrity to world champions was amazing and so out of the blue, they were given 300-1 odds of winning the Super Bowl in 1999. This insane rise to NFL superpower and slow fall from that perch is what will make this series such a compelling one.
With the Rams have the league MVP on their team for 3 straight years, making the playoffs each season, owning the best points differential of +583 in that period, having the first offensive 7,000-yard season and only winning 1 championship. It will be interesting to see what the players, coaches and others think derailed them from creating the first dynasty of the new millennium. Whether it was injuries, the retirement of Vermeil, a French Quarter curse or a man by the name tom Brady. This series would cause the temperatures to boil at watercoolers across the NFL world.
Minnesota Vikings 1998
The 1998 Minnesota Vikings, a team shot out of a cannon, they could score from anywhere on the field with 10 Pro Bowlers on their team. Including Randall Cunningham, Robert Smith, Cris Carter, Randall McDaniel and rookie phenom Randy Moss. Minnesota ran away to the number 1 seed in the NFC with a 15-1 record, blew out teams every week with the best offence in NFL history, with 12 games where they won by 10 or more points, Moss set a rookie touchdown record with 17 and the Vikings scored an ungodly 556 points that season. A record that wasn’t bested till the New England Patriots in 2007.
However, the Viking’s collapse in the NFC Championship is summarised with one name: Gary Anderson. His mistake blew optimism out of the Metrodome like a wig in a hurricane. However, with such characters on the team like Randy Moss, Cris Carter, and John Randle, seeing what they remember from such a crazy season and how they have come to terms with it all will be intriguing to see.
Detroit Lions 2008
I could have picked the Hugh Jackson led Browns or the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However I chose the Lions because became the first team go winless in an entire season since the strike-shortened 1982 season. This series would document the horrific ineptitude that covered the Lions in 2008 like a cold sweat from top to bottom. With a terrible draft that where their first round pick being sentenced to a year probation before he started a game and their second round pick was arrested for drunk driving. They seemed destined to fail in 2008, as their defence gave up an astounding 517 points. Surely Detroit fans would have thought that scarecrows could have played better than the team Rod Marinelli was coaching that season.
Green Bay Packers 1959-67
NFL fans will know that if their team wins the Super Bowl they will receive the Vince Lombardi trophy. However, too many people know Lombardi for his loud voice, steely demeanour, famous sweep play and not for his incredible coaching of the Green Bay Packers. The series would chronicle his rise from the first-year head coach in the wilderness of Wisconsin to the greatest coach of his era.
It would highlight the change of Green Bay from a town known for beer and cheese to becoming ‘Titletown’. With such legendary players as Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke, Jim Taylor, and Jerry Kramer on this team to learn their perspective on Lombardi would be fascinating. I believe it would provide such context to Lombardi’s greatness that it would further elevate his status in the NFL and make Bill Belicheck’s achievements all the more impressive.