In a season highlight film of the 1978 Dallas Cowboys team, the narrator dubbed Dallas as “America’s team.” The team carried the name responsibly, winning three Super Bowls in the 1990’s. Lacking in recent success, has the title of America’s team transferred hands?
Qualities Team Must Have to Be “America’s Team”
What exactly makes America’s team? There’s a few qualities that should be held high.
1. Won a Super Bowl in the last 10 years
2. Relevant playoff contender for five or more years
3. Two Superstar players
4. Two players that are adored by fan base, hated by rivals.
5. At least four nationally televised games every year.
6. Have consistent household names season after season.
Those six qualities are held by a few teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and Seattle Seahawks are all teams that fit those standards. It could be argued that all five of those teams have a legitimate case to called America’s team.
Examining Why the Seattle Seahawks Are Now America’s Team
Pittsburgh is an interesting case. The Steelers have a renowned fan base that’s known for traveling well. Pittsburgh has played in three Super Bowls this century, and they have made themselves a formidable villain in the AFC. The Steelers have largely built themselves as a defensive powerhouse with a lot of personalities and characters. James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel, LaMarr Woodley, and Ike Taylor anchored defenses that were considered elite and imposing.
The Steelers had motorcycle riding Ben Roethlisberger playing the tough guy on the other side of the ball. They were definitely America’s team in the late 2000s. No doubt about it. Even now, the Steelers fit almost all the categories superbly. The issue with Pittsburgh being America’s team today lies in their defense. Pittsburgh isn’t the same team on defense it was during their Super Bowl runs. Rather, their defense has been mediocre recently, putting out average numbers across the board. They have also essentially changed older, veteran players for younger, cheaper, and less proven ones. The offensives scheme has changed as well, which has supported flashy players like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Those men aren’t hated enough. There’s no super villain on the Steelers anymore. The team simply cannot perform at a championship quality level without a stronger defense. Because of that, and not having a villain on their team, they can’t be America’s team.
Denver has owned the entire AFC West since 2011. With a little help from Peyton Manning, the Broncos haven’t lost more than four games in a season since the Tim Tebow era. Denver’s defense has been at the top of the league, sporting nationally known figures like Von Miller (now in the middle of a contract dispute with the organization) and Chris Harris Jr. The Broncos have played in two of the last three Super Bowls, including winning one, and have made the playoffs during five straight seasons.
Denver now faces an internal crisis of losing players. Their roster has been gutted by free agency, leaving the team with little idea or identity next season. The team has been used to losing players, and they are now working out the kinks of what their plans will be, and for that reason they are not America’s team.
New England Patriots
New England has been a shining example of success since Tom Brady took the reins in 2001. The entire organization has played the part of arch villain perfectly. From owner Robert Kraft to Bill Belichick to Brady to equipment managers. The Patriots are a hallmark of success. They have made the AFC Championship Game in five straight seasons. The team carries different players every year, turning no-names into stars overnight.
The problem with New England is that they do not have a consistent roster. To be America’s team, you have to have consistent household names year after year. Logan Mankins is a perfect example. Makins was an elite guard in the NFL for a decade, but he was tossed aside by New England for a fourth-round draft pick. Mankins would have had his number retired by New England; he was that good. He was a team guy that anchored their offensive line for almost ten years. We’ve seen the same treatment from the Patriots with guys like Wes Welker, Chandler Jones, and Vince Wilfork. New England has shown little loyalty outside of Tom Brady. It can be argued that those moves, among others, have improved their roster, but their turnover has left the Patriots with few nationally recognizable players outside of Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Hence, America’s team is not New England and the Patriots are fine with that. They will continue to follow the same pattern for years to come, and because of their success, it would be smart of them to do so.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay is in a similar boat as New England, but just a little better. The Packers have had great success. They are a homegrown team, owned by the people, have been a consistent playoff threat, and boast two future Hall of Famers in Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews. Green Bay is the home to a great football atmosphere. They could use more nationally recognizable faces outside of Rodgers and Matthews, which slightly hurts their case, but by all other measurements, they should be America’s team. The real main issue to Green Bay’s case as America’s Team is their recent lack of success against the last team on this list, the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle has gone 3-1 against Green Bay in the Russell Wilson era. The only game the Seahawks dropped to the Packers was the one that standout defensive back Kam Chancellor missed. Seattle has had five superstars on their team in the last five years: Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas, Chancellor, and Richard Sherman. Seattle has arguably the most nationally recognized players on their roster. Jimmy Graham, Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin, and Bobby Wagner are all Pro Bowl quality players. This really helps Seattle in their popularity. Moreover, they had one of the best defenses of all-time in 2013, which gave a historical beatdown to Peyton Manning and the Broncos en route to a Super Bowl win. Not to mention they were one missed pass away from being back-to-back Super Bowl champs. Wilson and Sherman are two of the most popular players in the league and their popularity is reaffirmed every year with four or five nationally televised games, which is third in the NFL since 2011. They have broken world records for noise levels at their stadium and boast the most loyal fans in the NFL according to USA Today.
Furthermore, Seattle also holds the nation’s attention as the biggest bandwagon. The bandwagon factor is what brings it home. Having those fairweather fans from across the country allow for popularity to run like wild fire at will. No other team has the national fly-by-night fans like Seattle does. The Seahawks have a solid mix of diehard and bandwagon fans.
Based off the guidelines set, Seattle is America’s team. No other team is as qualified in those areas as the boys from the northwest. In reality, any of the five teams mentioned could be considered America’s team, but right now it has to be the Seahawks. It’ll be interesting to watch how all of those teams compete in 2016. One of them could come out on top and very well steal the crown of America’s team.