Today is the one day out of the year when people willingly go out of their way to pretend to be Irish, all while drinking green beer. The holiday has become very popular for adults who need an excuse to drink heavily on a weekday, no doubt pleasing St. Patrick greatly. Here at End Zone Score we will celebrate the glorious holiday in a more family-friendly way by examining which five franchises most embody the spirit of the luck of the Irish. Here are the five luckiest NFL franchises in the past 15 years.
- Indianapolis Colts
It is fitting that one of the top five luckiest teams in the league has a horseshoe for a logo and a franchise quarterback with the surname of “Luck.” The horseshoe is completely coincidental, but the quarterback is a big part of why they are one of the luckiest teams in the league. Indianapolis used the first overall pick in the 1998 draft on quarterback Peyton Manning and that’s the exact point where their luck began. The Colts clearly chose the correct option between Manning and Ryan Leaf, as Leaf is one of the biggest busts in NFL history, whereas Manning put the Colts on the map and brought home a Super Bowl trophy to Indianapolis in the 2006-07 season. To compound the luck, the franchise somehow found itself in the perfect situation when Manning missed the entire season due to a neck injury. If this injury had happened in the middle of the season, the Colts would have won too many games to pick number one overall. Fortunately, it happened early enough to cause Manning to miss the whole season, but late enough so the Colts couldn’t draft a quarterback or bring in a competent quarterback in 2011. The Colts had a lost season in 2011, but they parlayed one dismal year into the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, which netted them a once-in-a-generation quarterback in Andrew Luck. It’s still early in Luck’s career, but the early signs indicate it’s only a matter of time before he wins a Super Bowl. At the very least, he will have the Colts in playoff contention every single year that he is healthy. There were a lot of precise, minute details that needed to break just right for the Colts to find themselves in this situation. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
- New York Giants
A popular opinion amongst the NFL community right now is that a team needs an elite quarterback in order to win a Super Bowl. However, few people would consider Eli Manning to be an elite quarterback, both now and throughout his career. Despite this fact, the younger Manning now has two Super Bowl titles to his name, which is two more than Hall of Famer Dan Marino. If Manning isn’t elite, but he still has two Super Bowl rings, then that’s a good indicator that he and the Giants have been the beneficiaries of their share of luck recently. The obvious example of how lucky this team is the infamous Helmet Catch by David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII. Tyree came out of complete anonymity to make perhaps the single most impactful catch in NFL history that played a huge role in felling the 18-0 Patriots, ruining their chance at the perfect 19-0 season and immortality. Interestingly, Tyree never had another NFL catch after that one. There are a lot of teams that use a few lucky breaks to win a Super Bowl, but the Giants found themselves in the same exact situation four years later. Once again they were playing the Patriots, albeit not an undefeated team. New York’s luck started before the game even started when New England was forced to trot out a clearly hobbled Rob Gronkowski who was suffering from the effects of an ankle injury he sustained in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens. Mind you, this was the Gronkowski that set an NFL record for most receiving yards by a tight end when he posted 1,327 yards in the regular season to go along with his 18 touchdowns. Gronk was obviously not himself in the game and it’s possible that if he was healthy, he would have caught the game-winning Hail Mary that was just out of his grasp. As if that wasn’t enough luck, the Giants once again had a miraculous reception when Mario Manningham pulled in an amazing over the shoulder catch while tightrope walking the sideline. The catch went for 38 yards and it was the first play of what would turn out to be the game-winning drive for the Giants who began the series down 17-15 with 3:46 left in the game. It’s incredible to think of the number of elite quarterbacks over the years that now have less Super Bowl titles to their name than Eli Manning, including his far superior brother Peyton. We all know that you can’t buy championships in the NFL, but you also can’t buy luck.
- Green Bay Packers
Similar to the Colts, the Packers also find themselves on this list because of the past two quarterbacks they employed. Their luck began when Ron Wolf was able to convince the Atlanta Falcons in 1992 to give away their miscreant backup quarterback for a first round pick. Favre became one of the most iconic players in franchise history and was able to deliver the Packers their first championship in almost 30 years. Then in 2005, the Packers got lucky again when the league collectively decided to ignore the quarterback who was in a close battle for the number one overall pick with Alex Smith, who would go on to be drafted by the 49ers. Aaron Rodgers slid all the way to the 24th pick where Ted Thompson and the Packers happily scooped him up. The transition period between Favre and Rodgers has been heavily-dissected, but after the fact it’s obvious the Packers made the right choice in ushering Rodgers in as the starting quarterback in 2008. Since that point the Packers have played in two NFC Championship games, won one Super Bowl and have made the playoffs six years in a row and counting. Also, Rodgers has won the NFL MVP award twice since becoming the starter and is a consensus top three NFL quarterback. It took a lot of luck for both those franchise quarterbacks to find their way to Green Bay, but it’s fitting that a team that originally adopted the colors of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish would enjoy the luck of the Irish.
- Pittsburgh Steelers
The Monday after Week 17 is a great reminder every year that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a coaching history unlike any other team in the NFL. Whereas “Black Monday” is the annual purge of NFL coaches, the Steelers keep humming along, typically preparing for their upcoming playoff game at that point. Since 1969, the Steelers have employed a staggeringly low three total head coaches: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin. This streak of coaching luck receives a fair amount of publicity, but it probably deserves more. It’s amazing that in 46 years they have only had three head coaches when their fellow AFC North foe the Cleveland Browns have had eight head coaches since rejoining the league in 1999. This explains a lot about why the two franchises have had very different records since that point. Although it’s not as sexy as an elite quarterback streak, this coaching streak has played a huge role in the Steelers winning six of the eight Super Bowls they have played in since coach Noll took over in ’69. The good news for Steelers fans is that this lucky streak should continue for the foreseeable future as the 43-year-old Tomlin has given no indications of leaving any time soon.
- New England Patriots
In the NFL, typically the way luck works is that one team’s bad luck is another team’s good luck. This is the case with the Patriots. Head coach Bill Belichick got his first start as an NFL head coach with the Cleveland Browns in 1991 and he proceeded to compile a 36-44 record in his five years with the team, only making it to the playoffs once. Not only did Belichick bomb in Cleveland, but the middling records of his teams made it easier for owner Art Modell to move the franchise in Baltimore. Side note, not only was it horrible luck that the Browns once employed one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history, but that team they lost to Baltimore has won two Super Bowls since leaving town. It’s hard to disagree with Bill Simmons that God hates Cleveland. Anyway, this bad luck for Cleveland was fortuitous luck for New England who hired Belichick as head coach in 2000. It was a stroke of luck that Belichick’s career brought him to the place where New England could reel him in, but the franchise’s luck was enhanced significantly shortly after the Belichick hiring when Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Every team in the league passed multiple times on Brady, who has only gone on to win four Super Bowls, two MVP’s, make 10 Pro Bowls, and come within inches of a 19-0 season. Not only was it incredibly lucky that New England found the two biggest icons in the history of their franchise within months of each other, but they also benefitted from luck when Brady first found the field. By now everyone knows the story of how Drew Bledsoe was injured by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis in the second game of the 2001 season. Despite being analyzed thousands of time, the luck of this situation doesn’t diminish at all. In Bledsoe (an unfortunate name for a guy who opened the door for Brady via internal bleeding), the Patriots had a proven quarterback that had made three Pro Bowls and took the team to the Super Bowl in 1996. It’s amazing that he happened to sustain an injury serious enough to allow Brady to come in and get a few bad games out of his system without the threat of being benched. There’s no doubt the Patriots have had more luck than any team in the NFL since the start of the millennium. It’s a bit of a stretch, but maybe it has something to do with the massive Irish population in Boston. At the very least, this association with the luck of the Irish couldn’t have hurt their luckiness.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Follow OPSN End Zone Score’s Nick Lauer on Twitter @NickLauer23 and tune into his podcast, Pro Style Packers Pod here.
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