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The Dynasty: The Inside Story of the NFL's Most Successful and Controversial Franchise

Review

The Dynasty: The Inside Story of the NFL's Most Successful and Controversial Franchise

A couplet from “Maud Muller,” a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, is an oft-quoted adage of life: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, / The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’” This is a constant reminder of a theme running through Jeff Benedict’s THE DYNASTY, a marvelously told story of the New England Patriots.

For decades, the Patriots were a patsy franchise in the National Football League, and now they are riding a 20-year reign atop the standings, making them the most successful team in NFL history. In THE DYNASTY, sports fans who revel in the “what if” game have countless opportunities to observe how one deviation along the historical path might have changed the course of professional football history.

"You don’t need be a sports fan to enjoy this masterpiece study of a successful sports franchise.... With substantial research, great attention to detail and superb writing, THE DYNASTY is a book worthy of the team it chronicles."

What if Robert Kraft’s bid to buy the team had failed and the winning bidders had moved the franchise to St. Louis?

What if Bill Parcells and Kraft had not had a falling-out that ended with Parcells quitting and Bill Belichick becoming New England’s coach?

What if Drew Bledsoe had not suffered a devastating injury at the height of his career?

What if the weather in Champaign, Illinois, had been better the day that young Tom Brady visited the University of Illinois campus for his recruiting visit?

What if Brady had not still been available to the Patriots in the seventh round of the NFL draft?

Any one of these “what ifs” might have led to New England remaining a league doormat. Other franchises have suffered through decades of mediocrity (my own Chicago Bears come to mind), but the story of the Patriots and their rise to the top is more than just a story of winning and losing. THE DYNASTY is not merely an account of games, seasons and Super Bowls (which make up less than one-fifth of the book). This is the story of a well-run and successful business, very much like Apple or Amazon. It is a formula that people interested in how business succeeds might study and follow. But even after 500 pages, countless interviews and exhaustive investigation, that formula cannot be summarized in just a few words or sentences.

In Benedict’s account, it becomes clear that the Patriots do it differently. They are a cohesive organization from top to bottom, where every member acts with certain overarching goals in mind. Sports fans recognize that Patriots executives, coaches and players often accept positions with other teams and cannot duplicate their New England success. There is a synergy in the organization that drives the team, starting with the ownership and moving through the coaches, players and staff.

Not being a Patriots fan, I understand that many detractors might view them in a different light. Benedict does not shy away from their dark side. The allegations of cheating, the Aaron Hernandez case, the treatment of player injuries, and an NFL philosophy where players at the end of their careers are viewed as commodities are all discussed and acknowledged here. Not surprisingly, the constant reminder from Benedict is that professional football is a business, a tough and nasty one. The Kraft family, Belichick, Brady and the Patriots all excel in the business they have chosen.

You don’t need be a sports fan to enjoy this masterpiece study of a successful sports franchise. Authors who produce memorable histories and biographies often share career backgrounds as journalists before moving to historical writing. Robert Caro and David Maraniss immediately come to mind, and Benedict, who spent years as a special-features writer for Sports Illustrated, has similar experience. With substantial research, great attention to detail and superb writing, THE DYNASTY is a book worthy of the team it chronicles.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on September 11, 2020

The Dynasty: The Inside Story of the NFL's Most Successful and Controversial Franchise
by Jeff Benedict

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2020
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction, Sports
  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1982134100
  • ISBN-13: 9781982134105