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Hats off to the salary cap

When Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick slashed between two Minnesota Viking defenders, causing them to smash into each other on Dec. 1, 2002. That play changed the way we watch NFL games today.

“Show me the money” is now equivalent to “show me the flash.”

In today’s NFL, fans generally want to see superstar players making others look defenseless. The more ridiculous they make opposing teams look, the more they get paid.

However, the last laugh, like usual, belongs to the New England Patriots.

They have managed to pull off the impossible: Create a dynasty in the post-salary cap era. Since the NFL instituted a salary cap and allowed free agency in 1987, only one true “dynasty” has flourished in the NFL.

The Dallas Cowboys won three championships in four years during the ’90s thanks to a stingy defense and stellar play from their big three: Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

This is not the case anymore.

With New England’s Sunday victory, it moved the Tom Brady-led Pats into pro football history as only the second team to win three Super Bowls in four seasons.

The Patriots eliminated flash and replaced it with class.

If only the other teams would follow this blueprint for success.

In modern-day pro football, player salaries have skyrocketed and the idea of a good ol’ fashioned team seem dead in the water.

For instance, in 1996 the NFL salary cap was $40.8 million. It has since doubled, with this year’s salary cap allowing each NFL franchise $80.5 million to allocate to players.

The superstars of the league, not the players with the most wins, make the most money. Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons recently signed a 10-year, $100-million contract. He is touted as one of the most exciting players in the game and nearly broke the record for rushing yards by a quarterback.

Peyton Manning, who broke Dan Marino’s record for most touchdowns in a season, has a contract for seven years at $99 million and also received a $34.5 million signing bonus.

Now, take into perspective Tom Brady.

Brady got paid $5.5 million this season with his base NFL salary only a meager $535,000, the league minimum for a player with five years NFL experience. The rest of his salary was from a signing bonus.

Tom Brady took one for the team and the team responded by walking through the playoffs en route to a third Super Bowl and a place in NFL history.

While Michael Vick’s runs and Peyton Manning’s records are flashy, so are Brady’s three rings.