It's well known (on this site at least) that the Broncos have both the most wins, and the highest degree of consistency in the last 30 years. Following them, in terms of average wins, are Pittsburgh, Miami, San Francisco, and Dallas. These teams all have a program, and it's the biggest reason for the sustained success.
I've always believed in the concept of a program, and I was reading Mike Lombardi the other day when he criticized Washington's lack of one. I liken the idea to a college football program, where a coach gets hired, and it's expected that he'll be there for a long time. He recruits and hires assistants, based upon specific overarching philosophies. If you think of a school like Penn State, they've been doing the same things for decades under Joe Paterno. When a kid commits to play there, he knows who the coaches will be, he knows how the schemes will look, and he knows Penn State will be competitive annually, and consistently bring in more good talent. The relentless consistency of the program is what breeds the consistency of the win-loss record.
To consider the idea of a program in the NFL, look at the five teams I previously mentioned as the most successful of the past 30 years. There are many similarities between them.
The Broncos have had two distinct programs in the last 30 years. There was the Dan Reeves program of conservative ball-control offense/blitzing 3-4 defense from 1981 through 1994 (I include the 2 Wade Phillips years as a continuation of the Reeves program.) From 1995 through the present, we've seen the Mike Shanahan program featuring a run-heavy West Coast offense/4-3 1-gap defense.
For Pittsburgh, there has been only one program, as Bill Cowher continued in the same way as Chuck Noll. Mike Tomlin is from a different school, so it remains to be seen what happens there in the near-term future.
Miami had the Don Shula program, followed by a Jimmy Johnson/Dave Wannstedt regime for 8 years, and then some wilderness that has seen them go from Nick Saban to Cam Cameron. By hiring Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano, the Dolphins committed to building a new program (Bill would be a great program builder if he stayed anywhere for very long. He's more of a great program-starter.)
The 49ers had a long-lived program that encompassed the tenures of Bill Walsh, George Seifert, and Steve Mariucci. It was really the Eddie DeBartolo program, and when his sister and her husband (who are not good owners) took over the team on a permanent basis in 2002, they tried to put their own stamp on the team, promptly leading them into the wilderness personified by Dennis Erickson and Mike Nolan.
Finally, the Cowboys transitioned from a Tex Schramm/Tom Landry program to what started as a Jimmy Johnson program, but is most certainly now a Jerry Jones program. He's had a fairly long list of coaches (Johnson, Switzer, Gailey, Campo, Parcells, Wade Phillips,) but it's Jerry's team, and he serves as the General Manager.
Now, in the NFL, less teams than you might expect actually have a program. For purposes of determining who does, let's say that the best indicator would be either a coach or a GM who is entrenched to the point that it is close to inconceivable that their team owner would want to fire them. Using that as our filter, here is the list.
Denver, Philadelphia, New England, Tennesee, Tampa Bay, Seattle (although they become more GM-dominated when Jim Mora takes over next season,)
Indianapolis (Dungy was hired by Polian, and will leave before him too,) San Diego, Baltimore, Kansas City, Green Bay.
That's 13 of 32 teams with definite, long-term programs. A couple of years ago, you'd say Carolina's John Fox and Marty Hurney were safe, but they have to get some wins this season. Jack Del Rio is pretty secure in Jacksonville, but it's not quite inconceivable that they could decide to fire him. Newer regimes in Houston and New Orleans look promising, and I was tempted to include them, but the credibility isn't all the way established there. Tom Coughlin almost did get fired last year, and then won the Super Bowl. I crossed out Detroit, because the Ford family never considers firing Matt Millen, who has hired three different Head Coaches, but they really ought to.
Our program changed its player acquisition methodology somewhat this season. Instead of diving head-first into free agency and trades, the Broncos focused more heavily on the draft than in some past years. The characteristics of the players they targeted are the same, though. The program lives, and we all know what to expect from our team. I think we'll all be happy when the Broncos improve this season, and really assert themselves as a contender to win a Super Bowl next season. Thanks to Pat Bowlen's unwavering trust in Mike Shanahan's program, we have the luxury of knowing that our team will always be in the mix, and that's a great feeling to have as fans.