Can You Hear Me Now?
I'm going to get to my picks from last weeks games here in a minute (next article) but first I need to vent a little bit, and I feel another Stevil Rant coming on. I was driving tonight listening to Mad Dog Radio and all of the talk was about the Jet's Patriots game. Yes, I picked the Jets to win. Yes, I am a patriots hater. Do the two correlate? Absolutely not. It seems like I am one of the few guys around that does not let his emotions get in the way of his football picks. Listening to the so called experts talk about Bill Belichick and and declare him (sometimes they qualify it with "arguably") to be the best coach in the history of the NFL, I wonder what game these guys are watching and analyzing. They are certainly not watching football, unless of course they just suck at their job. Yes, I'm going to talk about Spygate, but before you click off to the next site Patriot Fan, I will quote your own guys over at the Boston Globe.
He has been exposed as being monumentally disingenuous at best and utterly duplicitous at worst. There can no longer be any doubt that he engaged in a practice he knew was against the rules.
The big question we cannot answer is how important it all was, really. Did his illegal practice of taping opponents' defensive signals aid his team's chances of victory in certain games by 20 percent? Ten percent? Three percent? One-10th of 1 percent? Not at all? No one will ever know.
Right now, it doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter, because the only thing that does matter now is the image of the New England Patriots. The sports community now associates the Patriots with cheating. The three Super Bowl championships are, and forever will be, under suspicion. The thought will never go away.
Let Mike Martz, coach of the vanquished Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl, absolve the Patriots all he wants. A year from now, five years from now, 50 years from now, who will know or remember what Mike Martz said? The Patriots have been irrevocably stained. They will be, in the eyes of many, the reverse Black Sox. They will be the team that broke the rules. Their three Super Bowls will be regarded as ill-gotten gain.
And Bill Belichick still hasn't fessed up.
If Bob Ryan can say that on the Boston Globe, I certainly am in fair territory making a few observations here. Let's take a look at some of the evidence, then see how Bill's numbers stack up. The NFL had in it's possession tapes dating to 2000-2002, and tapes from 2006 plus the "caught red handed" tape from 2007. There is no doubt that this practice was going on in New England for awhile. Between the hard evidence and the circumstantial evidence, we know this.
Now, excluding his time with the Browns (it wouldn't be fair to just assume he was doing it then), Coach Belichick took his team to the playoffs 5 out of 7 years prior to Spygate, and they appeared in 14 games. Their record in these appearances was 12-2 with 3 Super Bowl rings. Since Spygate, Belichick has taken the Patriots to the playoffs 3 out of 4 years, including the 2007 season where he was busted. In those 3 years, the team appeared in 5 games with a 2-3 record and no Super Bowl rings. That is a serious drop off in production.
In fairness to Bill, there are players who come and go, and one of those years Tom Brady was out for the season. In fairness to me, Bill's bad decisions, not the least of which was the fake punt last night, have seriously hurt his teams chances to win. Fourth and two, anyone?
Here is my point. I'm not equating what Bill Belichick did with having the answers before you take the test. But he did have the questions. Is it possible that Bill is as good of a coach now as he was back when he was cheating? Of course. But where I come from, you're not the smartest kid in the class once we all know you got those grades by having the unfair advantage of knowing what questions were going to be on the test when the rest of us didn't. Bill has proven he can win when he knows the defensive play before he calls in his offensive play to the Quarterback. But so far, he has done nothing to show that he can win when he is on a level playing field with everyone else.
Understand me here. It takes a good coach to get his team to the playoffs 3 out of 4 years. Most of us out here would settle for a Super Bowl loss 4 years ago and 2 playoff appearances since then from our teams. But if you want to be known as the best, or even one of the best, you have to show me something. And back to Bob Ryan's take, there is a little part he left out of the equation.
When estimating how much the cheating helped the Patriots in those games, one tends to forget how much a Super Bowl ring adds to your ability to bring talent to your team. How many times do we hear a star athlete say "I want to go where I will have a chance to win"? It is not just how much the cheating helped out the talent on the field, one needs to consider how much the cheating helped to put the talent on the field in the first place. Am I claiming to have a number? No. But when the local guy Bob Ryan estimates as high as 20%, and all 3 rings came by 3 points, it is fair to say it is possible, if not likely, that all three rings are ill-gotten gain.
I know I had to do a little research and brain exercise to look behind the numbers and come to my conclusion, and I don't want you talk radio guys to have an aneurysm over there, but can you get out of bottom feeder mode long enough to look at something that isn't on a sticky note attached to your forehead? I seriously had to listen to a guy say that Belichick is better than Lombardi. Are you kidding me?
Back to the article, I love the reference to the Black Sox scandal. And, as a White Sox fan, I was quick to draw the parallel when I gave Belechick the "Shirtless Bill" nickname to mock his cutoff hoodies and and capitalize on the parallel to "Shoeless Joe Jackson". But there is a distinguishing difference between the two. Jackson refused to take payment of the $5,000 bribe he was given, leaving a teammate to throw the money on the motel room floor. Belichick still walks around with his rings.
To clarify, I don't wish to deprive Patriot player or fan of his ring anymore than I want to see Rams, Panthers, or Eagles player or fan deprived of their ring. The biggest problem here is how the NFL handled the situation. If they had acted like Major League Baseball who was quick to get rid of (earlier) Jackson and (recently) Rose over the appearance of their impropriety, despite the solid proof that they actually cheated, we wouldn't be having this conversation. The Patriots would have their rings, and Bill would be banned from the game. We don't. We have a league that slaps a fine on the man and takes a draft pick from the team then, upon being threatened with a Congressional investigation, destroys the evidence to ensure that none of us ever see how bad it really was.
But why am I talking about all of this now. Because while common sense tells me that everybody knows this, seeing the shock at the Jet's win and observing the fact that almost none of the experts were willing to pick them tells me that nobody knows this. Why was I able to call this game so well while everyone else missed it? Because I was picking against a team that was 2-2 in the playoffs with no Super Bowl rings, while the "experts" were picking for a team that was 12-2 with 3 rings. Yes, apparently I am the only guy left who remembers and is holding out positive judgment for the Patriots until they can prove that they can do it on a level playing field. And for the record, I hate the Jets too. Moving along...