Belichick deserves better
Don't focus on just negative surrounding Pats coach
Posted: Tuesday November 20, 2007 3:04PM; Updated: Tuesday November 20, 2007 3:20PM
The national points I keep reading and hearing: Spygate means no matter what the Patriots accomplish this year, it will -- and should -- be forever scarred and asterisked because Bill Belichick cheated. Belichick's evil, humorless, worthless ... football's version of Barry Bonds. The team mirrors him. They run up the score and lack grace in the process. "New Evil Empire Resides in Foxboro,'' blares a headline in today's Philadelphia Daily News. A few thoughts:
Belichick deserves criticism for authorizing the videotaping of the Jets' defensive signals opening day, and he's gotten it for two months, from the league and from the media. Does he deserve it for the rest of the year? In my opinion, not unless something fresh is unearthed -- and it may be -- at which point it should be revisited.
At some point, he ought to get a load of credit as well. What other coach can make every player on his team motivated to excel every week at the highest level? What other coach can take a miscreant like Randy Moss and make him want to be one of 53, a piece of the puzzle instead of the straw that stirs the drink? Belichick deserves credit for bringing this team back from blowing an 18-point lead in the AFC Championship Game last year, and for making that afternoon a focal point at every practice and during every game this year. And, along with VP of personnel Scott Pioli, for building a better mousetrap in the offseason by acquiring an entirely new receiving corps and the best defensive free-agent on the market, Adalius Thomas. And for doing that at a below-market cost for Moss, Donte' Stallworth and Thomas.
Re: the running-up-the-score debate -- I make this point in the upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated: Everything in the first three quarters is fair game, barring a score of 60-3 or some such nonsense. It's the fourth quarter I object to, and everyone should. I thought it was absurd for New England to be up 38-0 with 11 minutes left against Washington and still throwing. Other games? I've got no problem with a team still playing hard with a five-score lead late in the third quarter. Isn't it possible for the opponent to get the ball five times in 20 minutes? So why is it not OK to try to score when you're up by 35 with 17 or 19 minutes left? One other point: Why wasn't there much of hue and cry three Novembers ago, when Indianapolis, up 42-7 on Houston in the fourth quarter with 12 minutes left, and had Peyton Manning throw four straight passes? Throwing with 12 minutes left and leading by 35 is barely different from throwing with 10 minutes left and a 38-point lead. And I remember few tsk-tsks when the Colts did it, about five percent of the crap that rained down on the Patriots when they did it.
Belichick is never going to be a quipster, or a friend of the media. He's got a very long memory, and I'm sure that has something to do with his graceless postgame handshakes with coaches who have mildly rebuked him or the Patriots for something such as Spygate, like Tony Dungy. But the Patriots are having one of the best seasons a pro sports team has ever had. My hope is the football public appreciates what it's seeing and praises the team for being great, instead of firing at Belichick because he's an easy target.