My usual early morning routine is something like this:
Get the girls up, get them breakfast, and then get them on the path to getting ready for school. When I reach the point where they are getting dressed, I start running through Twitter to see if I missed anything overnight.
Well, last night I apparently went to bed right before the news broke that the NFL found that 11 of 12 balls used by the New England Patriots in Sunday’s AFC title game were inflated less than required. And my Twitter feed was abuzz, from the moment the news broke to early morning Tweets from folks in Indy. One local weatherman said that perhaps the Patriots could learn something from Tim Smyczek, the American tennis player who gave Rafael Nadal a do-over after fan noise interfered with his serve attempt. You know, sportsmanship and such.
Come on, people.
The Patriots won 45–7. It was not close. They ran the ball down the Colts’ throats, just like when the teams played in Indy in November. Let’s not act like the outcome would have been completely different had the Patriots been using balls with the same amount of air in them as in those used by the Colts. Sure, the Colts receivers had a number of drops. And Andrew Luck was not terribly sharp. But, again, the Colts could not stop LeGarrette Blount. And they could not get their running game going to take the pressure off Luck and his receivers.
Maybe the Patriots got a little extra boost from Tom Brady having a better grip than Luck. And maybe his receivers hung onto balls that the Colts receivers could not because they could squeeze them a little tighter.
End of story.
However, it is worth noting that even if this did not affect the outcome of the game, it’s another controversy that surrounds Bill Belichick. Another bizarre example of a franchise that likely doesn’t not need to break the rules to win doing so anyway. As Belichick is passing legends of the game in playoff wins, Super Bowl appearances, etc. I think the general opinion outside Boston is, “Sure, he’s a good coach. But he only won with Tom Brady. And they got caught cheating twice. How many other times were they breaking the rules without getting caught?”
Belichick is going to go down as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. But like baseball players who were in their primes during the steroid era, there will always be questions about how he did it. Questions that I think will keep him from reaching Tom Landry, Don Shula, Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll levels of respect.