Patriots' Head Coach Will Likely Stop At Nothing To Be Thought Of As Best Ever

By Steve Silverman
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Bill Belichick has a lot in common with Richard Nixon and Barry Bonds.

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They all cheated for no obvious reason. Belichick’s Patriots had their huge battle in the divisional playoffs and they needed some sleight of hands – trick formations – to get by the Baltimore Ravens.

But there was no reason to consider anything nefarious when the Indianapolis Colts came to Foxboro last Sunday. The Patriots had swamped the Colts in each of their previous two meetings, using a potent ground game to punish the Colts and stomp out any chance they had of competing.

When a team dominates an opponent with a ground game, there is nothing subtle about it. Your opponent knows what you are going to do because of your formation and personnel. You are basically telling them what’s coming, and daring them to stop it.

The surprise element doesn’t exist. When the running game works on a consistent basis, it’s because the offensive line gets the best of the defensive line and pushes them downfield. The running back takes advantage of that victory with his technique, power, speed and desire. However, even the best running backs get stopped in their tracks when the offensive line loses consistently.

That’s why Belichick had no reason to resort to cheating against the Colts. His team was able to beat Indianapolis with power and strength. As soon as Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels got a look at the roster prior to the AFC Championship game and could see that the Colts had not made many personnel changes from the team they defeated in Week 11, they knew they could win the game with their rushing attack.

So why did the Pats resort to cheating? Why did they have to deflate the legendary Duke?

Why did Nixon have to bug the Democratic National Committee in 1972 at the Watergate Hotel? He was a huge favorite to win the November election in a landslide, and it’s just what he did.

Why did Barry Bonds have to take performance-enhancing drugs and supplements in the late 1990s and early 2000s? He was the best player in baseball before he took anything to boost his performance, and he was going to maintain that status for quite a while.

All three men wanted to be in control of as many factors as possible in their desire to climb the ladder. Belichick wants to win his fourth Super Bowl and keep on collecting postseason victories. Perhaps he wants to be recognized as the greatest NFL coach of all time and he wants to present as much evidence as possible.

It’s doubtful he could ever surpass Vince Lombardi no matter what he does, because Lombardi built a near-pristine 9-1 record over his career in the postseason. Belichick has a brilliant 21-9 record, but that .700 percentage doesn’t compare with Lombardi’s .900 mark.

However, you can make a great argument that Belichick deserves consideration ahead of greats like Tom Landry, Don Shula, Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh based on their achievements.

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But when you add in the unethical behavior that Belichick has been involved with – Spygate being the most nefarious – it’s hard to give him the same kind of status.

It doesn’t matter that other teams may also have under-inflated the football or taped someone else’s practice. The fact that others are doing it doesn’t mitigate the act. Belichick lowers his own status every time he cheats, a lot more than his reputation would be lowered by taking a taking a hard-earned defeat and finishing second in an important game.

In past eras, cheating was not really looked at as a sin. Many went by the belief that if “You ain’t trying if you ain’t cheatin.’”

We’ve all heard some old-school coach say that in baseball, football or basketball, and we used to make heroes of those who engaged in such behavior. Yankees Hall of Famer Whitey Ford was said to be able to make his breaking pitches sing arias as they traveled to home plate after he or catcher Elston Howard had gouged the ball with a sharpened belt buckle or shin pad.

Whitey was never anything but a golden-haired hero as he dominated in the 1950s and early ‘60s. His act would not have played so well over the past two decades.

Gaylord Perry was on both sides of the fence. His tool of choice was apparently hair gel. When he used it, or pretended to, he was able to bollix hitters and cause them to flail at his pitches.

Both men helped themselves in a less-than-exemplary manner, and both men are in the Hall of Fame. While Perry had to deal with cheating allegations, he thrived on it and used the controversy to his advantage. Ford was one of the most admired pitchers of his era.

We don’t celebrate cheaters any more, especially ill-tempered ones. Nixon had his enemies list, Bonds never got along with the media and didn’t make many friends among his peers. Belichick is known for his monotone no-information responses and his aloof demeanor.

The NFL has a problem on its hands, because one of its Super Bowl combatants and most decorated coach has apparently cheated.

It must make a statement that includes the forfeiting of draft picks and a suspension for its coach and possibly its owner.

Deflate-gate has given the NFL yet another black eye. It has received quite a few this season.

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