Super Bowl XLIX  

 

Bill Belichick's legacy: DeflateGate can't dwarf all-time greatness

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PHOENIX -- It's all rather surreal, actually.

On Saturday afternoon, Bill Belichick called a surprise press conference to discuss "DeflateGate," which has dominated the world of sports (and beyond). The day after the league provided an update on its investigation, Belichick won the presser by passionately (at least for him) explaining the process his New England Patriots undertake to get footballs ready for game day. Belichick provided great detail, extensive research and scientific analysis (though he says he is not a scientist, which is upsetting because I always thought he was). He expressed anger that this has become such a pressing topic and even offered up a bit of spectacular deadpan humor in referencing "My Cousin Vinny": "I would not say that I'm Mona Lisa Vito of the football world, as she was in the car-expertise area."

In summation, he basically said, The Patriots are a great team that didn't break any rules, and good luck with the investigation. He put the ball, so to speak, in the league's court.

It wasn't hard to recognize that Belichick was understandably perturbed by the shots fired at his team -- a team fresh off a 45-7 statement showing in the AFC Championship Game. Indianapolis couldn't tackle LeGarrette Blount. Tom Brady could've been forced to use a triangular ball, a shot put, a watermelon, he could've played with his right hand tied behind his back -- that outcome would not have been any different. The Pats straight-up bludgeoned the Colts.

But New England's dominance has been overshadowed by the overcooked outrage surrounding DeflateGate. I needed oven mitts to handle all the "hot takes" of the past few days ...

Some wanted the Patriots banned from the Super Bowl. Some wanted Belichick suspended. Others wanted to replay the playoff games against the Colts and Ravens. Belichick was called a liar. Brady was torn apart. Some were moved to tears. Some thought this was actually worse than "Bountygate," when the New Orleans Saints were found guilty of rewarding players for injuring the opposition. (Think about that for a second.) Every nightly newscast led with the story as some sort of earth-shattering cheating scandal. My wife forwarded me an email from a respected news outlet advising parents on how to talk to their kids about this distressing development.

Wait, what?

Understand, I think the Patriots should be disciplined if there's proof the footballs were intentionally deflated -- and by disciplined, I mean fined. But there has been a long-standing practice of quarterbacks getting footballs ready for game action. This isn't the 1919 Black Sox scandal!

As someone who makes a living in the court of public opinion, I always embrace topics such as this one. However, it is now THE story. And that's bothersome, considering what the real headline should be:

Bill Belichick is the greatest football coach ever.

The walk-up to Super Bowl XLIX should be a celebration of his unbelievable accomplishments over the last decade-and-a-half. Instead, Belichick is subject to ridicule across the late-night talk show circuit.

I firmly believe this story is fueled by Patriot hate. And why the venom? Because this is the greatest team run in NFL history, which is a credit to coaching.

Between the salary cap and free agency, the NFL is designed for every team to compete every year. You are set up to be, well, average. What Belichick's done since 2001 is out of this world. The wins. The year-in, year-out domination. This is his sixth Super Bowl appearance as a head coach. The Patriots have made the AFC title game in each of the last four seasons -- and nine of the last 14. They've won 12 of the last 14 division titles in the AFC East. That's historic stuff, eye-popping excellence in a league built for worst-to-first, Horatio Alger tales.

Yes, haters -- I can hear you yelling as you read this. I can see your angry comments at the bottom of this page and your fiery tweets before you even write them. You want to knock Belichick because of Spygate. Well, you do realize that Belichick has a better overall record after Spygate, right? You want to argue that Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh never faced this type of controversy. But honestly, if you cite any "gates" to knock the Pats, I feel sorry for you. You missed it all.

The critics say he's never won the big one since Spygate. First of all, give credit to the New York Giants, who beat the Pats in their two Super Bowl appearances since the initial controversy. Secondly, let's acknowledge a few things ... David Tyree had to make one of the most absurd plays in sports history for the Giants to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Then, in SB XLVI, Wes Welker had an unforgiveable drop ... just a few plays before Mario Manningham made an unbelievable catch. It's not about the Patriots barely losing these games -- it's about New England being the best team in the NFL since 2007. Did you gloss over the part where I mentioned the Pats haven't missed an AFC title game since the 2010 campaign?

And I haven't even covered the three Lombardi Trophies Belichick, Brady and the Pats have captured. That's kind of a big deal. Oh, and while I have your attention, let's not forget the two rings Belichick won as Giants defensive coordinator, with the latter triumph coming courtesy of arguably the greatest game plan ever, when Belichick's D stifled Buffalo's K-Gun offense in Super Bowl XXV. Now that is something to talk to your kids about.

The 2014 Patriots had a rocky start to the season. When a blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs dropped New England to 2-2, many felt the dynasty was over. How did Belichick's Pats respond? By running off 10 wins in the next 11 games and jelling into a juggernaut. Since mid-October, New England has been the best team in the NFL. That's coaching.

The Seahawks got to Arizona on Sunday, met the media, talked DeflateGate. And the topic is likely to cast a shadow over the rest of the week.

Want a really hot take backed up with facts? Bill Belichick deserves credit as the best coach in NFL history. No oven mitts, tears or parent handbooks required.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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