This week’s Monday Night Football game between the Patriots and Jets was of particular interest to me. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I am a New Yorker in Massachusetts. It did have a little to do with the outcome of the final fantasy football match-up of the regular season.
I was mostly interested in last night’s game between the Patriots and Jets, both tied with 9-2 records coming into this week, because of a column in The New York Times written by William C. Rhoden. In the column, “The Day The Patriot’s Empire Began To Crumble,” Rhoden argued that following the Spygate Scandal of 2007, where the Patriots were caught filming other teams’ defensive signals, the Bill Belichick led Pats had begun a downward slide. He went on to claim that the Jets had usurped the Patriots as tops in the AFC.
The column was published on the Times site yesterday, before the Patriots thoroughly dominated the Jets to the tune of 45 to 3. I wanted to post about the column, because I believed it came nowhere close to proving the demise of the Patriots “empire.” If anything, the Patriots have demonstrated resilience this season, even before last night’s results.
But it wasn’t to be. Following the shellacking the Patriots administered to Rex Ryan’s team, the title was scrubbed from the website and there is no record of the initial column. MSNBC’s Morning Joe highlighted this unusual event in their broadcast today.
The best part about all this is that a column by Rhoden still appeared in today’s paper. To anybody who had caught the previous day’s incarnation, it was clear Rhoden had done a quick post-game revision based on the results. (Current article can be found here).
Just a few hours after Spygate was the beginning of the end for the Patriots, Rhoden’s thesis had changed. Spygate had now altered what it meant to be successful for the Patriots. The basis for his argument comes from that fact that the Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since Spygate came to light.
It does make a nice story. But reality trips up Rhoden’s narrative. The Jets reported the allegation that Patriots were taping their defensive signals to the NFL after their Week 1 match-up in 2007. That was the year the Patriots went 18 and 1. Their only loss came in the Super Bowl. The Giants won by three points and their game winning drive was helped out by a miraculous third down catch by David Tyree.
The following year, Tom Brady was knocked out for the season in Week 1. Back-up QB Matt Cassel led the team to an 11-5 record, but they didn’t make the playoffs. Trusty Wikipedia points out that this was the first time an 11-5 team missed the playoffs since the 1985 Denver Broncos. Last year, the Patriots finished 10-6 and got demolished at home in the first round against the Baltimore Ravens. Now they are 10-2 and have sole position of first place in the AFC East.
Spygate shouldn’t be ignored when talking about the Patriots. But it does not redefine success for the team or for Belichick, and it definitely does not portend to the
downfall of New England as an AFC power.
Ironically, there is a correction notice at the bottom of the on-line version of Rhoden’s column . It notes a correction made to the number of Super Bowl rings Belichick has as a coach. It should have noted how dramatically the article was changed.
Oh, and if you are need of a good laugh, please check out the Morning Joe link. The second video available is of Fabio making a fool of himself. Is FNC so desperate for critics of President Obama that they will take a romance novel cover model? Think of the pigeons, Ailes!