During a radio interview Tuesday morning, someone asked me if the debate about New England's Spygate episode was over now that the Patriots and Jets have had their much-anticipated but largely anti-climatic Week 15 rematch?
Not quite. Spygate may not be a front-burner issue any more, but I don't think it's ready to fade into obscurity. Not as long as the Patriots' quest for a perfect season lives on, and not with the debate over
The question is this: Should New England's Belichick be honored with the coach of the year award in a season in which his team was caught violating NFL rules and was punished heavily by the league commissioner? Does his situation mirror the
Miami defensive end
The NFL Coach of the Year honor is a bit different in that it's awarded by the
"If he goes 16-0, I don't see how you don't give it to Belichick,'' said
"This is not like he's going 12-4. I don't think there's anything to grapple with. I don't understand the issue. Now, if he was caught doing something illegal in Week 16, you'd have a debate. But that is a great football team, regardless of whether they were taping in the first half of the opener at the Jets. And that is a great coach.''
Just as adamant in his opposing opinion is
"I wouldn't vote for him,'' he said. "It is the Shawne Merriman rule. If you break the rules, you're not eligible. People said everyone's doing it, yeah, well one guy got caught. And the league thought enough of it to fine him $500,000 and take away a first-round draft pick. That's pretty serious. That's a severe, severe penalty.
"To me, you can't have it both ways," Clark adds. "If Merriman can't win it, why should a coach be able to win it? Should we hold Belichick to a different standard? I don't think so. If you break the rules, there are repercussions, and this is one of the repercussions.''
Other voters acknowledged that Spygate presents them with an obstacle to casting a vote on behalf of Belichick, in turn making other candidates perhaps even more attractive to them.
"I probably won't vote for him,'' said
"The guy was punished for illegally trying to win. My feeling is, to those people who say it wasn't that big of a deal, then why did he feel the need to do it? If he could win without it, why did he feel the need to take that advantage? I've been thinking about it all along this season, and I don't know that I could vote for him.''
"To me, Spygate doesn't make it difficult,'' Marvez said. "It's not a tough call. Belichick has my vote. What he's done is unprecedented. Even if you choose to take away the first win, against the Jets, they could be 15-1. And to me they're the most fascinating team to watch in the NFL. No team changes game plans as much. No team uses their personnel in as many different ways. And no team is as smart. From a pure football standpoint, they're a joy to watch. If you could take away the smugness, they'd be even better.''
As I've written already this season, I don't think what Belichick and the Patriots were caught doing in the opener taints their perfect season in 2007 as much as it leaves open to question what they've accomplished before this year. That's the sad reality of the NFL choosing to not share anything about the results of what they found in the Patriots video library. Conspiracy theorists now have grist for their debate about those three Super Bowl victories, and whether the Patriots won with the help of some illegal means.
But I have a hard time penalizing Belichick for perfection this season, or denying his near-historic coaching performance. If the Patriots finish out 16-0, he'll get my vote, ahead of Green Bay's McCarthy. As impressive as the Packers would be if they finish 14-2, going undefeated in the tough AFC is more of an accomplishment than 14-2 in the so-so NFC. Case closed.
"He's not going to be my choice,'' Glauber said of Belichick. "He's done an unbelievable job, but with a great group of players. He's got the horses. I'll probably go with McCarthy, because he's taking that team so much further than anyone expected. And I'll think long and hard about Romeo, because I don't know anyone who thought they'd be better than four wins this year.
"I definitely could see how people would be troubled by Spygate, and I'm troubled by it. But I think I'm more troubled by what's happened in the past," said Glauber. "It's pretty obvious he's done this without any [more] illegal videotaping this year. You can't really argue with this year's record. But then there's the thing that's so hard to get around: If he's such a great coach, why did he have to go there in the first place?''
McCarthy of underdog Green Bay also has support from
"I think it's ludicrous to even be an issue,'' Prisco said. "If you're not cheating, you're not trying. But I don't think he's going to be coach of the year. I think McCarthy should be. He's got the youngest team in the league. That gets lost a little because he's got the old guy [
"But with Belichick, even if you take away the opener, he still would be a great candidate for coach of the year at 15-1. Now, if you want to go back and talk about his Super Bowl wins, that's another matter. But there's no asterisk on their season. None. Sorry,