Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Patriots Post-Super Bowl Wrap-up (2/20/2008)

So there are a few lingering issues with the Patriots, and I just wanted to wrap them up before moving on to a breakdown of what they need this off-season. A lot of this is rant-worthy post-Super Bowl crapola being spit out by national pundits, who seem to think that their belief is stronger than reality.

PUNDIT BS #1: Eli Manning came of age during his final touchdown drive in the Super Bowl

The truth is that Eli Manning was closer to imploding than he was leading his team to victory at the end of the Super Bowl. He threw at least three passes that should have been intercepted. In fact, if Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison, or Brandon Meriweather makes a catch he should have made, Eli would be labeled a goat who crumbled under pressure and blew his team's stellar defensive effort with ill-timed interceptions.

And if you think this is sour grapes, think again. I give Eli's brother, Peyton, all the credit in the world for leading his team to a winning score in the 2006 AFC Championship game against the Patriots. On that drive, Peyton took care of the ball, never putting it in the hands of defenders as Eli did. It was just Peyton making one good play after another, and all of that good added up to a great drive.

Oh, and for those who want to compare Eli to Tom Brady in his first Super Bowl, Brady did the same thing that year that Peyton did in 2006 -- took care of the ball and got his team in position to win. If he'd "pulled an Eli" in that game, the Patriots would likely have lost to the Rams and who knows where we'd be now.

PUNDIT BS #2: Super Bowl XLII was one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports

It wasn't even one of the greatest Super Bowl upsets. Upsets are largely about perception, because they happen when our expectations are violated by a big favorite who loses -- and of course, the favorite is only in that position because we think that favorite should win big. My measuring stick for a huge upset is how many people believed the underdog could win the game, and what percentage chance they give the underdog to pull off the upset. By those two measures, most everyone thought the Giants could win the game, and most gave them a 20- to 30-percent chance to do it. So while it was an upset, it wasn't an historic upset. After all, the Patriots won the regular-season meeting by a mere three points, so how much of an upset could it have been?

To further my point, contrast the expectations of this year’s Super Bowl with those of the Jets victory in Super Bowl III and the Patriots win in Super Bowl XXXVI. In both of those other cases, virtually no one outside of teams' fans gave them any chance of winning. The Jets were from the AFC, which in 1969 was considered an inferior league to the NFL. And remember that the Rams entered Super Bowl XXXVI with the league's #1 offense and #1 defense, and they were supposed to bury the Patriots to cement their dynasty.

I think the Giants win was about on par with the Raiders 38-9 win over Washington in Super Bowl XVIII. Washington had rolled over their playoff competition, but in the regular season, they barely beat the Raiders (by just two points) -- and the Raiders were missing both of their starting cornerbacks in that game. So even though most people thought Washington would win, they gave the Raiders a fighting chance because the earlier contest was so close. Sound familiar?

PUNDIT BS #3: Super Bowl XLII was the greatest Super Bowl ever played

Not even close. In the immediate rush (and New York press’ saturation-coverage), it's fashionable to crown this the greatest Super Bowl ever. But in a few years, we'll all think that was silly. Two scores in the first 15:05, and then lots of offensive ineptitude for more than 30 minutes, followed by three scores in the final 11 minutes. These games aren't all about offense, but no big special teams plays and a bunch of bad play-calling and bad adjustments by both teams doom this one to also-ran status.

Sure, the New York press will keep it alive as one of their greatest memories, and Giants fans will treasure it forever. But it'll never match the back-and-forth nature of the Broncos win over Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII or the Giants nail-biter over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV ("Norwood's kick is... WIDE RIGHT!").

PUNDIT BS #4: Patriots dynasty was over after February 2005

You may or may not have heard this, but some in the corps of press experts are claiming that the Patriots dynasty ended with their three-point win over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. Problem is, there's no way of knowing that for a while. Dynasties can't be judged while they are in progress; it always takes a few years to put a great team in perspective. The Dallas Cowboys dynasty ended with their 1995 Super Bowl victory, but no one said it was over until they finished 5-11 in 2000 and Troy Aikman retired. And the San Francisco 49ers dynasty lasted from 1981 - 1994, but it wasn't declared over until Steve Young retired and the team went 4-12 in 1999. (BTW, notice a pattern here? Dynasties seem to end when the quarterback retires and the team starts losing.)

The Patriots won three championships in four years. And since then, they've won the division crown and at least one playoff game every year, once losing by four points in the AFC Championship game and once losing by three points in the Super Bowl. Sure, if the Pats never win another Super Bowl under Belichick and/or Brady, history will say their dynasty ended with their Super Bowl victory over the Eagles. But let's not jump to conclusions. After all, the Las Vegas wiseguys have installed them as the odds-on favorites to win next year's Super Bowl.

PUNDIT BS #5: The Patriots loss in Super Bowl XLII is a worse choke than the Yankees loss to the 2004 Red Sox

This idiotic idea has been proposed by New Yorkers who are anxious to remove the “Greatest Chokers of All Time” from their beloved Yankees. But it’s easy enough to dispel.

The Patriots lost an NFL Championship to a Giants team that they'd barely beaten in the regular season, something done by over a dozen teams in NFL history. The 2004 Yankees lost a 3-0 lead in a 7-game series, something that hadn't been done in 133 years -- that's right, 133 YEARS!!! -- of professional baseball. The Yankees collapse will always be in a category by itself; because it will probably be another 133 years before we see it again. We might see the same Super Bowl scenario next frickin' year.

Sorry, New Yorkers, but your 2004 Yankees remain in a category all by themselves.

SEMI-FINAL word on the Son of Spygate controversy

Son of Spygate is the allegation, by former Patriots employee Matt Walsh, that the Patriots videotaped the Rams walk-through the Friday before playing them in Super Bowl XXXVI. Belichick and Scott Pioli (Vice President - Player Personnel) both vehemently denied the allegation, with BB going so far as to say that all his years of coaching, he'd never been on a staff that did anything like that.

Here's my semi-final words on that: Belichick and Pioli are telling the truth, take it to the bank. How can I be so sure? Think about it; if there was any chance such a videotape existed, would these guys have come out with such unequivocal statements? I don’t think so. In fact, if they thought there might be a videotape, they would almost certainly leave themselves some wiggle room. The two of them must be sure that either the videotape doesn't exist or that if it does exist, it was the work of a rogue employee and that BB never saw or used the tape. Otherwise, they will end up suspended and perhaps fired for lying.

Unlike what some of the pundits have said, this isn't at all like Roger Clemens' steadfast denials about HGH or steriods. The reason is, there is almost no chance at all that there will be videotape evidence proving Clemens did drugs, so he is just about guaranteed to end up in a "he said, he said" situation with his accusers. Given the possibility of videotape evidence, there just isn't any way the Patriots would make absolute statements.

That’s about all for now, folks. I’ll be back next week with an update on what the Patriots need to do this off-season to get back in position for a Super Bowl run.

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 0-0!

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