Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In defense of Shula

Recently, Don Shula told the Daily News he thinks if the Patriots go 19-0 there should be an asterisk placed next to their record. That of course opened up two cans of worms - the cheating scandal of the Patriots with the NFL is desperately hoping goes away, and Shula and his cheating.

Let's go in reverse order here.

In 1969, while Shula was still coaching the then Baltimore Colts, the Miami Dolphins signed him to a contract. When this was discovered, the NFL penalized the Dolphins their first round pick in the 1971 draft. There's the full story.

Then, of course, there's the Patriots. I wish I could explain exactly what happened with the Patriots. Unfortunately, Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, has made that impossible.

Quick history lesson:

The Patriots play the Jets on opening Sunday, the same Jets whose head coach used to be a member of the Patriots staff. The Jets find someone taping defensive signals being sent in, a clear violation of NFL rules. NFL security detains the man, and confiscates the tape.

Goodell, who until this point was great at laying down the law, promised to get to the bottom of this. He was quick to act, fining Bill Belichick, the coach of the Patriots, $500,000, and fining the team $250,000 and stripping them of a draft pick.

Goodell then went on national television the following Sunday, and told Bob Costas that he had sent word to the Patriots demanding all related tapes and materials, and that this case was still open.

The following Thursday, the NFL announced the Patriots had complied with their request and all materials received had been destroyed. Case closed.


Case closed?

What was on the tapes? Don't know.

What did the Patriots send in? Don't know.

Does this date back to their first Super Bowl? Do the Patriots still have tapes? Did they make copies? Don't know.

And that was Shula's biggest point. We simply don't know.

Goodell won't answer questions, saying the case is closed. Belechick took the cowardly way out, saying before the penalty from the league, "I don't want to talk until the NFL finishes their investigation", and then refusing to "talk about the past" after the NFL levied their fines.

In my mind, and the minds of many NFL fans, questions still exist. If Goodell had handled this properly, completing a full and public investigation, there would be no question. We'd know all the facts and be able to make informed opinions. Or at least just tell us what was on the tapes that were destroyed.

Instead, we're left with uncertainty.

And asterisks, I guess.

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