(Photos courtesy of the New England Patriots)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
I don’t know if the New England Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX. But I know this: They better. No, they must.
If they hope to salvage what’s left of their reputation, they must do what they haven’t since the 2004 season and win a Super Bowl. Otherwise … well, otherwise they’re viewed as cheaters now and forever. Their legacy is tarnished, their reputation is damaged and their record is asterisked.
End of story.
No, “Deflategate” didn’t do this – not in and of itself it didn’t. The Patriots did.
“Deflategate” is simply a symptom of a bigger problem, and the problem is that no one trusts these guys. And why should they? This latest embarrassment is just another in a series of episodes that portray the Patriots as a win-at-any-cost franchise.
They were fined for “Spygate” and docked draft picks. They were accused of taping a pre-game walk through prior to Super Bowl XXXVI. They were questioned by Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, who charged them with using “deceptive” and “illegal” tactics in his playoff loss to New England.
Now this, and enough already.
People in and around Boston believe the rest of the country loathes the Patriots because they win. The rest of the country, however, doesn’t loathe Seattle or Green Bay or Pittsburgh or the New York Giants … all of whom won recent Super Bowls. It deplores the Patriots because it doesn’t trust them and is beginning to wonder if they can win without cheating.
Well, they’re on the clock.
They ran off 17 straight victories immediately after “Spygate.” They outscored Indianapolis 28-0 in the second half of last weekend’s conference championship game – or after deflated footballs were removed. But they haven’t won a Super Bowl nearly a decade, and cynics are beginning to connect the dots … and let’s be honest. You can’t blame them.
New England keeps getting dragged before the league office for playing outside the rules – with Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy this week saying that this is the tipping point; that no matter what you think of “Deflategate” it finished them in the eyes of the country. He suggests that it damaged their legacy so completely that it doesn’t matter what happens in Super Bowl XLIX; the New England Patriots will be known as much for cheating as they are for winning.
Maybe. But, at this juncture, there’s only one way to convince people you can win without bending the rules … and that’s to win without bending the rules.
So do it. Do what you did in 2007, and what the New England Patriots did then was respond with a vengeance. Turned in by the New York Jets for illegal videotaping, they won their next seven games by no fewer than 17 points – scoring at least 32 in each game and rolling up 52 on Washington. They assumed an “us-against-the-world” mantra, and it worked … until Super Bowl XLII, that is.
Well, it’s time to assume that mantra again. Because now, more than ever, New England needs a Lombardi Trophy to prove the critics wrong and recoup what’s left of a crippled reputation.
Maybe Shaughnessy is right; maybe that conversation is over, and the Patriots are portrayed forever as cheaters, winning only when they weren’t caught. All I know is what I heard from the Patriots this week, and what I heard was unconvincing. So make your case on the field, people. Prove you’re not what you seem, and I can think of only one way.
Just win, baby.
“Us-against-the-world? Absolutely, they’ll tap into that for whatever value there is,” said former coach Brian Billick, now an NFL Network analyst and a Super Bowl winning coach, “Going into next week … after all this … they better win. Beyond the culpability of this, the fact remains they haven’t won a Super Bowl since ‘Spygate.’
“So, will they rally around it? Yeah, they will. But now it’s: You sons-of-guns better win. If they don’t, will it stop Belichick and Brady from being slam-dunks for the Hall? No. But will it put an asterisk over Belichick? Absolutely. But he won’t care.”
Maybe not. But too many others will.