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Keep the mic away

Pat Stynes | Thursday, November 8, 2007

Don Shula, the famous NFL coach who led the 1972 Miami Dolphins to a perfect, undefeated season (culminating in a Super Bowl win) is the winningest head coach in the history of football. He is a tremendous coach, a font of football wisdom and, I am sure, a nice man.

After his coaching career, he opened a line of steakhouses and appeared on various commercials, and was successful in each endeavor.

However recently Coach Shula decided to throw opinion into the public forum of sports journalism, commenting on the Patriots’ run toward an undefeated season and their camera-spying incident earlier this year.

“The Spygate thing has diminished what they’ve accomplished. You would hate to have that attached to your accomplishments. They’ve got it,” Shula said. “Belichick was fined $500,000, the team was fined $250,00 and they lost a first-round draft choice. That tells you the seriousness or significance of what they found.”

I find Shula’s opinion absolutely preposterous, and it almost sounds like whining.

As a native New Yorker, I can certain tell you that I hate Boston sports as much as the next guy. However, I have always believed you have to give credit where credit is due. The Patriots are simply playing at a level beyond anyone in the NFL this year, murdering mediocre opponents and knocking off good ones.

Yet despite the fact that not only is stealing signals common in the NFL (the Patriots are just the first to get caught), but it is clear when looking at the quality of the Jets and the Patriots that the signal-filming was not needed.

“I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds’ home run record,” Shula continued. “I guess it will be noted that the Patriots were fined, and a No.1 draft choice was taken away during that year of accomplishment.”

I won’t even address the reference to Bonds, as it is so farfetched it is not even worth discussing.

What got me thinking though, is the fact that the 1972 Miami Dolphins themselves are not necessarily undeserving of an asterisk.

For one, they played a 14 game regular season – should we asterisk their team now? In looking at their schedule, according to NFL.com, the Dolphins did not beat a single playoff team, and the best record of a team they played was 8-6. So should we asterisk the 1972 season saying that their strength of schedule was so laughable the perfect season was too easy?

Let’s get serious: stealing signals is common in every single sport, Belichick is no innovator when it comes to this. Also, the Patriots look like a varsity team playing the freshman B-squad most of the games this year. If they are able to run the table this year, the Patriots deserve the un-tarnished, un-asterisked record in Canton.