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Leonard Shapiro
Columnist

Leonard Shapiro

Washington Post sports reporter, editor and columnist who has served on the NFL HOF Selection Committee.

Doing the right thing

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It would be tempting to speculate that the New England Patriots have become the dominant team in the AFC because Bill Belichick, don't bless his cheatin' heart, has found another way aside from taping opponents' defensive signals to get an edge on every team the Pats have pounded in recent weeks.

Is there a Patriots spy on a nearby rooftop overlooking a rival team's practice facility peering down with long range binoculars at daily workouts? Has he planted listening devices in opponents meeting rooms? Has he chartered drone fly-bys to photograph formations from high above?

Probably not, but after the insidious Spygate videotaping scandal of 2007, you really can't ever take anything for granted with the Patriots, even if they do have the best coach in the business programming the best quarterback in the league at the moment, when everything seems to be going their way.

Perhaps Belichick really is doing the best job of his career, with no shenanigans necessary, particularly when you consider the make-up of the Patriots, the youngest team he's fielded in the last dozen years. Consider, for example, that the Patriots are starting four or five rookies every week, and that 16 players on their roster went undrafted out of college. As one Boston columnist put it recently, they're doing it with kids and castoffs, in a year when their defense also has been ranked near the bottom of the league in yards allowed and points scored by opposing offenses.

Then again, after back-to-back blowout victories over a pair of nine-wins teams -- the Jets and Bears -- they're obviously doing something right. For one, they haven't had a single turnover in their last five games, an astounding number. Brady has thrown 17 touchdown passes since his last interception. And since their now inexplicable loss to the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 7, they are averaging 39 points a game, and allowing the opposition only 17.6 points.

"This team is getting better," CBS analyst Phil Simms gushed midway through the impressive conquest of the Bears. Here's the bad news for the rest of the league. Since Brady and Belichick have teamed up in 2001, their winning percentage has been .806 after Thanksgiving, an astounding rate of success.

Is this a better team than the 18-1 Patriots of 2007, only a stunning Super Bowl loss to the Giants preventing a perfect season? That's a question that will only be answered if the Patriots win it all in Dallas in February.

But the way this team has been put together and the way this team plays together, seems to be a textbook example of doing the right thing. Let's just use one example. Consider how Mike Shanahan dealt with the Albert Haynesworth situation, drawing it out into a season-long debilitating distraction. And then look at how Belichick dealt with his own problem Pro Bowl child, Randy Moss, who was gone in a New England second when it became apparent early on that his presence was a cancer on the team.

Here's hoping that Belichick has been doing all of this on the up and up, and is still eminently worthy of a first ballot induction into the Hall of Fame, despite that Hall of Shame performance three years ago.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  December 14, 2010; 4:40 PM ET  | Category:  AFC , Leonard Shapiro , NFC , New England Patriots , Tom Brady Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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First of all, the Bronco's taped Saturday walkthroughs, the Patriots taped defensive signals.

The Patriots also went 18-1 in 2007 not 16-1 since you're obviously counting playoff games (hence the 1).

Finally, it's obvious to me that the Patriots will never be able to win anything without being accused of cheating. Bringing up a 3 year old story of the 1 team that caught taping signals that any coach, fan or couch potato could clearly see is a lame attempt to discredit the hard work those young players have put in this year. Spygate is over, the Patriot's are still winning, next story please.

Posted by: ROggYns | December 14, 2010 5:44 PM

Shapiro is such a piece of junk. He wants to cast aspersions at Belichick, finding it impossible to move on. Yet, this is the guy who wrote the most racially insensitive piece in the history of the newspaper within hours of Sean Taylor's passing. We're supposed to forget Shapiro's sins, yet immortalize Belichick's.

What slime this guy is!

Posted by: PS7900 | December 14, 2010 6:21 PM

Taring THIS Patriots team with spygate is no less nonsensical than giving championship rings to this year's Giants team because the franchise won the super bowl three years ago.

I though this piece was about the 2010 season. You disappointed me.

Posted by: Ecksley | December 14, 2010 7:05 PM

Oh My God....what an awful, stupid article. On so many levels -- from Cowher's comments that the Spygate claims were absurd to Peter King's column yesterday that Belichick and Patriots are actually doing far BETTER post-spygate than before -- this story has been just debunked except for grassy knollers and Jets' Fans.

Hey, Lenny, the Patriots have 8 picks in the first 4 rounds of next year's draft.

Might want to check around at all the 7-11s to see if Bill stole them or something.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Loser.

Posted by: GutlessAmerica | December 14, 2010 7:06 PM

Franky, Mr. Shapiro, if you don't have particular evidence that the Patriots are "spying" on opponents, then I wonder if you're not flirting with libel and slander. I wonder how "innuendo" is treated in these sorts of cases.

Does the Post regularly accuse people of crimes that have not, to anyone's knowledge, been committed, simply due to an individual's past indiscretions?

But of course, I'm sure you're not worried. Lord knows the Post's editorial staff and legal counsel review and approve this garbage. And the Patriots as an organization are probably too busy and focused trying to win than to bother with you. Too bad. You'd deserve the headache.

Posted by: denisekulawik | December 14, 2010 7:15 PM

It's a shame that such a great team and coach can be maligned because of possible indescretions in the past. This team is doing it the way all teams should. Hard work, great system (and belief in the system), and great coaching produces a winnig formula in any field of endeavor. Throwing money at players doesn't work. The Yankees prove it all the time. Coach Belichick has proven through the years to be an exceptional judge of talent and the best coach to get the most out of that talent. Give him the respct he deserves for the job he has done. Even if they don't win another game this year, he has accomplished more with less than many other teams. His players play for him and themselves. There is no "I" in this group of special people.

Posted by: roverboy | December 14, 2010 7:32 PM

Not much to talk about with the Washington DC team, is there? :-)

Posted by: schafer-family | December 14, 2010 8:23 PM

Wow.

This is lazy journalism.

Like a Tourrette's Syndrome sufferer, Mr. Shapiro is just going to yelp "Spygate" as his explanation for why the New England Patriots are schooling the NFL (and particular, profligately poorly run franchises such as Danny Snyder's) in how to excel?

If that is what is going to help our battered self-esteem, I want no part in it.

At least, Shanny is a step in the right direction. Will he make it? I don't know. But delusional writing like this should be hidden away from Redskins personnel.

Posted by: kjgunner | December 14, 2010 9:40 PM

By the way, Mr. Shapiro, the Patriots were penalized for taping defensive coach's signals in public during games.

NOT secretly taping walkthroughs.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald reported that incorrect accusation the night before SB 42 - - and had to get on his hands and knees and write an apology two months later - - in order for him and his newspaper to avoid a multi-million dollar libel suit.

You just repeated the already discredited libel in your first paragraph.

You may want to retain counsel.

Posted by: kjgunner | December 14, 2010 10:13 PM

I am in fact, a Patriots spy and I videotape more than 100 hours of opponents every week for Coach Belichik.
Our team's success has nothing to do with coaching. Nothing.
The fact that this nation manufactures thousands of super-highly trained people at every football team each year, and a team that demands some unknown do their job right or be immediately replaced will get the highest performance week after week (while teams that hire last year's superstars get second-tier performance at best), also -- nothing to do with our success.

Posted by: kls1 | December 14, 2010 10:45 PM

Horrible, terrible, LIBELOUS GARBAGE! Shapiro, if you genuinely are getting paid for writing this mindless muckraking drivel, it's a crime against the journalistic profession. You are pathetic. Your thought process is below third-grade level, your writing isn't much better. That you have such a lofty forum for spewing such nonsense is utterly incomprehensible. I'd love to see your fat pompous ass sued.

Posted by: tunescribe | December 15, 2010 12:37 AM

The Patriots went 18-1 that year. If you don't want to count the playoff wins, they went 16-0.
You forgot to mention how this year we've seen Belichick coaching it up while in the middle of the game. I think it was during the Miami game on 10/04/10. He was in totally coaching them up the entire game. He's been back there doing so ever since and they've been improving their only weakness since then.
I rarely see assistant coaches doing this and I NEVER have witnessed a head coach do that. Maybe that's why he doesn't need an offensive or defensive coordinator this year.
Hope the Redskins start copying that!

Posted by: luvdc808 | December 15, 2010 1:26 PM

Give it a rest, Shapiro. Every sports franchise in North America is trying to steal signals from their opponents. The Patriots were singled out because they had 2 #1 draft picks the following year. Imagine what the Patriots powerhouse would have done in upgrading at 2 positions.
As far as Shanahan is concerned, Albert Haynesworth has been a blessing. After every 'Skins blowout loss, some new Albert "crisis" has emerged on the horizon. And you dupes in the media have fallen for it every time. The 'Skins 31-7 disaster was relegated to the back pages in the wake of the latest Haynesworth "story". Well Albert is gone now so there's no one to hide behind/blame for the latest coaching debacle. When Shanahan pulls McNothing in favor of GrossMan(Wait! Was it Mike or was it Kyle?
Is it because Donovan is winded or because he's not smart enough to grasp the two minute offense?) The "insiders" fell for the crap that the "football people" passed out. Snyder might as well get rid of Shanahan and Allen and just run the show himself.

Posted by: markappraiser1 | December 15, 2010 8:50 PM

Give it a rest, Shapiro. Every sports franchise in North America is trying to steal signals from their opponents. The Patriots were singled out because they had 2 #1 draft picks the following year. Imagine what the Patriots powerhouse would have done in upgrading at 2 positions.
As far as Shanahan is concerned, Albert Haynesworth has been a blessing. After every 'Skins blowout loss, some new Albert "crisis" has emerged on the horizon. And you dupes in the media have fallen for it every time. The 'Skins 31-7 disaster was relegated to the back pages in the wake of the latest Haynesworth "story". Well Albert is gone now so there's no one to hide behind/blame for the latest coaching debacle. When Shanahan pulls McNothing in favor of GrossMan(Wait! Was it Mike or was it Kyle?
Is it because Donovan is winded or because he's not smart enough to grasp the two minute offense?) The "insiders" fell for the crap that the "football people" passed out. Snyder might as well get rid of Shanahan and Allen and just run the show himself.

Posted by: markappraiser1 | December 15, 2010 8:50 PM

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