The League

Leonard Shapiro

Leonard Shapiro

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

Personal for Pats-Jets


A previous version of this post incorrectly characterized the offense for which New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick was fined by the NFL. The corrected version appears below.


Rex Ryan vs. Bill Belichick hardly seems like a match made in playoff football heaven, considering the last time these two AFC East teams met, Belichick's New England Patriots beat up on Ryan's N.Y. Jets by a 45-3 margin on a not so memorable Monday night on Dec. 6.

The Patriots, arguably the best team in the league this season, are favored by nine points Sunday, seemingly a safe bet. But nothing is safe in the playoffs, as the defending champion New Orleans Saints (of course the team I picked to win it all again) found out last weekend in Seattle, and the guess here is that the Jets are going to make it far closer than their previous engagement.

It's hard to choose anyone to root for in this most compelling matchup of the weekend. Belichick is a certified cheater, having been fined a huge chunk of change three years ago by the NFL for improperly using videotaping equipment to steal the play signals of the New York Jets' coaches during the team's season opener. Belichick should have been suspended for that transgression, maybe even for a full season, but sadly, it never happened.

This year, it's the Jets who have played fast and loose with the rules, particularly the incident that involved a team strength coach strategically (and probably purposely positioned) tripping an opposing player with an outstretched knee. The offending assistant was suspended for the rest of the year (his name wasn't Belichick, don't you know), and Ryan denied any knowledge of his plan, even if hardly anyone believes it, just as no one believed Belichick during the Spygate scandal.

This week, Ryan has once again made himself the focal point of all attention, saying that it's "personal" between him and Belichick, particularly since he was so badly out-coached in the last meeting of the teams. He took a mild shot at usually untouchable Tom Brady, who decided to attend a play -- "Lombardi" -- with his wife Saturday night instead of staying home and watching the Jets beat the Colts, though he did get back for the second half.

Peyton Manning would have watched the whole football game, Ryan opined on Monday, adding a tad more fuel to this burning rivalry.

Said Brady, "to me it's a lot more hype than substance...All the hype, build-up, but you got to go play."

Earlier this year, Brady, somewhat out of character, said he hated the Jets. This week, New York tight end Dustin Keller went on Sirius Radio and said if there was one team he hated, it was the Patriots.

That's clearly not the same sort of boring pablum coming out of the other six teams still alive for the Lombardi Trophy. I'll watch all four games, of course, but in my man cave, Jets-Patriots gets top billing for sure.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  January 11, 2011; 4:27 PM ET  | Category:  Leonard Shapiro , NFL , New England Patriots , New York Jets , Playoffs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Rodgers-Ryan must-see | Next: What's the most intriguing divisional playoff matchup?


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Certified cheater? Do your homework Shapiro, if your a hater than just say so! Belichick was fined for ignoring an NFL rule regarding where filming can take place on the field during games. Filming walkthroughs? At least stick to the known facts and keep your own biased attitude to yourself. Just admit your a Jets fan and we will all understand. Do you like feet too?

Posted by: sprats | January 11, 2011 5:48 PM

"Should have been suspended for that. Sadly it never happened". Seriously? That's where you lost me, Mr. Shapiro. Why don't you stick to reporting on cats being rescued from trees and white-collar crimes? You obviously know about as much about professional football as I know about trigonometry. The "rule" Belichick "broke", was the taping aspect, which as it turns out, the Jets current coach at that time, Eric "Man Genius", was also found to have participated in; he just blew the whistle on Belichick to get under his skin. It is actually 100% legal to watch walkthroughs, signal calling, etc. of another team, it is technically not allowed to be recorded on video, so suspending a prestieged coach like BB, for an entire season for that, would have been ludicrous, which is why it WASN'T done. I will never read another article of yours, or ever take you seriously, not that I ever did. Stick to your own forte, buddy.

Posted by: DJBT | January 11, 2011 6:24 PM

The Boston Herald put out a front page apology to the Patriots for printing the story about the allegation that they taped walkthroughs of the St. Louis Rams. They admitted that the allegations were unfounded and that they should never have printed them.

Real journalists will own up to mistakes. Sports columnists aren't real journalists, though.

Posted by: Protagonist1984 | January 11, 2011 7:18 PM


I hope Bob Kraft sues your pants off, Mr. Shapiro.

When you wrote the very same falsehood about 'taping opposing teams' walkthroughs' (that the Boston Herald publicly retracted and apologized for in 2008) last month, several commenters here pointed it out to you in no uncertain terms.

The fact that you REPEAT this libel shows conscious criminal intent.

Shame on you.

Posted by: kjgunner | January 11, 2011 11:18 PM

Hey Fatboy, get your facts straight before you write a story. And you wonder why nobody respects the Post's sports writers anymore.

Posted by: SternSkip1313 | January 12, 2011 12:45 AM

Shapiro, you are a muckraking scumbag. You write hateful, negative nonsense. Here's wishing the very worst for you in 2011 and beyond.

Posted by: tunescribe | January 12, 2011 1:09 AM

The Patriots were not fined for taping a walk through, that was an allegation made by an ex employee who later recanted. They were fined for taping the game from a standpoint that the league had previously cautioned against in a memo. The league stated that there was no evidence that the information from the tapes were used to gain an advantage within the game. I am not a paid journalist and I can state the facts more truthfully and clearly. I do not know this journalist, but suspect he has a personal agenda and/or an axe to grind. Notice I use the word 'suspect' because it is an opinion.

Posted by: jes41 | January 12, 2011 12:44 PM

You think the score will be closer than 45 to 3 Wow you must be clairvoyant or you just have a knack for making a pretty safe assumption.

Posted by: fishtales | January 12, 2011 12:44 PM

I'd say that this column qualifies as the journalistic equivalent of what the Pats ACTUALLY did and what they paid the price that Shapiro, like Belichick, persists in perpetrating a wrong even after he's been called on it. Hopefully, like Belichick, Shapiro will have a price to pay as well, like maybe getting that new job mentoring journalists of the future pulled out from under him.

Posted by: Asinistra | January 12, 2011 1:00 PM

Can non-degree students sign up to take your journalism class, Len? I'd be interested in the part of the syllabus where we review blurring the line between stretching the facts and outright fabrication to suit your column. I mean, as a columnist, when was the last time you actually did any real reporting of any kind?

Posted by: clergymen19 | January 12, 2011 1:46 PM

LOL... WRONG!! You don't even know what the Pats were fined for? They were fined for filming from the sidelines rather than from the filming booth. That's it. Sorry, but you are soooo lame. LOL!!

Posted by: RRS1 | January 12, 2011 2:13 PM

The Boston Herald recanting of the Spygate story:

Posted by: clergymen19 | January 12, 2011 2:15 PM

Even for an opinion piece this is pure rubbish. Apparently after a few comments you changed your piece but damn dude, why the moralistic anger? Do you know anything about Belichick the man? Since you purport to be a journalist maybe a reading of David Halberstam's book "The Education of a Coach" would be more useful to you, as a media person, than anything else.

Sally Jenkins writes many thought provoking articles and while I don't enjoy her perspective which is always enlightening. This piece is pure drunken sports talk radio rantings having no value. Garbage piece or writing and I hope for your sake that the personal demons clearly tormenting you are taken care of.

And heaven help any of your future students whoever find this piece who decide to allow you to educate them. But here's an idea, if you write about sports/football in the future then try remove yourself from misguided attempts as moralizing, especially on subjects you clearly know nothing about. In short, just please disappear into some dark abyss where you belong.

Posted by: Leofwine | January 12, 2011 6:34 PM

Why don't you just put a bag over your head so that you can keep your hot air to yourself? What a maroon!

Posted by: dmoore11 | January 15, 2011 12:03 PM

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