Bill Belichick has received a good deal of well-deserved criticism for his role in Spygate. As the head coach of the New England Patriots there is little doubt that he was the mastermind behind the cheating scandal, and not only deserves the ire of fans across the league but also would probably have deserved a ban from the NFL under any other commissioner. Time apparently is the great physician, because once again we are hearing the sportswriters and television talking heads sing his praises and show short term memory loss in regards to actions that put the integrity of the NFL at stake.© 2010 Steelers Universe
Yet, with all the back and forth of whether Belichick is a genius or a cheater, one thing has always amazed me. How is it that the quarterback of the asterisk-marked Patriots has eluded criticism? For seven years Tom Brady listened to a sideline coach in his helmet mike, who would tell him what the next defensive play would be. For seven years he padded his stats and his trophy case with the ill-gotten rewards of Spygate. How is it that fans do not see Brady as being complicit in cheating the NFL? Does anyone really think that the New England quarterback is so naïve that he never once questioned just how his coaches correctly predicted seven years worth of defensive plays? Brady either thought his coaches were psychic or he is a cheater.
Have no doubt about it. Belichick is the equivalent of the high school mastermind who talked someone into stealing the test answers. Those that taped the signals are the high school thieves. Brady is the kid who paid for the answers. That makes him a cheater. A cheater who padded his test score without truly earning his grade.
How much did cheating help the Patriots? Well, before Belichick started cheating, he was a coach with a winning percentage under 50%. After he started cheating he looked like a genius. He was caught cheating during the 2007 season and then failed to win a playoff game in 2008 and 2009. Don’t get me wrong, the Patriots are a very good team and Brady is a very good quarterback. Keep in mind, however, that the Patriots success (from cheating) drew talented players from across the league who wanted to be a part of the Patriots' good fortune. This helped to make them the team they are today and the influx of talent hasn’t hurt Brady’s stats. Do you really think that Randy Moss and Wes Welker would have been interested in playing for a new England team that was 5-11 for the last two or three years? Absolutely not, they were looking for a ring. Brady, to this day, has the advantage of players like Wes Walker who signed to play with a “winner.”
What would Brady be without seven years of cheating? Historically, I think that Brady would have been regarded as a very good quarterback, but just how good? The question can probably never be answered because we have so few years of his career that are not stained by the controversy, but let’s take a stab at it. After a little research, I think that Brady probably compares most favorably to the Buffalo Bills' Jim Kelly.
Great QBs play big in BIG games, and no game is bigger than the Super Bowl. Looking at the years in which both players led their teams to the championship game, its obvious that both put up great numbers. Brady had a QB rating of 88.3 and a completion rate of 61.6% in those three years he hefted the Lombardi. Jim Kelly had a QB rating of 91.6 and a completion rate of 61.8% over the course of his Super Bowl appearances.
Incredible numbers by very good QBs.
One of the major differences, of course, is that Kelly, after 4 consecutive Super Bowl appearances, never brought home a trophy. That fact does not take away from his ability or his accomplishments, even though some people look at Super Bowl wins as the ultimate litmus test. Brady has brought home three championship trophies, but all three during the Spygate era.
Another difference, however, is that Kelly earned his stats without the benefit of stolen signals. Brady’s stats will be marred with an asterisk that will remind everyone that at least some of his achievements were the result of controversy. Brady’s ability and accomplishments will be looked at through the veil of Belichick’s decision to cheat.
In reality, results that are based on honesty, hard work, and sportsmanship are the real litmus test of champions.