Is Bill Belichick really a Hall of Famer?

I can’t tell you how many times this week, in listening to radio, watching TV or reading print “analyses” on the upcoming Super Bowl, I have heard “Bill Belichick” and “Hall of Fame” used in sequence. It’s been a lot. The working assumption is that the Patriots’ head coach, who has been to four Super Bowls and won three of them (pending Sunday’s showdown with the New York Giants) is a lock first-ballot HoFer. After all, he has several rings and is widely regarded as the premier genius of the contemporary game.

Fair enough. But before this particular runaway bandwagon crashes the gates of Canton, I’d like to ask a question: is Belichick really a Hall of Famer?

Let’s consider a few brief facts.

  • He cheated. Yes he did. Stone cold busted. (Apologists can argue that what he was doing was no big deal if they like. But as bad as I detest the guy, I respect the hell out of his ability. He’s brilliant and even the slightest edge is something he can make hay with. Also, if it didn’t give him an advantage, why did he risk the punishment that was going to attend getting caught? Smart people simply do not bet high-risk/no-reward propositions.)
  • One of his protégés, Skippy McDaniel, replicated the same crime when he was head coach in Denver. And got busted. This doesn’t automatically reflect on Belichick, but it does suggest something systematic, something programmatic, doesn’t it? Which means we might be skeptical about any claims that what the Pats got nailed for was a one-off.
  • Most critically: Belichick has won three championships, but none of them since his cheating was exposed.

The Patriots might win Sunday, and if they do then it takes some steam out of the question I’m posing. But:

  • if the Giants win, and
  • if Belichick never wins another title (which would be consistent with what has historically characterized the careers of most NFL championship coaches more than a few years removed from Super Bowl wins), and
  • if you had a Hall of Fame vote…

…would you cast it for Bill Belichick, whose résumé would, at the time of consideration, include zero Super Bowl wins that you could assume were clean?

I don’t know. I might vote for him eventually, but not on the first ballot. And maybe never, because I’m one of these self-righteous dinosaurs who thinks that sportsmanship and ethics matter.

What do you think?

6 comments on “Is Bill Belichick really a Hall of Famer?

  1. Now i’m not Patriots fan, but stealing opposing signs is the kind of cheating that every team at a high level will attempt. It’s why there are so many decoy signs thrown out. Belicheck probably went further than most and got caught doing so.

    I guess i just find it kind of laughable that any professional sport would even attempt to paint itself as a bastion of fair play and honest competition. It’s cut-throat competition, win-at-all-costs, big-money entertainment. Trying to pretend it’s Norman Rockwell Americana for marketing purposes, and that working, only goes to prove how imbecile the customer base really is.

    • Lex: I have no real sympathy for any iteration of the “everybody does it” argument here because there is simply no evidence that anyone outside the Pats program does any such thing. Yeah, you may stand on the sidelines or sit in the booth with binoculars and try and swipe signs but that isn’t against the rules.

      None of this means that I think every other coach is Mother Teresa by a long shot. But the equivalence you’re drawing is faulty. One guy cheated and the 31 didn’t.

  2. I think you misunderstood. He cheated and he got caught. I don’t have any sympathy for him. The only difference i see between him and the other 31 is that he want further in the risk/reward equation.

    Again, it’s a cut-throat, win-at-all-costs business. That’s why players are still getting suspended (and probably more are making it through unpunished) for PED use. Some people will take the opportunity to go farther to get ahead than others. Sure, those caught get suspensions and fines so that the NFL can have its PR image cake and eat it too. But you know that if the NFL was serious about quaint concepts like fair play and whatnot, that it could have banned Belicheck from the NFL, it could ban players for positive PED tests given that the policy started in 1987.

    I’m not defending Belicheck or drawing a false equivalency. I’m saying that our (including the NFL’s) collective outrage at cheating is laughable once we start looking at the broader context.

    • This is all true. It’s just that while yeah, everybody is going to push the limits, not all of them push across the line into illegality. I’m sure more would if they thought they could get away with it, though.

      Thanks for the laugh, though. I got a fit of the giggles imagining the league banning successful players and coaches…..

  3. Yeah, I don’t see how can you just dismiss the “everybody does it” argument. He “cheated” in only the strictest sense of the word — you’re trying to act as if bribing the referees and throwing a spitball are crimes of equal magnitude. If it wasn’t understood stealing signs was not going to be an attempted part of the game, the coaches wouldn’t bother to cover their mouths when play-calling.

    Trying to reduce an obviously brilliant coach down to one negative fact is ignoring all the nuance of what people can achieve. People are more than what they are at their worst moment, Video-taping other team’s practices is one tactic in an enormous arsenal of tactics that comprises Bellichick as a coach and since you can’t quantify exactly what effect it had you reduce his whole career to the one thing.

    Barry Bonds is more than just the fact that he took PEDs, Catfish Hunter is more than the fact that he threw a spitball and Belichick is more than spygate. To deny his credentials or entry into the HOF because of one facet of his career, which at best, has a tenuous association to his winning championships is just as reactionary as the sports talk guys you listen to.

    Your whole “he hasn’t won any championships since the incident” line of reasoning is beyond specious and you know it. It’s like the guy stopped winning games altogether so you’re conveniently ignoring how many myriad factors besides whether a guy spies on another team’s practice goes into winning a Super Bowl, not the least of which is pure, dumb luck.

    Leave the Post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning to the dumbasses with the morning sports shows and just admit you don’t like the guy.

    • Yeah, I don’t see how can you just dismiss the “everybody does it” argument.

      Ummm. Because nobody else has even been accused of it (except for Skippy)?

      He “cheated” in only the strictest sense of the word

      In the same way that Al Capone only robbed banks in the strictest sense of the word. The rules rather explicitly say you may not tape opponent practices and he taped opponent practices. I have no idea where you’re going here.

      you’re trying to act as if bribing the referees and throwing a spitball are crimes of equal magnitude.

      Uhhh. What? No I’m not. I’d say bribing a ref is worse and throwing a spitball isn’t as bad. Not that I said anything about EITHER.

      If it wasn’t understood stealing signs was not going to be an attempted part of the game, the coaches wouldn’t bother to cover their mouths when play-calling.

      Completely different issue. Sneaking cameras in to secretly tape a practice is different from seeing what a guy is calling and reacting to it.

      Trying to reduce an obviously brilliant coach down to one negative fact is ignoring all the nuance of what people can achieve. People are more than what they are at their worst moment, Video-taping other team’s practices is one tactic in an enormous arsenal of tactics that comprises Bellichick as a coach and since you can’t quantify exactly what effect it had you reduce his whole career to the one thing.

      I did no such thing. I said up front that I think he’s a brilliant coach.

      I don’t have to quantify anything. Those making the case that he’s a HoFer have to make the argument. There is no presumption that you’re in – your case has to be justified. If you want to say that he should be in the HoF because he won three SBs, then it’s on you to justify the argument if those SBs are in question. Would you give him credit if it were discovered that he had bought the refs in those wins?

      I’d also argue that people are as much what they are in their worst moments and they are in their best and in everything in between.

      Barry Bonds is more than just the fact that he took PEDs, Catfish Hunter is more than the fact that he threw a spitball and Belichick is more than spygate.

      I don’t remember Catfish throwing spitballs. Can I get a source on that? As for Bonds, that’s the sad part. The high spots of his legacy are a result of the juice. Would he have earned his way into the HoF playing clean? Maybe. We’ll never know.

      To deny his credentials or entry into the HOF because of one facet of his career, which at best, has a tenuous association to his winning championships is just as reactionary as the sports talk guys you listen to.

      “One facet of his career” is a nice sidestep on your part. If he hadn’t won three SBs nobody would be saying he’s a lock for the Hall.

      Your whole “he hasn’t won any championships since the incident” line of reasoning is beyond specious and you know it.

      That isn’t a line of reasoning. It’s basic reporting. 3-0 before getting busted, 0-2 since. That’s just the math.

      It’s like the guy stopped winning games altogether so you’re conveniently ignoring how many myriad factors besides whether a guy spies on another team’s practice goes into winning a Super Bowl, not the least of which is pure, dumb luck.

      I think we both know that winning a lot of games but no titles makes you the subject of intense HoF worthiness scrutiny. When was the last time you heard anybody asserting that Marty Schottenheimer was a Hall of Fame lock?

      Leave the Post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning to the dumbasses with the morning sports shows and just admit you don’t like the guy.

      Now you’re omniscient? Well, here are the facts. I don’t like him – BECAUSE of the cheating. Before that I had nothing against him at all unless my team was trying to beat him.

      The real question is why you’re so passionately committed to a guy who’s 0-2 since getting caught cheating. You’ve always struck me as an ethical guy and I don’t quite get how you can make allowances for this kind of premeditated dishonesty.

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