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?