Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sports Mythbustin', Episode 1: The Patriots' Offense Went into the Toilet After Spygate

Oh, you Patriot haters. How you live to bash Belichick and Brady. When you heard about that nasty little videotaping incident at the Meadowlands vs. the Jets in 2007, it must've been just like Christmas morning!

At some point during the seven seasons since that day in New Jersey, some BillBasher(s) have struck upon a series of cute soundbites that the rest of you have picked up on and parroted endlessly:



And so on. You get the idea.

Quite predictably, although 500 million of you have dutifully repeated these "stats", exactly NONE of you have thought to question the numbers one bit. And why would you? You hate the New England Patriots, you'll take any pathetic excuse for a criticism of them, and this 0-2 crap sounds pretty good.

Before we get to the fun part, let's review some basic facts. I'm quite sure that most of you can't explain what Spygate actually is, except that "The Patriots cheeeeeeeeea-ted!" Some of you probably think that Bill Belichick slapped on a ski mask, broke into Eric Mangini's hotel room and stole his playbook while he was busy watching Nympho Nurses 14. So a few points:

  1. The NFL prohibits videotaping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals during a game. A memo was sent out to all teams on September 6, 2006, clarifying this rule. Bill Belichick, thinking he had found some fine print in another section of the rulebook that permitted him to continue videotaping, went right on doing so, to his unending detriment. 
  2. The only thing Belichick was doing--and the only thing anyone has accused him of--is recording his opponents' defensive signals. The idea is, if a defense is obtuse enough not to change their signals frequently, the offense could analyze the videotape later, and eventually figure out that, for example, when the defensive coach puts his right hand on his head, the defense will be a cover-2. With this information in hand, the offense could call a certain play that works well against a cover-2. 
  3. This videotaped "signal stealing" has been going on since the 1980s, and coaches wised up to it long ago. Most of them change their defensive signals often, sometimes even during a game, so that the information is usually not too useful. So why did Bill do it? Presumably, he did so on the off chance that a team wouldn't change their signals, and he'd get lucky enough to get a big gainer or two. Every little bit helps, but no coach or NFL insider with any amount of experience pretends that videotaping provides a significant advantage. However, I understand that you're skeptical, and I need to prove my case.

So, for those of you who actually have a cluster of functioning brain cells, what your argument is saying, whether you understand it or not, is this:

A.    After the Patriots got caught videotaping in week 1 of 2007, they were no longer able to steal their opponents' defensive signals;
B.    Because they were no longer able to steal their opponents' defensive signals, their offense was less productive;
C.    Because their offense was less productive, they lost more games, including Super Bowls.

Read this next part carefully, because it's important.

The only way for your theory to work, the only way you can smear the Patriots with the Spygate slime that you so desperately want to smother them with, is if you can prove item B above. If the videotaping was helping the Patriots, if it was the crucial tool you say it was, then there should be a sharp decline in the team's offensive numbers after the 2006 season, and this dropoff ought to be as obvious as Kim Kardashian's caboose. If there was no dropoff, then the videotaping provided no significant advantage, and this whole thing is equivalent to running a yellow light.

If, for example, we were to calculate the Patriots' offensive production before and after Spygate, we ought to see huge decreases in all the major offensive categories. There should be negative numbers all over the place. Right?


Oops. Looks like your theory just went up in a haze of Cheech and Chong smoke!

How do you like that? Not only did the Patriots' offensive numbers not go down after Spygate; they actually went up! Shutting off those videocameras seems to have had a real positive impact on the team's numbers. Funny, right?

"But what about the Won-Lost records?" You are asking. "What about the Super Bowls?"

Sigh. As Frank Rizzo once said, "Do you have corn cobs between your ears?" 

Go back and review the "Read this next part carefully" section above. I'll wait.

Following me now?

Yes, I'm aware that the Patriots under Belichick lost zero playoff games before Spygate, and eight afterwards. That included two Super Bowls. But mere losses don't prove your theory. Teams lose for all sorts of reasons. There are numerous reasons why the Patriots lost the games they did, but "Dropoff in offensive production" is not one of them; except for minuscule decreases in postseason passer rating and completion percentage, New England's offense actually improved after Spygate! So, if you're going to keep harping on this crap, you're now going to have to explain to the world how it could be that stopping the videotaping of opponents' defensive signals somehow helped the offense--and simultaneously made the New England Patriots lose games. Good luck. 

This whole episode is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America today, not just in football, but in life overall. We live in the Age of Information, an unprecedented time in which you can look up most anything you want without even getting out of bed, and most of you can't even be bothered to do that. You'd rather log on to Facebook or Twitter, copying and pasting words that sound good, like the mindless, cackling automatons that you are.

I weep for the future.

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