That's a quote that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used when his character, one Sherlock Holmes, engaged in a mystery.
In this instance, I'm using to describe the mystery that is Bellicheat's Patriots. Here's a summary of what we knew up to a few weeks ago:
His teams are perennially good. To some degree, it can be explained away. But, the NFL is very cyclical, and one team does not stay at the top of the heap for more than a couple of years before they come crashing back down. That was true in the early days, and is even more true now in the era of free agency and salary caps.
The NFL is aware that Billy boy has a tendency to bend the rules as far as he can. They made specific rule changes to try and counteract that, and they sent notices about non-rule-related items to him in an effort to stop those as well (the videotaping comes under this)
He was caught videotaping, and then was trying to tell everyone he didn't know better.
He was asked to turn over all "materials" to the NFL, which were summarily destroyed
He was fined and the Patriots were fined.
And to most its "over"
But, since then, more has happened:
Bellicheat has shown a reckless disregard for good sportsmanship. He has intentionally rubbed it in the noses of other coaches and other teams (some have argued that the NFL is fair and balanced and that if a team *is* that much better, there's nothing wrong with running up the score; they are WRONG and because good sportsmanship relies on you slowing down when you have a big lead)
There have been several lawsuits filed about the videotaping "scandal"...while the NFL will not comment on the materials they destroyed, the concept of discovery in a legal action will reveal all. The suits are unlikely to win, but they present an opportunity to ask questions that need to be answered.
The Patriots players have echoed the attitude of their coach and whined that they get no respect in spite of their record.
...and here's what I take away from all of it. The NFL has been riding high for a long, long time as "king sport." They haven't had any sort of a scandal in many years, while all of the other major sports have. I believe they are on the precipice of a very big scandal that will bring the sport crashing down to earth.
But, the NFL doesn't want that to happen. Not with the overseas expansion plans. Not with NFL Sunday ticket contract coming up for renewal next year. Not with their fight with Comcast to charge more for their product (NFL Network). You can't have a scandal.
I believe the NFL is going to try and continue to sweep this under the rug. I believe that they have already made an agreement with Bellicheat to step down at season's end, and walk away from the team and the sport. And in return, the NFL gets to avoid the scandal, and no one looks bad. And I believe the Billy boy's attitude of poor sportsmanship is the last hurrah if you will. He's being a bad sport to thumb his nose at the league.
But....the lawsuits will prove pesky. The NFL will fight them at every turn, and try to get them dismissed. It may take a few years, but I suspect they will ultimately show some of the truth.
And I have to believe that the truth is ugly. Why else would the NFL just destroy "evidence" of any kind?
Who knows? Congress may get involved again, and threaten the anti-trust status if it turns a certain way.
So, just what is the truth? I can only speculate. My completely unsubstantiated thought is that the Patriots have been cheating rampantly for the last several years. And it does taint their superbowls and their legacy.
We're at the midway point again. And the Dolphins are a scintillating 0-8. So, what have I thought of the season's first half? What a stinker-ooo. Its almost as if its preseason still.
Miami starts off slowly every game and then suddenly decides they're ready to play in the third quarter. By then, its too late, and they make a mad rush for no reason. Maybe they should try playing half a game about 2 hours before each game??
Anyway, here's my take on the team at the half-way point...
Best game: at oh for 2007, there's not much to draw on. Maybe last week's game in London, because they played well enough to win against a winning team?
Worst game: Bellicheat's Patriots embarassed Miami in pretty much every way and Miami did nothing to stop them.
Top rookie: I'm gonna go with Samson Satele. He came right in, won the starting center position, and has played very, very well. I like what I see in him.
Top offensive player: Ronnie Brown did great for 7 games, so I'm going to give it to him here at the mid point.
Top defensive player: Channing Crowder is the only guy who has played at a consistent level this season, though he did miss a game due to injury. So, by default, we give it to him.
Mid-season MVP: Jay Feeley has two miscues this sesaon - a missed field goal (his only one) early against the Giants, and a kick out of bounds in a rain slick in the same game. Otherwise, he's been Miami's chief scoring threat, and has played well. He deserves the MVP.
Biggest disappointment: Well, you've got Joey Porter, of course. But, I'm also giving some consideration to the decision to keep Lorenzo Booker off the field. Everyone says he's outstanding in practice, but he's only been active once. What's up with that?
Funniest moment: Without a doubt, the announcement that we've draft Ted Ginn (jr's) entire family. Gotta love it.
Mid-season wanker: Dom Capers, because he can't seem to get his defense working. Read more in the wanker section.
How my prediction is faring: I said they'd win 6. That would mean they'll have to go 6-2 the rest of the way, which seems improbable, and unlikely.
Cameron was asked whether Beck would start in the next game. He said he didn't know, then went on to say:
"In Washington, it didn't work when we played a guy [Heath Shuler] probably before he was ready, logically thinking this guy's the future. It wasn't good for the team, and it wasn't good for that quarterback's development....Drew Brees only played one game his rookie season and didn't become a Pro Bowl player until his fourth season....Phillip Rivers played sparingly his first two seasons before becoming a Pro Bowl quarterback in his third.
"I've been through three completely different scenarios and it's an instinct thing. Every guy has to be ready and you just make a gut instinct."
So, are you saying that Beck shouldn't play until a couple of years from now?
Or, at the very least, are you saying Beck shouldn't play this year? If that's the case, then maybe you don't have what it takes to be the head coach.
The Dolphins and Giants have only actually ever met a handful of times (I think its 5 times). So, I'm not going to take a look back into one of those games. Rather, I'm going to take a look back to the last time the Phins played at Wembly Stadium, against the 49ers in 1988.
From the NY Times: Miami Wins At Wembley AP Published: August 1, 1988 LEAD: Dave Archer sped into the end zone with 1 minute 28 seconds remaining to give the Miami Dolphins a 27-21 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in an National Football League preseason game at Wembley Stadium tonight.
Dave Archer sped into the end zone with 1 minute 28 seconds remaining to give the Miami Dolphins a 27-21 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in an National Football League preseason game at Wembley Stadium tonight.
Miami, which had given up a 10-point lead, struck back from a 14-13 halftime deficit to move in front again. Late in the third quarter, the Dolphins fell behind, 21-20, and San Francisco held on until Archer's game-winning score.
On Miami's first drive of the game, they were moving down the field pretty well. But, then they first a 3rd and 2 at the Giants 30. They had run twice to get into this position. Later, they ran a rather odd play that saw Marty Booker take a snap, and dive forward. He fumbled, of course, but it showed they had some tricks up their sleeve.....but not on this play.
Cam was thinking pass here. He had the receivers run routes more or less as shown, and Lemon dropped back to pass. He tried to get it into Peele who was fairly well covered, and he was off target. Booker was open at the bottom of the screen, as the db had fallen down, but Cleo didn't see him!
And so it went incomplete, and the drive stalled. Feeley missed the 48 yard field goal, and Miami missed its big chance to actually score on an opening drive, score first, and actually have a lead. To me, this was the single most critical play in the game.
[again, our respects to the NFL, the Dolphins, and Fox]
With respect to the NFL, the Dolphins, and Fox, here's the sequence that was the Gigante's lone touchdown.
The Giants had first and goal at about the 10. The receivers routes were designed to clear the left side of the offensive field, and are approximated for you. The linebacker to that side of the field got drawn into coverage on the tight end on the left of the offensive formation. Meanwhile, I've circled JT on the play. His job was to try and get inside to the QB, and his push is shown by the arrow. After the game, he said he messed up and should have lined up over the tackle, rather than the guard. We'll see why that's important in a minute. The play starts, and there's a playfake (circled), which holds the other two linebackers as the play gets moving. Note again how JT has taken a move inside.
As Manning sets up to pass, he has the entire left side of the field open, while his receivers are all to the center and right. JT has now been cutoff from the outside as well, by the blocking scheme. This is by design. I am fairly certain that this was a run all the way, but I would assume that if things didn't work quite this way that Manning had an option to pass.
Finally, Manning tucks the ball and starts toward the endzone. JT was very out of position, and took a bad angle to get to the QB, and wound up not being able to catch him.
I would say that Miami's coverage was good on the play, but JT was out of position, and the linebackers were lulled in by the playfake, creating just enough confusion to make the play work. If JT had lined up outside, Manning would have been forced to pass. And, if Zach had been playing, I suspect the play would have developed differently because of his skill in reading and playing sideline to sideline.
There was a lot of hype about the game. 500,000 ticket requests reportedly came in during the first few hours after the game announcment. Then, there was this buildup. And a lot of gamesmanship about not being able to resell tickets and the like. And that further built the hype...
But, come game day, there wasn't as much excitement. It wasn't the only game shown. It wasn't showcased. It was just another Fox telecast. That seemed weird.
As did my observation that there were a lot of empty seats in the stadium. Here's a long shot of the stadium. Over on the left, there's a fairly large empty section, and there are certainly patches of empty seats. Yes, it was close to halftime, but what's up with that?
Doug (aka the Phinatic) was at the game, and said the same thing. In fact, he'll be talking about it on his show on PhinFeverRadio.com on Thursday night.
Not to harp on it, but did I mention that Bellicheat is a poor sport? No? Oh well, allow me to rectify that with a comment that he was leading 38-0 heading into the 4th quarter against the Redskins, and decided he had to keep passing and run up the score to the tune of 52-7. Jerk. The football gods are awaiting their date with you. They don't like bad sports.
That said, last week, I pointed out how Brady has great accuracy and his line gives him all kinds of time. Allow me to illustrate the point with a couple of screen captures from their game this weekend. My respects to the NFL and Fox for this. Here you see Brady lined up in the shotgun spread formation. He's standing about 5 yards behind the line at the snap. There's 11:37 on the clock.
Here comes the snap. Brady drops back an additional 3 yards and starts scanning the field. On this play, he throws the ball at 11:35, which means 2 seconds have ticked off. But, as you can see, there was no need to hurry. He barely had setup and saw his man right in the middle of the field - straight in front of him and right behind the umpire - and completed a passs to him. He could have easily taken another 3-4 seconds before he had to throw it.
Then, there was this variation on the theme. He had setup and was nearly 5 seconds into the play when the rush started to come in. So, rather than continue to look for a receiver, he simply tossed it to the back as an outlet. Because of the rush, there was no one near the back, and he ran for about 8 yards before he was tackled.
Simple concept that's big on fundamentals and execution. So, why don't more teams do it?
I did watch the game on Sunday. It was sleep inducing. I know, the weather was bad, but it was one heck of a boring game, and was hard to watch at times due to the ineptitude on display.
Sayeth Jim Mandich afterward:
"Let's start with the game first, which was poorly played and not much of a display of our game at its best. It was really pretty boring. What does it say when the biggest cheers of the day come when the Dolphins' cheerleaders come on the field and a streaker comes out there butt naked and provided some entertainment value? I'm sure there were a lot of Brits sitting up in the stands saying, 'Give me a 1-0 Man. United-Arsenal game any day in terms of artistry and theatrics.'"
Count me among those that think its time to see John Beck. We now know that Cleo Lemon is a career backup. I'm satisfies with that, and now its time to unwrap the potential QB of the future to see what he can do!
Psst, coach Cam, you lost some fans when you passed on Brady Quinn. You've had some fans jump off the bandwagon during this losing streak. What better way to bring them back around than to have a young, promising QB show there's hope for the future?
You've got a bye, so there's two weeks to get him ready to play.
Now, I do have a friend who feels even more strongly about it. I'm not in total agreement, but it is worth noting: he said that if Cam doesn't start Beck then he shouldn't be the head coach, because he should be trying to win, both for now and for the future; and see what he has in Beck.
So I was driving around yesterday when I saw the sign outside Stirling Elementary School in Hollywood, the message board that usually says something like “Teacher prep 10/26” or “Parent conference 11/14.” Only this time, it said: “SUPPORT THE FINS NO MATTER WHAT!”
I pondered this for a moment.
On the one hand, I thought this was nice, a lesson for the kids about loyalty and devotion, sticking with friends through thick and thin, for better and worse.
On the other, I wondered if this might be stretching things too far. Because shouldn’t we also teach our kids about the limits of blind faith, and how at some point some things are no longer worthy of support, especially if it’s costing mom and dad an arm and a leg?
I don’t spend money on the Dolphins, so I don’t have to worry about this. In fact, I now regard this debacle of a Dolphins season as some marvelous free entertainment, almost artful in its awfulness, sort of like the way Andy Warhol made art out of auto wrecks.
But if I was forking out beau coups bucks on tickets, this is the point where I’d be seriously questioning my faith, wisdom and fanaticism.
At what point do you cut the cord on a team, at what point do you say it’s no longer worth the emotional and financial investment?
What’s your plan? Are you taking Sundays back for yourself, forsaking lousy football for the beach/golf/fishing/gardening/needlepoint? Or are you going to keep punishing yourself?
Me, I’m going to keep watching (on television for free, of course) because the possibility of a winless season doesn’t come along every day. I don’t think it will happen, because in professional sports even bad teams usually stumble into an unexpected win along the way.
But this team has had so much go freakishly wrong in every conceivable manner (the starting quarterback got hurt blocking and the star running back ended his season making a tackle), 0-16 seems feasible.
As the sign says, I’m going to support the Fins no matter what.
Is it wrong that my version of support means rooting for the Imperfect Season?
Being the ugly American, when I heard the Dolphins were playing a game in the United Kingdom this season, I consulted a map to see just where the UK is....I was surprised to find that it is right in EPCOT up at the Walt Disney World resort.
Great! I'd been looking for an excuse to head up there! So, I booked my trip. I figured I'd scalp tickets when I got there.
But, I was surprised to learn that this was not, in fact, where the game was being held. A few others had made a similar mistake, and were wandering aimlessly, looking for a 26 foot tall Jason Taylor...
Ah well, I later decided that the best I could do was head out and watch the game on TV somewhere....