Now before you write me off as a Belichick hater and a biased Colts fan, hear me out: Last season the uproar over Chargers LBer Shawne Merriman being a strong Defensive Player of the Year candidate was fierce. Merriman had a dominant season. His team was 14-2. He had a gazillion sacks. His defense was one of the best in the league.
However, Shawne was caught, and suspended, mid-season for using steroids.
For many, this should have disqualified Merriman from being considered for the award. I agreed with this notion, as did many Patriots fans, I recall. We all felt that a cheater should not get rewarded for, you know, cheating. If his team goes on to win a Super Bowl or something (thankfully, they didn't), then that's fine. That's a team award, not an individual one.
It is both humorous and incredibly hypocritical that writers now do not apply the same standard to Smilin' Bill that they seemed to do for Shawne Merriman.
A debate on whether or not videotaping teams gave Belichick a competitive advantage is a red herring, distracting everyone from the cold, hard, undeniable truth that Bill Belichick got caught cheating (just like Merriman), got fined for it (just like Merriman), and cost his team something valuable along the way (Merriman was suspended 4 games; Belichick cost his team $500,000 and a first round draft pick in 2008). Not included in this mix is the damage done to their reputations. Merriman is now, and will continue to be, a suspected doper. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick is universally hated by everyone outside Chowda Land.
I don't think the writers who voted for this award took the time to think of the fan reaction to it. This sends a very clear signal that writers feel that it is OK to cheat as long as you win.
You can debate particulars with me all you want. It will get you nowhere. I've traveled all over this country the last few months. Everywhere I've gone (West Coast, down South, Michigan, Ohio, East Coast) the opinion of Belichick is he is a gutless cheater who should have been suspended for his actions, and I have a pretty strong feeling that these same fans are none to happy that Bill won this award, especially when other candidates (Mike McCarthy, for example) were just as deserving.
I really think the NFL needed to step in and assert itself. This league has now created the impression that cheating can win you awards. I don't think they, or the writers, quite understand just how devastating this is to the NFL's credibility. In the short term, it completely discredits a once valuable award. In the long term, it sends a damning message to fans that their opinions don't matter.
One thing is clear: The sports writers are now completely detached from the readers they are supposed to be "the pulse of." It's likely this award is payback to Bill for playing his starters against the Giants. That game, which gave New England a 16-0 regular season record, gave sports writers something to write about other than those dull, boring NFL playoffs coming up. It gave them ratings on their crappy cable shows and hits on their boring websites. I'm interested in hearing what you say, but it's my general impression, speaking to several people, that Bill Belichick should not have won this award. It's got nothing to do with the job he did this year coaching the Patriots during the regular season. Many feel that a cheater should not be rewarded with an individual award, a sentiment I also agree with.
The NFL took a black eye today, and I don't think they have the slightest clue how bad this really is.
Update [2008-1-3 16:16:50 by BigBlueShoe]: Important note from shake n bake: A steroid suspension now disqualifies you from the Pro Bowl. It's known as the Merriman Rule. Steroids is cheating, just like videotaping against league rules. Why would Belichick be eligible for this award with a standard like the Merriman Rule is on the books?