Have you felt the change?
John Cyr's Evil Patriots Blog: A celebration of underhandery and classlessity was an on-line must-read in 2007. Cyr provided an oasis of humorous commentary and sane perspective to the one-sided intense media madness that was spygate, and featured countless "daily update links, mostly to spiteful columnists" that clued readers in on what other cities were saying and writing about the New England Patriots. The website was good, the news was not.
After a last-gasp revival during the Sen. Arlen Specter idiocy, ‘Evil Patriots' has been inactive since Super Bowl XLII, but weblinks to late-season spygate and Belichick-as-villain stories remain posted as proof of how completely out-of-whack the lemming-like press was in 2007. Consistently negative reporting on spygate, the arrogant pursuit of perfection and running up the score, to the classic Colts-Patriots: Good vs. Evil disgrace tainted everything so much that the Patriots couldn't even win right. The blog's demise, fittingly coinciding with Matt Walsh's flight back to oblivion, was only the first sign that the media winds were changing.
Call it the guilty-conscience factor, or the media version of the make-up call, but the Belichick love-fest era is being reborn.
Maybe there was a hint it would happen when the players closed ranks and stood behind their coach during that tumultous season and the only players willing to go public were from teams the Patriots beat: Kurt Warner, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Joey Porter. Maybe it grew a bit after the season, as whenever Belichick appeared on the Garden video screen during the Celtics playoff games, he elicited the loudest cheers of the night.
The final 2008 turnaround came with Bob Costas' single vote for Belichick as Coach of the Year, calling it "one of the best coaching jobs of his career." Unknown QB Matt Cassel, slowly but surely leading the Patriots to an 11-5 season, effectively put to rest the Belichick vs. Brady debate, snuffing out the argument that Belichick is a fraud who lucked out in the draft with a Hall-of-Famer in the 199th pick.
- Junior Seau, agreeing only to come back to the NFL out of the respect he had for Belichick, led the year's open admiration for Belichick.
- Josh McDaniels and Scott Pioli have since moved on from the Patriots organization, but not without first publicly praising and thanking the man who made it possible, the man who put them in a position to succeed.
- Tom Dimitroff left last year for the GM position in Atlanta, and new Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, whose connection with Belichick was as a scout with Cleveland over ten years ago, both acknowledged the solid foundation he laid in them and credited Belichick for the competency they have brought to their new positions.
- Even Eric Mangini was reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer as "doing his best to bring some of that New England Super Bowl magic to Cleveland" with the hiring of Rob Ryan, Brian DaBoll, and Brad Seeley - all three with Mangini on Belichick's Super Bowl staffs from 2001-2003.
Take a look through the daily links from the last couple of weeks, and you'll find article after article extolling the Patriots System, the Belichick tree (not just Charlie Weiss and Romeo Crennel), the Patriots as NFL starter-kit, and how the Patriots will survive the loss of key personnel as long as they have Belichick. The winds of change, for now at least, are blowing fair again.
The media came down so swift and so hard in 2007, that I believe a good number of writers realized the skewed and out-of-balance nature of their all-hammer-all-the-time reporting aimed at Belichick and the Patriots wasn't right. Even Gregg Easterbrook was moved to write a few weeks ago, "New England has been punished enough for its 2007 offenses; it's time for the football gods to smile on the Patriots again."
For the first time I agree with him.