CAPE CANAVERAL, January 22, 2014 — After the Seattle Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers, the always entertaining Richard Sherman verbally slammed rival Michael Crabtree in the media. His comments were in the heat of the moment, and have been blown out of proportion.
While much of the international media is focused on Richard Sherman’s comments in the wake of the NFC Title Game, it was the AFC Title Game that featured comments that were far worse.
New England coach Bill Belichick had plenty of time to compose himself in the locker room after the Patriots were defeated by the Denver Broncos. Belichick took to the podium and attacked Denver wide receiver Wes Welker.
A key play in the game came when Welker collided with Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib was injured on the play, and his exit from the game was a key moment. Without Talib, Peyton Manning torched the Patriots’ defense. The Broncos possibly would have won anyway, but the exit of Talib did matter.
Belichick accused Welker of deliberately injuring Talib. Belichick has not been known for being gracious in defeat, but this charge crossed the line.
The last comparable situation occurred during a regular season game between the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After a turnover, Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp blasted Packers offensive starter Chad Clifton.
Clifton was knocked out cold and taken off the field. After the game, Packers coach Mike Sherman, a normally friendly and easygoing guy, confronted Sapp. Both men cursed, and Sherman accused Sapp of being a “dirty player.” Sapp told Sherman to “put on a helmet.”
Packers quarterback, Brett Favre, was a friend of Sapp’s, and he was very diplomatic. He questioned the necessity of the hit without backing up the charge that Sapp was dirty. Sapp did have a reputation for trash-talking, but not for cheating. The hit itself was completely legal. Arguing that it was excessive makes as much sense as saying that nations should try and win wars without using disproportionate force. To win, you use as much force as necessary to win within the rules.
Belichick’s behavior is worse because it did not come in the heat of the moment. His comments were carefully calculated. He wants the NFL to look at Welker’s play for possible league punishment.
The play is on video for everybody to watch, and any honest viewing of the play dispels Belichick’s opinion as completely wrong. The facts do not support Belichick’s assertion.
If Welker was engaging in an illegal pick play, he would be doing something that every team, including the Patriots, has done many times. A pick play is designed to create open space, but not deliberately injure a guy.
This play in question does not even seem to be an organized pick play. It appears Welker accidentally collided with Talib. Welker is much smaller and lighter than Talib. Welker also has had two concussions in the 2013 season. He was the last person in that game who would want a collision with anyone, much less a guy as big and strong as Talib. Welker does not have a history of dirty play.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, like Favre before him, tried to play Hamlet and stay out of the fracas.
Belichick seems to have a grudge against Welker. Their relationship became very strained before Belichick released Welker.
The animosity dates back to the Super Bowl two years ago. Brady threw a high third down pass that Welker has caught many times, but did not catch in this game. Had he caught that ball, the Patriots most likely would have won the Super Bowl.
Instead, the Patriots punted and Eli Manning led the New York Giants to a second victory in the big game against New England in five years. After the game, Brady’s wife Gisele Bunchen attacked Welker for dropping the ball.
Now Welker has gone on to play for Brady’s main rival, Peyton Manning. Welker is a classic case of the guy who got revenge on the boss who fired him.
While Belichick’s comments could be dismissed as sour grapes, the league may wish to take strong action. Rather than look at Welker, they may wish to look at Belichick. Belichick was fined for the 2007 Spygate cheating scandal. In this case, it was he who accused Welker of cheating.
This could be considered slander, although it is doubtful Welker will seek an attorney to file a defamation suit. Most of these sports matters are handled internally. Having said that, Belichick did attack Welker’s character. He made a baseless accusation that attacked Welker’s reputation and integrity.
When coaches and players attack the referees for disputed calls, fines are levied. The league may wish to remind Belichick not to accuse players of being dirty without proof, especially when video evidence and logic contradicts the charge.