You know, an interesting thing was brought up by my good friend, Brett, about a week ago:
Considering the controversy of Spygate, should we take any significant team improvement – for example, the Houston Texans going 2-0 and taking the Indianapolis Colts to the brink – with a grain of salt? Should those improved teams be looked at as possibly cheating?
For anyone who hadn’t been following the story, the New England Patriots – winners of three Super Bowls and a team considered the NFL’s New Dynasty – was fined and docked a draft pick after a team employee was caught videotaping opponents’ sidelines during games, gaining ‘inside information’ for the Patriots, allegedly for use against them in regular season and playoff games. It was an obvious instance of cheating, and many pundits were extremely polarized on the subject – from ‘cheating is part of the game’ to ‘the Patriots are cheaters and there should be an asterisk by all of their championships’.
It was an interesting theory – if a team had improved dramatically from seasons past, could that team be looked at cynically, as potential cheats? It seems unfair, but, after the Patriots’ Spygate controversy, it couldn’t be ruled out completely.
I thought about it for awhile, and came to this conclusion (which I mentioned to Brett later on) – I don’t think cynicism is necessary when looking at seemingly drastically improved teams. Just because a team has drastically improved, that doesn’t mean they are open to cheating scrutiny. As everyone schooled in the National Football League knows, we are now in an age of parity – teams who go 3-13 one year, can go 13-3 the next – just ask the 1999 Indianapolis Colts, and the Super Bowl XXXIV Champion St. Louis Rams.
No, it wasn’t a matter of straight cheating that teams improved dramatically in the course of one season – it relies on a large number of miniscule, yet not insignificant, reasons. For example, take the Texans – they have been in the gutter of the NFL for the past two seasons. Those who followed the NFL can’t forget the seemingly unwise decision to pass up perennial All-American running back Reggie Bush to take defensive tackle Mario Williams with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. It is he, however, along with their second round pick from that year, DeMeco Ryans, who anchors a formidable defense for Houston.
Their move to grab free-agent quarterback Matt Schaub away from the Atlanta Falcons this past offseason turned out to be a brilliant move –a mobile QB with a serviceable arm, Schaub has led his team to a 2-1 record, and the potential for a playoff run. He and WR Andre Johnson have gained quite a rapport over the first couple games of the season. Free-agent pickup RB Ahman Green has also contributed to an offense that continues to develop.
No cheating – just a bunch of small moves that propelled them to a good start to their season.