Just 5 minutes ago, Don Shula, the Hall of Fame Coach of the Miami Dolphins for eons, holder of the "perfect record" in the NFL was interviewed via telephone by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic on the Mike and Mike Show on ESPN. After introductions, the very first thing Greenberg asked was (and this is not a verbatim quote since I dont take shorthand) "Do you believe that the Patriots - if they run the table this year should have an asterisk placed next to their name". Thats not word for word but damn close to it.
Shula definitively said that the spygate incident was the first week of the season and anything that the Patriots accomplished this year was accomplished within the scope of the rules and they should be applauded and that this season should not contain an asterisk. "What they have done this year you have to stand back and applaud" . This is what most Patriots fans and knowledgeable football fans all over the country have been saying - including my personal most respected analysts Chris Berman and Sean Salisbury. He was also clear to mention the coincidence of Mangini - Bills former personal assistant coach being the one to blow the whistle - If you get a chance, go to the Mike and Mike show on ESPN and download the podcast
Now, when asked about prior seasons, Shula refused to say yes or no. His response was "Thats not for me to decide - the NFL fined them, I didnt, that question (regarding prior seasons tainted) is up to the NFL, not me". Again, these arent exact quotes but they do reflect exactly what was said. Shula probably said it 4 times that this season (2007) should be judges on its own merits and he did NOT believe that this season should contain an asterisk. Shula continued to waffle on the question of past seasons and repeated the mantra - "Thats not for me to decide... thats for the NFL to decide" . "They were fined, they lost a first round draft pick, I didnt do that, the NFL did, it had to be for a reason". I'm wondering why Greenberg and Golic didnt ask about the Dolphins being fined a first round draft pick for their tampering with Baltimore? A good question to Shula should have been, would the Dolphins have had that perfect season without you as a coach had the Dolphins not cheated to get you there in the first place? Should there be an asterisk next to the Dolphins? Perhaps Greenberg and Golic chose not to offend the HOF coach and risk him not coming back for a repeat interview?
Now, whether Shula is backpedaling considering the furor this has caused, or he honestly meant it and Gary Myers of the NY Daily News insinuated his own points in place of Shula's I guess is up for the public to decide. Now, ESPN never once asked about his quote comparing the Patriots to Barry Bonds, so thats not going to be cleared up in this interview.
The bottom line is while Don Shula denies saying that the 2007 season should contain an asterisk, he didn't deny that he thought past seasons and accomplishments were tainted, and there is still the Barry Bonds statement. He was not asked about it so he couldnt deny it.
Shula went on to say, that Bill is a great coach and the Patriots offense defense and special teams are the best in the league and that if they run the table he would be the first to call and congratulate. When asked if he thought Bill would take his call, Shula replied "I have known Bill a long time, I knew his dad at the Naval Academy, I would like to think he would take my call"
Tom Brady appears on ESPN today, it will be interesting to see his response to Shula's latest comments. Richard Seymour appears on the local Boston ESPN show today, so Im sure this will be discussed and it will be interesting to hear his comments as well.
The debate continues and probably will until a) the Patriots actually lose this season and then the whole thing goes away because it becomes a moot point b)Shula clarifies the rest of the remarks he made.
Makes for an interesting sports day huh?