Imagine if Julian Edelman hadn’t caught that ball. If Jake Matthews hadn’t taken that holding penalty. If Matthew Slater hadn’t called the hell out of that coin toss in overtime.
It’s not just that there wouldn’t be another title in Boston; there wouldn’t have been the onslaught levied against the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, the ultimate confirmation that the Patriots were every bit as pissed as we suspected when they politely deflected talk of a revenge tour.
In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the Patriots insisted they weren’t focused on Goodell and Deflategate. And maybe they weren’t, given the preparations they had to make for Atlanta.
But they are now, and they’re shoving it in everyone’s faces. Just like they should.
If the Patriots and their fans wanted, they could let Deflategate die. Anyone who still thought the Patriots could only win by cheating was emphatically shut up this season. Doubters were wrong, and everyone could move on from there.
And move on they will . . . but not quite yet. They took an unjust beating and they want the NFL to look like idiots for it. Not even in Rob Gronkowski’s healthiest days have we seen the Patriots spike the football this much.
Brady made the Shields MRI commercial with the “Roger that” line. Devin McCourty slapped a Crying Jordan onto the commissioner’s face. Matt Patricia made a public appearance wearing Barstool Sports’ Goodell clown shirt. Danny Amendola wore a “Fire Goodell” hat. Gronkowski asked fans in Providence what they thought of Roger Goodell and didn’t give them time to respond before he started booing.
Never before have we seen a team respond to a championship by mocking the league in which they won it. But never before has a team had such a reason.
This isn’t the first time the Patriots have mocked their opponent after beating them. Rodney Harrison did a whole lot of flapping when he picked off Donovan McNabb in the final minute of Super Bowl XXXIX. Somewhere, Philip Rivers might still be screaming about Ellis Hobbs and his teammates doing Shawne Merriman’s dance on the Chargers logo at Qualcomm Stadium.
And more recently, there was Julian Edelman holding up a sign of Richard Sherman holding up four fingers with the caption, “How many rings does Brady have?” at the parade following New England’s Super Bowl XLIX win over Seattle.
Those were all in good fun. Obnoxious? Sure, but obnoxious is great when well-executed. Also, if you don’t want to get mocked, win the game.
It takes a special set of circumstances to treat a championship the way the Pats have. First, the team needs to have enough titles in recent memory that the “Golly, we sure went out there and beat the odds!” line of thinking is old hat. Check. There’s also got to be enough ill will towards the team from the outside the organization that there’s a you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us mentality emanating from the home front. Definitely check.
Most importantly, there needs to be an organization-wide belief that the team was legitimately wronged.
And through all the changing of the subject by Brady and his teammates leading up to the Super Bowl, this week has shown that the Patriots were indeed champing at the bit to have their say. They haven’t been respectful of the commissioner, but respect went out the window when Goodell decided that the best player in league history having a preference for certain-if-slightly-illegal footballs was the hill on which his reputation would die.
The Pats could have taken this win and, as they did before it, credit their teammates and little else. They could have played it safe with the intention of not ruffling any feathers, but that’s not what Goodell did. He doubled down time and again.
The Pats are just returning the favor.