One of the more intriguing questions circulating among the media these days is whether Bill Belichick deserves to be the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year if the New England Patriots go undefeated.
The crux of the debate revolves around whether Belichick should be barred from the award for his involvement in "Spygate," for which the Patriots were punished for videotaping opposition signals during the season opener against the New York Jets.
Some of the 50 voters, who include writers and TV and/or radio commentators, have expressed reservations regarding Belichick's candidacy. He was fined $500,000, while the team lost $250,000 and a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft as punishment for "Spygate."
Yet two long-time coaches said the incident would have no bearing if they were voters. Instead, they wouldn't vote for Belichick because he's not the best candidate in their eyes.
"My vote would be for (Mike) McCarthy of Green Bay," Buffalo Bills president and former coach Marv Levy said Sunday. "When you look at that award, I think you're talking about who did the most with the least, and I think that's McCarthy. I think there are some other people worth discussing, like Romeo Crennel (of Cleveland), and (Belichick) is certainly in that discussion.
"What (Belichick) did was wrong, but that's not what would determine it for me."
Former coach Dan Reeves agreed with Levy's general notion that doing the most with the least is the primary consideration for the award. He also said that Belichick was worthy of strong consideration.
"Frankly, I think the whole 'Spygate' thing is overrated," Reeves said. "There's so much information out there as a coach right now that you can't even get through it all. There were plenty of times as a head coach that I knew exactly what was coming from the other team and I told the defensive coach. But that doesn't mean we always stopped it. You still have to have the players perform."
From Reeves' perspective, the best penalty the NFL could have given the Patriots this season was to take away their coach-to-quarterback radio signal for the season.
"That way they can't take advantage of any of that information they might have gotten," Reeves said.
Belichick has won the award once. That was in 2003, when he led the Patriots to a 14-2 record and eventually to their second of three Super Bowl titles.
Though the award is administered by the AP, no AP writers can vote.
"I can only say from my standpoint that if he had been suspended, that might change my view," said AP writer Barry Wilner, who oversees the voting. "But plenty of people who have been fined have won AP awards."
The Belichick debate is similar to the discussion about defensive player of the year last season. San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman was considered a frontrunner for the award until he was suspended by the NFL for four games for violation of the league's policy against performance enhancing substances, such as steroids.
Merriman finished third in the voting last season behind Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor and Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, respectively, despite being the only one on a playoff-bound team.
Votes for the award are due Dec. 31, the day after the final regular season games.
- Bill Belichick