The New England Patriots improved to a 9-0 record to remain the only undefeated team in the NFL after they beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. New England's schedule appears to be set so that the AFC East defending champions have one of the easier routes to the playoffs, and possibly an undefeated season.
If the Patriots do go undefeated, it would take some of the luster off the record that the Dolphins were able to set. Miami set their record in a 14-game season. The Patriots have two more regular season games, plus the playoffs. It's the very real possibility that the Patriots will break the record that has former Dolphins, like Shula, weighing in on the scandal that plagued New England early in the season.
When asked for his thoughts on the Patriots' season and the possibility they may go undefeated, Shula had this to say:
"The Spygate thing has diminished what they've accomplished. You would hate to have that attached to your accomplishments. They've got it. Belichick was fined $500,000, the team was fined $250,00 and they lost a first-round draft choice. That tells you the seriousness or significance of what they found.
"I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds' home run record. I guess it will be noted that the Patriots were fined and a No.1 draft choice was taken away during that year of accomplishment. The sad thing is Tom Brady looks so good, it doesn't look like he needs any help."
Gary Meyers, who wrote the article, pressed Shula for more of his thoughts on the team. Shula admitted that while the Patriots were punished for spygate, he still feels they have a chance to match the Dolphins' accomplishment, something that would not please the former coach.
"The Patriots look so good. I think they got a real shot at doing it," Shula said.
The Patriots took Shula's comments in stride, attempting to sidestep the flames Shula fanned over Spygate.
Patriots safety Rodney Harrison responded to Shula's comments on the NFL Network.
"We have a lot of respect for Don Shula as a head football coach," Harrison said. "But at the end of the day we're 9-0 and we don't really play the game to please anyone.
"He's a well respected guy, but at the end of the day it's just one man's opinion. "
The Patriots are a prideful team, but offensive team captain running back Kevin Faulk said that it wasn't the records, which motivate the team, it's their future success.
"[The undefeated record] is something that we really aren't thinking about it's just about the one game at a time," Faulk said in the locker room Tuesday. "If we keep going that one game at a time maybe that'll happen but we still have those games to play, one game at a time."
"I think that he certainly is a hall of fame coach, he's entitled to his opinion," Vrabel said. "We're past that."
When asked if Shula's comments might be a source for motivation, the Patriots' defensive leader said not for him, but not before leveling a dig at Shula.
"We try to go out there and play hard every week," Vrabel said. "I don't think guys are going to go out there and draw [motivation] from an old retired coach, [or] an old washed-up player to pump us up. We try to go out there and play hard."
Until the Patriots eventually lose a game, more criticisms like Shula's will continue to be aimed in their direction. As if the Patriots needed any more reasons to run up the score on opponents, or play with more determination to break every record they can. At their current pace, New England is set to break a lot of them.Thanks to Shula, they have one more to focus on just to prove their point.