The NFL draft is tonight, something we’d normally be little concerned with but for this: it’s expected that this is going to be a big year for drafting defensive players early. Very early. And often.
And, we’re all about defense.
Let’s step back for a moment. A little over two months ago the Patriots won a Super Bowl that was not exactly readily accepted into the pantheon of greatest sports events. Why? Because a lot – okay almost everyone – thought the game was boring.
At least that was the consensus starting about two minutes after Julian Edelman’s late, great beard* accepted the MVP trophy. The sentiment built and built until you had to wonder how the nation didn’t fall asleep as one well before Adam Levine took his shirt off.
Here in Hartford we were treated to a Colin McEnroe NPR show (title of the show: The Super Bowl Was A Super Letdown) that pretty much eviscerated the watchability of the game . . . the commercials . . . Maroon 5 . . . Jim Nance . . . and came close to impugning America’s new Nostradamus, Tony Romo.
It wasn’t just Colin and Chion Wolf saying this on the frontier edge of Patriots country, it was everyone from the New York Times to the L.A. Times (best headline ever: Patriots 13, Maroon 5, Rams 3) to Late Night comics, to The New Yorker and even the estimable Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone who answered his headline:
The Worst Super Bowl in History?
With a resounding yes while also theorizing that the Patriots themselves were bored to tears while they played.
Each and every article, post, monologue, tweet, matched ‘defense’ with ‘boring’ in every possible way. Clearly, defense = boring. Ninety-eight percent of the audience and pundits saw the absence of scoring as the absence of action (except punts, admittedly no one likes punts except the punters’ families). Probably 90% (at least) saw it as the failure of the offenses.
The other 2% saw a brilliantly planned and executed defense by the Patriots and Bill Belichick and a slightly less brilliantly planned and slightly less well executed defense by Wade Phillips the defensive coach of the Rams. (By the way, ‘slightly less’ probably defines Phillips good but not great coaching career).
Sports Illustrated went a step further and wrote that Belichick had designed the ‘greatest game plan in NFL history.’ It should be noted that there is only one defensive game plan in the NFL Hall of Fame and that’s the game plan Belichick designed for the Giants in Super Bowl XXV.
So . . . why are we writing about this and who’s right?
We’re writing because as a family law firm we do a lot of litigation and a big chunk of that is defense work. We are in the perfect position to say: both sides are right. Great defense can, and usually is, dull for everyone not involved in the details or day to day actions, i.e., spectators.
In other words, what was boring for you during the Super Bowl (the game, we have no where to go with the Halftime Show) was not at all boring for Belichick, Brian Flores, Donta Hightower, Stephon Gilmore, and the rest of the Patriots defense.
“But,” you’re already saying to yourself, “there’s a ton of gripping defense in …”
We’ll stop you right there. Think about it before you fill in the ‘…’. Yes, Mohammad Ali’s ‘Rope-a-dope’ defense was spectacular – but would anyone really remember it today if Ali hadn’t gone on the offense in the eighth round?
“Hey, what about Perry Mason? Oh, yeah, and A Few Good Men? Yeah, those were all about defense attorneys and-”
And, same thing as rope-a-dope. Every Perry Mason ended with him going on the offense. “Isn’t it true, isn’t it true,” was his mantra. His defense morphed into a final offensive push. He left nothing to a jury.
Getting Colonel Jessup to melt down on the stand wasn’t defense, it was an last gasp, Hail Mary offensive play that worked out because Aaron Sorkin wasn’t about to leave the ending to the judges.
The reality is that great defense isn’t obvious, certainly not as obvious as even a mediocre offense. But, that doesn’t mean nothing is happening and it isn’t definitive – it just means we are probably going to settle the issue without a bang.
Long before Bill Belichick, Sun Tzu wrote:
“Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”
Remember this: In the history of sports (and jurisprudence) no winner has ever put down the champagne and said, “Gee, I wish that had been a more exciting game.”