I’ve said before — and I’ll say again — that I’ll never take anything any NFL coach says at face value. And I would have been wise to follow my own advice on Wednesday, after hearing Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton bragged on an Arizona radio station that he had spotted a fairly basic “tell” in the New England offense.
Listen to what Horton said regarding the Patriots’ offense. Before tight end Aaron Hernandez was hurt, the Pats ran the ball when Hernandez was lined up tight to the line, and they passed when Hernandez was split wide. After Hernandez was hurt, the Pats ran whenever quarterback Tom Brady lined up under center, and they passed whenever Brady was in shotgun.
Now here’s the reality. Thanks to the new availability of coaches film from the NFL Game Rewind service, which charts plays and allows each of them to be reviewed individually via an All-22 camera angle, Horton’s claim is just. flat. wrong.
Hernandez sprained his ankle on the third offensive snap. (Hardly enough time for Horton to spot any real tendencies.) After that, the Patriots ran out of shotgun formation 10 times — including the woulda-coulda-shoulda touchdown run from Danny Woodhead that was called back on a Gronk holding penalty. And the Pats passed when Brady lined up under center 11 times.
That’s 21 plays that directly contradict the tendencies that Horton boasted the Cardinals saw. Not one or two. Twenty-one!
We’re not going to try to figure out whether Horton was intentionally lying or whether he was grossly misinformed. Either way, the comment turns what was a high point of his coaching career quickly into a low point. (And, yes, I regret taking his words at face value and not checking the game tape sooner. I could make 50 Francesa-style excuses, but the fact remains that I erroneously trusted that Horton was telling the truth or something reasonably close to it.)
Besides, what did Horton gain from it? Thumping his chest inaccurately serves only to take credit away from the guys who earned the win on the field. So good luck commanding a room full of defensive players. It also will serve only to piss of Pats coach Bill Belichick — which won’t help Horton or any team for which he’s working whenever that team comes up against the Patriots again in the future.