Horton’s “tell” tale was a tall tale


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.

39 responses to “Horton’s “tell” tale was a tall tale

  1. Reading Horton’s explanation, it just seemed too elementary, especially for an offense that’s as seasoned as the Patriots. I mean, under Center they run, in the shotgun they pass? And that’s it?

  2. He’s probably crowing because they were huge underdogs and they won primarily due to the unit he coaches. Meh…we’ve heard worse from NYJ players. 😉

  3. Bill Belicheat suddenly doesn’t look like the “genius”
    all the lapdog media has hoisted upon him now that Tom Brady looks mortal and he can’t steal teams signals.

    Horton schooled Belicheater.

  4. Hey! He tried to make us think he could tell what kind of play the patriots were running before they ran it when he really couldn’t. You’re a phony! Hey everyone! Look at this big fat phony!

  5. I’ve heard Horton before. He did seem blabby that day in the interview. Usually you get coach speak on the radio. I didn’t pick up on it at first either.

  6. I’m surprised that Horton didn’t reveal the other big tell in the Patriots offense: that when Brady was on the field taking the snap, the Patriots were going to try to advance the ball forward, but when the punter or placekicker came onto the field….

  7. am i the only one left thinking after reading this article and what horton said to the newspaper “who gives a damn”.. i mean really who cares, the guy just beat tom brady and belichek and is on a team where winning/good defense isnt a common theme in arizona..so if the guy thought he got some tells, and confused brady then really..who cares lol..why is it such a big issue. maybe he rly inside his head seen tell signs and thought he confused brady. hell he won, so who is it for us 2 say hes lying lol

  8. I know you need to make everything that happens sound super important and sure to cause dire consequences, but the idea that he will lose the respect of the players in his room is simply ludicrous.

    Given the fact that Horton almost certainly had reviewed the game tape long before you got around to it, reasonable minds can only come to the conclusion that he was either a) trolling the interviewers, b) trying to twist Belichick’s tail, or c) some combination of both.

    If there was any reaction “in the room” to it all, it was probably laughter.

  9. I don’t think he meant it as literal as you’ve made it sound. This is not going to affect the defenses performance whatsoever. If the Cardinals lose their next game it’s because they just snuck out of the last two. Stop trying to make drama out of nothing and quit referring to previous quotes by yourself…We get it…You can predict the future and you’re not guessing at all.

  10. Looks bad for Horton because he comes across as a big-mouth, but what did he actually say? The only direct quote from Horton in your original post was:

    “I heard through Jay Feely that he talked to Tom Brady after the game and Tom said, ‘I have no idea what you guys are doing,’ and so it did work”

    So, there’s nothing in there as specific as when Brady’s in shotgun …etc., etc. What did Horton actually say when describing the “tell”? Are you sure he didn’t include more specifics about downs-and-distances? Was the context for his comments a handful of specific plays in the game rather than the entire game?

  11. Mike,

    You should probably credit Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, who mid-yesterday afternoon first reported on the percentages and the number of runs from shotgun / number of passes from under center, clearly showing Horton was straying very far from the facts.

  12. I don’t understand lying about something that can be proven with a laptop and a half hour. Maybe the guy thought he was seeing something because of the pressure that was on him? Or maybe he is just a limelight hog? Which ever one it is, I’m sure that by now he is pretty embarrassed about the whole situation.

  13. The Patriots just are not that good (no offense to the Big Red) without the cheating that has left Bb and Brady with a big fat asterisk tattoo on their foreheads. On top of that, they are getting old and have not done a good job at re-stocking while trying to save face and win now. They are drifting back into the irrelevant team they were for so long. Buh-buy.

  14. That’s great, but it still doesn’t make the offensive gameplan McDaniels brought any less terrible. A lot of aspects were still very predictable, and they stuck with cutbacks and screens without any success almost the entire day.

  15. Since spygate, Brady has thrown for 50 TD’s to 8 picks, 28 TD’s to 13 picks, 36 TD’s to 4 picks, and 39 TD’s to 12 picks. This year he’s 3-1.

    So 156 TD’s to 38 picks. Too bad he doesn’t have those magic signals anymore. He would like, totally throw for 1000 TD’s to 9 picks.

    And Sj39, yeah, they have one defensive starter who is 30, Wilfork. I understand your sole purpose in life is to post in every Patriots topic, but at least get something resembling a fact before you post.

  16. sj39

    Have you not been paying attention? The Patriots have gone from one of the five oldest teams in the league three years ago to one of the five youngest teams in the league today. Yes, right now.

    They have completed a talent reload on both sides of the ball, an unprecedented rebuild in which the low points were 14-2 and 13-3 seasons.



    Harbaugh says they are better than last year, and he’s right if you watch Jones, Hightower, a healthy Spikes, Cunningham, and others.

  17. “So good luck commanding a room full of defensive players. ”

    Really? I think he did a pretty good job when he commanded them to a win against one of the best teams in the NFL. I would bet those defensive players could care less that he is lying to people like you who try to make controversy out of anything.

  18. Wow, coaches don’t reveal all of their inside information to the media hounds????

    I always like it when the media tries to make someone sound untrustworthy when the media’s entire job is to exploit information at the cost of it’s subjects.

  19. Who cares if Horton misled you? Perhaps Horton did see a tell, but gave phony information just in case he has to face the Patriots in the future, or perhaps he did it to keep Bill Belichick locked in the film room looking at tape to figure out what the tell might be? Is it really that serious that you were misinformed? As if Bill Belichick hasnt misinformed every writer he ever spoke with? Lighten up. You are taking this way to personal. Until you know 100% for certain Horton lied to you, why get so bunched up over it?

  20. By my count, there were roughly 86 offensive plays in the game for the Patriots (+/- 3 plays, probably).

    I’m not a lawyer from West Virginia, but my math on that says that roughly 75% of the time, the Patriots followed the pattern that Horton claims to have seen prior to the game.

    You know what it’s called when someone follows a pattern 75% of the time? That is to say they have an inclination toward a particular characteristic or type of behavior? That’s defined as a tendency.

    How many defensive coaches would like to have the knowledge that 75% of the time, they can tell whether or not it’s a run or a pass? I’m guessing most would be pretty happy with those odds.

  21. Everytime they hand the ball off to a running back they ran with it.

    When the kicker kicked the ball it went in the air.

    When you call heads or tails before the game they are either right or wrong.

    I notice things too.

  22. None of this matters (except to you know who). The Cardinals beat the Patriots. Quit trying to diminish that. It is what it is, (whether you know who) likes it or not.

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