Don Shula likes the Patriots' chances of going undefeated, but the Bill Belichick-inspired spying scandal has clouded Shula's thinking when comparing New England with his unbeaten 1972 Dolphins team.
"The Spygate thing has diminished what they've accomplished," Shula said in an interview with the New York Daily News. "You would hate to have that attached to your accomplishments. They've got it."
Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Patriots were fined $250,000 and lost a first-round draft pick for videotaping the Jets' opposing sideline during the teams' season-opening game.
"That tells you the seriousness or significance of what they found," Shula said, according to the Daily News. "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."
Some Patriots players, Tedy Bruschi included, took exception to Shula's opinion.
"If someone questions your integrity, if someone questions who you are, if someone questions the organization you've been a part of ever since you walked into the league, would it upset you?" the linebacker asked, according to the Boston Herald. "So yes, it does upset me. I can't control how people feel about it. I can't control what comes out of their mouths. I only control what I do out there and what we do as a defense and what we do as a team. We keep winning and playing hard. If they want to keep saying those things, maybe we just need to play a little bit harder."
Others, like cornerback Ellis Hobbs, seemed indifferent to the Hall of Fame coach's remarks.
"It doesn't matter to us, man," Hobbs told the Herald. "We know what we do in our heart. We know what it takes to win the right way. We work at it day in and day out, even when that Spygate came. ... I don't consider myself a cheater. No one on this team does. We go out there and work day in and day out. The results speak for themselves."
The way the Patriots have been playing, Shula and the '72 Dolphins might find themselves answering more questions than in past years about whether their record will stand. New England improved to 9-0 on Sunday by beating the previously unbeaten Colts (7-1) in Indianapolis.
There have been serious runs made at the Dolphins' record before. The 1985 Bears started 12-0, then lost on a Monday night to a Dolphins team coached by Shula. The 1991 Redskins started 11-0 and the 1998 Broncos and 2005 Colts opened 13-0 before losing.
Although members of the '72 Dolphins have become known for sipping champagne after the last unbeaten team falls by the wayside each season, Shula says stories of that annual celebration "have been blown out of proportion."
"You guys put forth the myth that we are pathetic losers down here clicking champagne glasses and clinging desperately to a record set 35 years ago," former Dolphins tight end Jim Mandich told the Daily News. "Somehow we've been portrayed as being evil. We don't ever blow our own horn. It's a great record, but the record doesn't get beaten.
"The Patriots have assembled a powerhouse of a team. They are a classy bunch of guys and play ball the right way. If they want to join the unbeaten club, come on aboard."