Nick Westby – Julian Edelman deserved his Super Bowl LIII MVP award but silence over his ban was disquieting

Julian Edelman lifts the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LIII with New England Patriots (Picture: Mark Humphrey/AP).
Julian Edelman lifts the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LIII with New England Patriots (Picture: Mark Humphrey/AP).
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SUPER BOWL LIII was a tale of morality and immortality.

New England Patriots’ 13-3 victory over Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta – a game dominated by defences – may not have been the prettiest of the 53 Super Bowls to have taken place.

New England Patriots take the field, bottom right, before the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Tim Donnelly)

New England Patriots take the field, bottom right, before the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Tim Donnelly)

But it was a Super Bowl that edged two men closer to sporting immortality. Sunday night’s win at the Mercedes Benz Stadium was a sixth Super Bowl title for the greatest head coach-quarterback duo in the history of the National Football League.

Patriots’ Bill Belichick and Tom Brady now have won more Super Bowl titles than any one else. The saying for what Brady has become in the NFL is ‘GOAT’ (greatest of all time) and after winning a sixth ring at the age of 41 and a half it is hard to argue.

On four of those occasions Brady has been named as the Super Bowl’s MVP (most valuable player), but on Sunday night he was reliant on a physical defensive scheme masterminded by Belichick and executed by the Patriots that stunted the high-powered Rams offense.

And Brady was also indebted to his comfort blanket, his No 1 receiver, and the man who was named the game’s MVP, Julian Edelman.

He was the best offensive player on the field because of skill and cunning.

Nick Westby

Edelman was outstanding in Atlanta, just as he has been in each of the Patriots’ last three Super Bowl wins.

Already regarded as one of the finer slot receivers in the sport, Edelman took his game to new heights on Sunday, finding holes in the Los Angeles secondary seemingly at will as he notched up 141 yards on 10 receptions.

He was the game’s outstanding offensive player in a surprisingly attritional affair and rightly took all the plaudits.

But what many reports, either on the television, the radio, in newspapers or on social media, declined to mention is that just five months ago Edelman sat out the whole of September for, as the league put it, “violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances”.

New England Patriots' Julian Edelman, left, and Tom Brady celebrate after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

New England Patriots' Julian Edelman, left, and Tom Brady celebrate after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Edelman said at the time: “Obviously, you’re disappointed with it, but I got to follow the protocols a little better and make sure this never happens again. I’m accountable for my actions.”

Edelman served his four-game ban – a quarter of an NFL regular season – and paid his fine.

And no performance-enhancing substances could have altered the way he played on Sunday night.

He was the best player on the field because of skill and cunning.

Wide receiver is traditionally the position of the quick, tall, black athlete, but at 5ft 11ins Edelman has carved out a niche with his ability to get open, his hand-speed and his nimbleness, all of which were evident in Super Bowl LIII.

But surely for the millions watching across the world there needed to be some acknowledgment from more than just a small minority of the near 6,000-accredited media in Atlanta that Edelman has this blot on his copybook.

A journalist’s job is to present all the facts so the audience has a greater chance to make their own moral judgment.

Certainly other sports do not offer such an easy ride.

Justin Gatlin was booed when he won the world 100m title in London in 2017 for two previous failed drugs tests.

Then there is cyclist Chris Froome, who was proven innocent of the claim that haunted him for nine months, but his reputation and accomplishments are questioned.

Even the men without whom Edelman would not be here are not immune from allegations that followed their careers.

Belichick was caught spying on opponents long before Marcelo Bielsa, in 2007, while for all Brady’s status his legend has an asterisk at the side of it because of his role in ‘Deflategate’ in 2015, which led to a four-game ban for allegedly ordering the deflating of game balls.

The more Super Bowls the three win together the more their reputations are enhanced and their misdemeanours diminshed. That is as it should be. They are three of the standout operators of their era.

But in presenting their case the full facts should be heard, otherwise the line between morality and immortality will be blurred.