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Hurley: You Don't Need A Shutdown Cornerback To Win A Super Bowl

BOSTON (CBS) -- Is everybody over the whole Darrelle Revis thing yet?


OK, well, regardless of where you stand on the Patriots' refusal to open the vaults for the Hall of Fame cornerback, I need to get this off my chest.

You don't need a shutdown cornerback to win a Super Bowl.

Let me say it again: You do not need a shutdown cornerback to win a Super Bowl.


Feel better yet? Doubtful.

But hear me out. Here's how the narrative has played out this past week: The Patriots were once kings of the NFL, winning three out of four Super Bowls thanks to a dominant defense and an effective offense. Then they lost Ty Law, and they never recovered, failing to win a Super Bowl for a whole nine long seasons until Darrelle Revis came to town as the knight in shining armor. The Patriots won a championship for the first time in a decade.

And so, the story goes, the Patriots cannot win a Super Bowl unless they have a Hall of Fame talent locking down the opponent's No. 1 receiver.

Forget the fact that Law didn't play after Week 8 in 2004, and that undrafted rookie Randall Gay started opposite second-year corner Asante Samuel throughout that entire run that ended with a Super Bowl XXXIX victory. Forget the fact that they lost in the '05 playoffs because Tom Brady threw two picks, one of which was in the end zone, and that the Patriots lost two fumbles that night in Denver. Forget the fact that the '06 collapse in Indy came at the hands of a 30-year-old, in-his-prime Peyton Manning, the most prolific passer in NFL history (and it never would have happened if Reche Caldwell was even a halfway decent NFL wide receiver).

Forget the fact that the '07 and '11 Giants relied on varied degrees of miracle catches to beat the Patriots, and that the offensive line failed to show up in that fateful Super Bowl XLII.

Forget the fact that the 2009 Patriots simply stunk from top to bottom when the Ravens blew them out in Foxboro. Forget the fact during the first 58 minutes of football, when it actually mattered, the 2010 Patriots mustered just 11 points at home against the Jets -- a team against whom the Patriots posted 45 points in that same building just a month earlier.

Forget the fact that, just one year after getting past the Ravens when QB-turned-WR-turned-DB Julian Edelman was playing slot corner, the Patriots got shut out in the second half at home against the same Ravens team.

And lastly, forget the fact that in an AFC Championship Game in Denver, Tom Brady was targeting Matthew Mulligan, Matthew Slater, Michael Hoomanawanui and Austin Collie on more than 30 percent of his throws.

Forget all of that. The Patriots endured a 10-year Super Bowl "drought" because they didn't have a shutdown cornerback.

Sounds stupid, right?

If you're still unconvinced at the general premise, take a look at the list of starting cornerbacks (per pro-football-reference) from all of the Super Bowls that took place during that long, difficult stretch where the Patriots failed to be the one team to end the season with a win.

XLVIII: Richard Sherman, Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell
XLVII: Corey Graham, Cary Williams
XLVI: Corey Webster, Aaron Ross
XLV: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams
XLIV: Jabari Greer, Tracey Porter
XLIII: Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden
XLII: Aaron Ross, Corey Webster
XLI: Nick Harper, Jason David
XL: Ike Taylor, Deshea Townsend

The talent in that group range from great (Sherman, Woodson, plus Revis) to pretty good (most of them) to pretty bad (some of them) to "… who?!?!" (Jason David).

So what's the point? The point is that there are multiple ways to win Super Bowls. The recent trend these past two years has seen some elite corners play prominent roles in championships. But that's not the only way. The Giants won two Super Bowls with a relentless pass rush and a mediocre secondary. The Saints won with offense, averaging 36 points per game. Many teams won with balance, some had All-Pro safeties to cover for the weak corners, and hey, that list of winning quarterbacks (Brady, Wilson, Flacco, Eli Manning, Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning) is not too shabby, wouldn't you say?

And as it relates to the Patriots, there can be ways to win without Revis. Yes, the Patriots came up just short from 2005-13, but do you know who else didn't win Super Bowls during that time? Twenty-five other teams.

It's damn hard to win a Super Bowl. To come out of the tunnel in February after six months of work as the only happy team in the NFL, you need a perfect blend of skill, smarts and luck. Sometimes you need Drew Bennett to drop a pass off his chest in frigid Foxboro, or you need Walt Coleman to invoke a rule that 0.2 percent of the general population might have heard of, or you need John Kasay to send a kickoff out of bounds, or you need Pete Carroll to suffer temporary memory loss and forget who his running back is. Sometimes those things go your way and you win; other times, Wes Welker drops a pass, David Tyree or Mario Manningham catches one, and you lose.

So to say "the Patriots won zero Super Bowls after '04 until Darrelle Revis" is to be incredibly simplistic. It ignores the fact that the Patriots essentially lost the divisional round playoff game at home against the Ravens just two months ago, needing Tom Brady to engineer two 14-point comebacks and then one more three-point comeback for good measure just to survive. If not for Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels going deep, deep into their bags of tricks with passes from Julian Edelman and formations with four offensive linemen, the 2014 Patriots -- even with Revis -- would have been "just another Patriots team that wasn't good enough to win."

Of course, people always hate hypotheticals, but they also choose to ignore much too much from those runs that did end with Lombardi Trophies. Just this week, I can't tell you the number of times I've heard people say that the Patriots have never won a Super Bowl without a shutdown cornerback -- either Ty Law or Darrelle Revis. Does it still count when Ty Law spends half the season on IR with a broken foot and the Patriots win without him, like they did in '04?

The Patriots, as it stands right now, are a worse team than they were last year. They lost Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, two important players in a defense that worked.

But just because it worked once does not mean it will necessarily work again. And it's not the only way to win.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here. You can email him or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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