The New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick deserves a severe punishment for another cheating scandal.
By Kevin Buckles Jr., Editor in Chief
“Ignorance is not an excuse” is what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the New Orleans Saints in 2012 after dropping the hammer on the franchise for their “Bountygate” scandal.
If it wasn’t an excuse then, it should not be one now for the New England Deflatriots — sorry, Patriots — as well as for their Head Coach Bill Belichick. The franchise was penalized their 2016 first-round pick, 2017 fourth-round pick, fined $1 million, while quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games, for their role in deflating footballs before the start of January’s AFC Championship Game vs. the Indianapolis Colts.
But why in the world was super hands-on, meticulous Belichick not suspended?
When originally questioned about the scandal in January, the ever-so-candid Bill Belichick, in his best Ben Stein “Dry Eyed?” expression, flatly denied any knowledge of the alleged wrongdoings.
However, prominent criminal attorney Theodore “Ted” Wells and his team of investigators released a 139-page report stating, “It is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules. In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally, (the Official Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referees. Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”
Goodell rightfully dropped a Thor-like hammer on the entire franchise, but once again, Bill Belicheat somehow slithered his way out of any suspensions, as he did nearly a decade ago when his team was doing the usual — cheating.
In 2007, the Patriots were accused of videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive signals during their Week 1 matchup. After NFL Security began its investigation by confiscating the video camera that was being used by a Patriots video assistant to record the signals, the ever-so-sincere Belichick issued a statement two days later to apologize “to everyone who has been affected.”
This was after an NFL memo in 2006 to warn all teams about videotaping opponents’ sidelines and signals – which in essence, disqualified ignorance as an excuse. The Patriots were fined an eye-popping $750,000 by the league and were stripped of their 2008 first-round draft selection.
But wait, there’s more!
Just five months later, an unnamed source claimed a New England Patriots employee secretly videotaped the St. Louis Rams’ pre-game walkthrough … on the night before Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. Matt Walsh, a former Patriots video assistant, said he had more information incriminating the Patriots in such acts. He backed it up: He sent the NFL eight tapes of five opponents’ play-calling signals in six games, spanning from 2000 to 2002.
“Now twice under Bill Belichick, and possibly a third time, they’ve cheated and given themselves an advantage,” said former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman to a Dallas radio station. “To me, the punishment for the Patriots and/or Bill Belichick has to be more severe than what the punishment was for the New Orleans Saints. … Sean Payton did not cheat. There was nothing that Sean Payton and the Saints did that was illegal. And they did not give themselves a competitive edge.”
Now, how much did deflated footballs help New England blow out the Colts in the AFC Championship Game, 45-7? Possibly not much, but the obvious intent under Coach Belichick to cheat is the key, not the outcome of the cheating. Besides, football is largely a game of confidence and momentum. Did Brady gain extra confidence by knowing he was using balls illegally modified to his specifications? Once the team got rolling in part due to the use of those balls, did it start a snowball effect?
So now the question is, how heavy should have the Deflategate punishments for the New England Must Pay-triots’ Head Coach been? Should it be the weight of 100 Vince Wilforks in one-dollar bills?
The benchmark for Belichick’s punishment should have at least be a full season of suspension. That’s what Saints Head Coach Sean Payton got, and the Saints have nowhere near the Patriots’ history of sociopathic behavior. Jonathan Vilma, the alleged ring-leader of the Bountygate was also suspended an entire season by Goodell (though he was reinstated in September 2012, when his suspension was overturned by a judge). Also, despite being incriminated by the league, the Saints, Payton, and Vilma, fully cooperated with the investigation three years ago. That currently has not been the case with the Patriots.
Wells said that the Patriots refused to make McNally available to be interviewed for a second time, in which he said would have been “crucial” to the investigation.
“I asked for a second interview, I said I would go to New Hampshire,” Wells told NBC Sports. “I would interview [McNally] in the morning, afternoon night, I would do it whenever he was free. And they said not only could I not interview him, they wouldn’t even tell him of my request for an interview.”
Wells added that Brady also did not fully cooperate as he refused to allow Wells to review his phone for potential evidence.
“I told Mr. Brady and his agents I was willing to not take possession of the phone,” Wells continued. “I don’t want to see any private communications, I said, ‘You keep the phone, you give me documents that are responsive to this investigation and I will take your word for it,’ and they still refused.”
The franchise, headed by Belichick, feels like they are above the law and above the NFL’s prestigious shield, evidenced by the team’s continued cheating. How many of their four championships have come as a direct result of their cheating? Shouldn’t there be some kind of three strikes rule in the NFL?
“My No. 1 job is protecting the integrity of the game,” said Goodell in a press conference in New York City last October, and when the cacophonous laughter in the room died down 10 minutes later, he added, “I will not relent on that.”
As history has told us, the Patriots will somehow find a way to cheat again — and get caught. Lets hope next time, that the Bill, the cheat, is the one to pay the heavy price.