The National Football League has made its point loud and clear: A team’s use of sideline videocameras to “spy” on opposing coaches’ signals is prohibited.
To back up its policy, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has targeted coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots as the major culprits.
Goodell’s historic penalties suggest the Patriots are the best cheaters in the league, rather than the team that has won three Super Bowl championships. Owner Robert Kraft has also built a reputation for demanding good conduct on and off the field.
We do not believe for one second that the Patriots are cheaters or that Belichick is a spymaster. However, we do believe that in the competitive world of professional sports, coaches and players are always looking for an “edge.”
Certainly, the Patriots have used innovative, legal techniques to stay ahead of the opposition. Now, questions abound as to whether Belichick’s success was built on false pretenses.
Fining Belichick ($500,000) and the organization ($250,000) for breaking an NFL policy that has been lightly enforced should have been enough. But Goodell also ordered the Patriots to give up a first-round draft choice if New England makes the playoffs.
That’s going too far, especially when other NFL violators were left off the hook.
It appears the commissioner has lumped all the league’s sins into one ball of wax and thrown the book at the Patriots. He meted out a harsher than needed penalty, because no one in the NFL is going to complain when The Big Guy on The Block gets knocked down a notch.
However, the San Diego Chargers discovered last weekend our Pats are still The Big Team on The Block.