The Patriots and their fans sell more Whoppers than Burger King.
Mini Whoppers. Meatless Whoppers. Whoppers with cheese.
It starts at the top. Remember Bob “I did nothing illegal” Kraft and his army of attorneys after the Orchids of Asia debacle in February?
Here we are again. Spygate II. And again the polygraphs are exploding as we wait for the Patriots to release “Spygate II In Context.’’
Let me see if I’ve got things straight:
Dave Mondillo, a Patriots employee who has worked at Gillette for 18 years, oversees a video operation in which a press box camera is trained on the bench of the Patriots’ next opponent. On the audio portion of the 45-second clip aired by Fox last Sunday, a member of the Patriots crew claimed he didn’t know the rule.
On the day after the Patriots get caught, Bill Belichick tells us he was not informed of the incident until the middle of the next day (Really? After a Patriots employee had his video confiscated in an NFL press box?). Then the Patriots issue a statement admitting that they broke a rule but blame it on “independent contractors” in an attempt to make us believe that the team pulled a couple of guys off the streets of Cleveland and asked them to help out on a Kraft Sports Productions feature dedicated to the work of a Patriots advance scout. The Patriots’ statement held that the crew did not have “specific knowledge of League rules.’’
The Patriots’ next step was to mobilize the ever-ready Patriots Media Cartel to spread the message that Belichick and his football operation knew nothing of this. All the production crew did, we were told, was shoot video of their own scout in a press box. Nothing to see there. We were also told that the NFL was largely satisfied with New England’s explanation, and that only a dope would believe that the Patriots would need to do any illegal reconnaissance of a 1-12 football team such as the Bengals.
Incredibly, after Fox aired the clip, a legion of Defend-The-Wall Patriots fans claimed they felt better having seen it and heard the exchange.
Based on what we saw, the clip indicates the crew had interest only in what the Bengals coaches were doing. They were not shooting the field. Or the scout.
In the audio, a Patriots employee sounds like a little kid caught with crumbs all over his face and his hand in the cookie jar.
Belichick, who quite possibly did not order the Code Red this time, has done everything possible to distance himself from Kraft Sports Productions and the stunt. It’s just a coincidence that the wife of the veteran Patriots employee who broke the rule happens to be president and chief operating officer of the (Goodwin) PR group that helped launched Belichick’s foundation. On Goodwin’s company website Belichick states, “I consider them part of my off the field team.’’
I understand that the Patriots don’t need to cheat to beat the Bengals. I believe that the Patriots win because they are better than other teams, not because they tamper with equipment and tape sidelines to learn patterns. But I also believe they do these things. I believe Richard Nixon didn’t need to have his guys break into Democratic headquarters at Watergate in order to win an election against George McGovern in 1972 (Nixon took 49 states, McGovern 1). But paranoid, powerful people do these kinds of things because they habitually leave no stone unturned.
This may very well have been an innocent mistake, but the Patriots have lost all credibility. They had an elaborate, rule-violating video system until they got caught in 2007. They had a system of football deflation (sorry, the texts are conclusive and two employees disappeared forever), until they got caught in 2015.
Early in the Deflategate fallout, Belichick owned up to Spygate, then said, “That’s it. We never did it again. We’re never going to do it again and anything else that’s close, we’re not going to do, either.’’
Now this. New England’s own employees were caught videotaping the sideline of their upcoming opponent one week before the game.
“The way it looks is terrible,’’ acknowledged Tedy Bruschi, a Patriots institution and Patriots family member.
Headline in Tuesday’s USA Today Sports section: “Patriot Way: Cheating, deception, lies and winning,” accompanied by the predictable photo of Belichick looking diabolical.
Some Cartel members have gone so far as to suggest that this latest infraction will serve only to galvanize the wobbly Patriots in their playoff run.
Swell. But fair or unfair, this is strike three for a franchise that already has convinced most of America that it wins by breaking the rules.
Where’s the usually ubiquitous Bob Kraft in all this? The Patriots owner loves ribbon cuttings and White House photo ops, but he’s strangely silent now that his team has been caught breaking the rules again.
The owner has to be accountable. This is an issue of institutional control.
And the notion that the TV production guys did this and the coach knew nothing of their activities? How can we believe that when we are constantly reminded that Bill is a control freak, maniacal about detail, and knows everything that is going on in his football operation.
Penalties are coming. And the Patriots deserve them.