Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nixonian Patriots

belichickWell, it looks like the Patriots are in a bit of trouble. They were caught videotaping the Jets' defensive signals during Sunday's game, and there will be some sort of "sanctions" coming down from the NFL shortly.

In some ways, it smacks of Nixonian paranoia. Nixon's reelection staff was so afraid of losing the 1972 election that they broke into the Democratic National Commitee's offices at the Watergate even though there was no way they were going to lose the 1972 election to George McGovern or any other Democrat.

Similarly, the Patriots are so good--especially this season--that they are going to win almost every week without having to resort to chicanery. Yet, they are so afraid of losing even the tiniest edge, that they break the laws of their sport even though they don't have to.

It's a little crime that opens a window into the thought process of the organization.

In the context of one specific game, the stealing of signals via videotape is not that big a deal. The way the NFL works, the offense sends in it's personnel package, the the defense sees who has come onto the field and makes there calls based on down, distance, and offensive personnel. There is almost no way that a team could have someone videotape a signal, call it in to an offensive coach, and have it relayed to Tom Brady in time for him to make an adjustment to the play.

On the other hand, it is a very big deal because the practice is explicitly prohibited by the league. In fact, not only have the Patriots been accused of doing this a number of times, but the entire league was strongly warned before the start of the season that these sort of practices would not be tolerated.

Yet, the Patriots did it anyway, either because they were too paranoid to let the game play out or because they are so arrogant that they think thought they could get away with it.

Now they will be punished, possible severely. And they will deserve whatever they get.

What will that be? I'll bet the Patriots will lose one or two draft picks, and be fined six figures. I also wouldn't be surprised if the sanctions include restrictions on who the Patriots can have on the sideline and how many sideline credentials the team can pass out. I wouldn't be stunned if Bill Belichick were suspended for a game or so.

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