Patriots should have known better than to document hard work with cameras

Published: 12/13/2019 3:02:23 PM
Modified: 12/13/2019 2:54:32 PM
IMG_2968.jpegPatriots head coach Bill Belichick is on to Cincinnati ... and that's the problem.
 
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots are once again embroiled in scandal as the NFL investigates their attempt to thoroughly document the hard work of an advance scout by using cameras.
 
Last Sunday, a crew that included full-time and freelance videographers working for Kraft Sports Productions set out to record the scout for a Patriots.com docuseries called, “Do Your Job.” The crew covertly received media credentials from the Cleveland Browns via the devious tactic of asking for them. That gave the videographers access to the Browns’ press box where they interviewed the scout and then recorded him as he worked. His job included watching the sideline of New England’s upcoming opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals.
 
As part of this process, the crew, apparently unaware of league rules that prohibit credentialed media from filming a game while it’s in progress, recorded the Bengals sideline for eight minutes.
 
Given their history, the Patriots should have known better than to provide more insight and information about what makes the organization successful. The recording of a team employee carrying out the mundane tasks that have helped New England win six Super Bowls provides fans with an insider look and a measure of transparency that no one ever asks for or wants. It also lends credence to a false narrative that the Patriots win football games because of a painstaking attention to detail and superior organizational professionalism.
 
And that is a bad look.
 
Also bad is the concern that the Patriots may have been using the sideline footage to spy on the 1-12 Bengals. After all, why wouldn’t a team that is constantly under suspicion announce its presence by asking for media credentials and then set up their spy device on a tripod immediately in front of personnel from the team they are spying on? Hiding in plain sight. It’s a truly genius plan. Perhaps way more genius and more in plain sighty than having one person buy a ticket and film that same sideline with a pocket-sized smart phone. No, if you’re going to spy on the worst team in the league, you do it in front of that team, their opponent and the media. On a tripod.
 
According to a report from Judy Battista, who writes for NFL.com, “People who've seen the video at the league level feel there’s nothing on the video that you couldn't get from the tv broadcast or coach’s tape.” Naturally, after watching the video and reaching that reported conclusion, the league has of course continued its investigation, which makes a lot of sense.
 
After all, future viewings may yet reveal some type of augmented reality technology that transports the Bengals sideline back in time to 2007, the last season in which teams used hand signals to relay defensive play calls. Plays for the offense and the defense have been transmitted via helmet radio ever since. Though it stands to reason the Patriots may yet have devised a means of videotaping radio signals. Would you put it past them?
 
Indeed, the league must continue its thorough investigation of the tape it found innocuous, and should be merciless when it penalizes New England for the violation of a media credential by Kraft Sports, a wholly separate entity from the football team. Why? Because the Patriots have lost all benefit of the doubt when it comes to cheating. Remember, this is an organization that has been accused of wrongdoing multiple times. Including that time they didn’t tape a Super Bowl opponent’s walkthrough.
 
How can you give a team that has only been falsely accused one time the benefit of any doubt whatsoever?
 
Again, we’re talking about a franchise whose quarterback was more probably than not aware of a minor equipment violation that involved the deflation of footballs. Although, some point to the fact that science contradicts the NFL’s conclusion, and that the loss of air pressure in the footballs may have been explicable under the Ideal Gas Law. But that overlooks the possibility that 19th century scientist Émile Clapeyron was in cahoots with John Jastremski. Nonetheless, fine, if you believe in science, the Patriots have only been falsely accused of cheating twice.
 
But let’s forget not the original scandal that made all of this possible: Spygate. When that happened in Week 1 of the 2007 season, the league’s investigation dragged on for an entire four days after the Patriots said they were indeed taping Jets hand signals from behind an end zone at the Meadowlands. It took a painstaking 96 hours for the NFL to strip the Patriots of a draft pick and personally fine Bill Belichick $500,000.
 
Belichick attributed the recording practice to a misunderstanding of the rules. And that seems crazy when you consider the league had at least three separate policies on gameday recording at the time. Those distinct policies were conveniently spread across the NFL’s Game Day Operations Manual, the NFL Bylaws and a 2006 memo from the NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson. The three policies across three documents only contradicted each other to a fairly substantial degree and collectively raised emore questions than they answered. For example: Can the NFL Vice President of Football Operations unilaterally make up a rule by putting it in a memo? Would such a rule even be enforceable?
 
Indeed, how could Belichick have been confused when the Game Day Operations Manual lays out these very specific terms that allow recording…

Screen-Shot-2019-12-13-at-2-30-45-PM.png
 
 
….while Anderson’s memo seems to prohibit all recording…
 
Video taping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game.
 
It all adds up, because everyone knows memos are more authoritative than bylaws.
 
And because Roger Goodell, in the infancy of his administration, chose to give the Patriots a punishment more severe than anyone had considered possible, it stands to reason that their behavior was retroactively consistent with that penalty. Want proof that the Pats deserved such a harsh sentence? In 2008, Scouts Inc. reviewed Spygate tapes created by the Patriots in an article for ESPN, and that group came to this damning conclusion: “We saw nothing in that video that would allow us as a scouting department to provide a team with an unfair advantage over an opponent.”
 
And for that, the Patriots have lost all benefit of the doubt.
 
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.
 


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