Most of the National Football League’s followers assume that the New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick cheats to win the big games. But what if they’re wrong?
“Let’s put it this way: when you’re the head coach, you’re the head coach twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. No matter what happens, it’s on your watch and, to a degree, it’s your problem.”
Quote from New England Patriots General Manager and Head Coach Bill Belichick. “Patriot Reign” – Michael S. Holley 2004 Harper Collins. (Chapter 1, Page 5)
“But his ego was about the doing; it was fused into a larger purpose, that of his team winning. It was never about the narcissistic celebration of self that television loved to amplify.” (Page 21)
“What sometimes bothered the media was that he was too straight, that he had so little in the way of artifice. “What’s interesting about him, and was judged a weakness in Cleveland,” Richmond said, “was that he did not play any games. There’s nothing fake, and there never was. He is what he is. There is no pretense, and he is utterly authentic in a world where because of television there is more and more which is inauthentic. What is troubling about all this is that a lot of people are more comfortable with the inauthentic, if it is reassuring, than they are with the truth, if it is not reassuring. He doesn’t play the role of the coach. Instead he is the coach.” (Page 271)
Quote from “The Education of A Coach” – David Halberstam 2012 Hachette Books
I have read Michael Holley’s and David Halberstam’s books about the most enigmatic figure in current professional sports, the National Football League’s New England Patriots Head Coach and General Manager, Bill Belichick. For someone who appears to dislike interacting with the media, it is curious that he would provide access to his work and life, even to two accomplished journalists like the former Boston Globe sports columnist and current WEEI radio host Michael Holley and the great biographer David Halberstam.
Bill Belichick is a football lifer. His father, Steve, was the head coach at Navy. Belichick may now be the most reviled figure from one of the most reviled teams in professional sports. As Super Bowl 49 was played on February 1, fans of the 6 New England states were rooting for the New England Patriots. Fans from the other 44 states were rooting for the Seattle Seahawks.
A major factor of this dislike is the perception that Bill Belichick is a cheater, and because he is, the Patriots are undeserving winners. Since Belichick was hired to be the head coach of the Patriots in 2000, the team has been to 7 Super Bowls and have won 4. But even his hiring to be the Patriots’ head coach was mired in controversy.
Bill Belichick stunned the New York Jets yesterday when he abruptly resigned as head coach of the team, a job he held for less than a day after Bill Parcells announced his resignation from the same position Monday.
Belichick cited the uncertainty of an impending change of Jets ownership as the reason for stepping down from a job that was guaranteed to him by contract when he became the team’s defensive coordinator and assistant head coach three years ago.
“There are a number of obvious uncertainties that would affect the head coach of the team,” Belichick said at the Jets’ Long Island headquarters during a bizarre news conference called originally to introduce him as the team’s next coach.
“I just don’t feel at this time that I can lead the Jets with the 100 percent conviction that I need.”
Jets President Steve Gutman said Belichick submitted a handwritten resignation note minutes before the news conference began.
I have a theory about why Belichick comes across as a brilliant football strategist but socially inept – he is on the autism spectrum, possibly having Asperger’s Syndrome. I have been development and copy editor for four books on this subject. I’m not an enthusiast of pop psychoanalyzing of public figures, but in Belichick’s case, it fits. People with Asperger’s Syndrome have:
• Problems with social skills,
• Eccentric or repetitive behaviors,
• Unusual preoccupations or rituals,
• Communication difficulties,
• Limited range of interests,
• Skilled or talented
His difficulty dealing with the media, the wearing of the hoodie, the knowledge of every aspect of the NFL rules, the attention to every team detail, and the alleged flouting of the NFL rules, sure fits the description of an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome. It is the alleged flouting of the NFL rules that bears consideration.
Belichick’s success have been marred by two alleged NFL rules violation, the 2007 “Spygate” and this year’s “Deflated Balls”. The assumption of the NFL world is that the Patriots have violated the rules in these two controversies. But what if this assumption is incorrect? In Part I – League Of Incompetence: The Mismanagement Of The National Football League, we presented various managerial missteps of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. What if one of those missteps involved his handling of “Spygate”?
The general public perceptions of the alleged Spygate scandal are:
1. The filming of opposing teams was not permitted
2. The Patriots were the only team doing this type of taping
3. The NFL had direct evidence of this taping and had seen the evidence when Commissioner Goodell issued the penalties against Belichick and the Patriots
4. The NFL’s interpretation of the rules was correct and Belichick’s interpretation was wrong.
Then there was the Patriots/ Jets camera incident.
The first one.
When the Jets got caught.
In a playoff game, Patriots’ security prevented a Jets camera crew from filming. The crew was there in addition to the cameramen already recording game film from end zone and sideline angles. New England security didn’t confiscate the footage and turn it over to the NFL.
At a press conference, Mangini said the extra camera was there because he wanted game footage from both end zones. After the Spygate scandal broke, a former Patriots video assistant involved with filming coaches, Matt Walsh, said that was the standard excuse for his filming.
It was the same former Patriots and New York Jets coach Eric Mangini who “blew the whistle” on Spygate.
The scandal broke Sept. 9, 2007 when Eric Mangini turned whistleblower during a regular-season home game against the Patriots. Mangini, the then-second-year coach of the New York Jets and a former New England assistant coach under Bill Belichick, notified the league about how the Patriots’ clandestine in-game videotaping violated Article IX, Section 9.1(c)(14) of the NFL constitution and bylaws. League security officials swooped in to confiscate the camera and videotape of Matt Estrella. Four days after Mangini’s revelations, Goodell meted out his punishment — a total of $750,000 in fines and the loss of at least one draft pick. Goodell described the scandal as a “calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field.” This was prior to NFL executives traveling to Boston on Sept. 17 to actually review the tapes and notes provided by the Patriots.
The league was almost certainly aware of the Patriots’ activities a full year before Mangini leveled his charge. NFL executive Ray Anderson, who recently left the league for a position at Arizona State University, penned a two-page memo on Sept. 6, 2006. A copy of the memo has been obtained by Sports Illustrated. The memo was for all head coaches and general managers. In relevant part, the memo stated:
Videotaping 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.
”Defending himself, Bill Belichick said he interpreted the rules based on Article IX of The NFL Constitution and By-laws. Among other things, Article IX concerns videotaping. It reads, “Any use by any club at any time, from the start to the finish of any game in which such club is a participant, of any communications or information-gathering equipment, other than Polaroid-type cameras or field telephones, shall be prohibited, including without limitation videotape machines, telephone tapping, or bugging devices, or any other form of electronic devices that might aid a team during the playing of a game.”
This seems to ban all taping, but, as we’ve seen, the league has two pages of rules requiring teams to tape and exchange the recordings.
Isn’t that contradictory?
The NFL reconciles it by interpreting Article IX to mean that teams can film during games, but they can only use the recordings between games, not during them. Belichick applied this interpretation to ground level taping too.
Unfortunately, the memo misquotes the rules, and Anderson can’t change the rules. Rule changes must be proposed to and voted on by the teams. The NFL cited the misquoted rules against the Patriots from pages A105-A106 of the league’s Policy Manual for Member Clubs Volume II: Game Operations 2007 edition.
Miscellaneous Rules and Regulations, Section A. reads, “No video recording devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches’ booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game.”
The league also cited a portion of section D against the Patriots. Section D reads, “To ensure the protection of equipment and employees of the teams’ video departments, please follow the guidelines listed for the video shooting booths at your stadium.”
The league quoted the first guideline against the Patriots, “All video shooting locations must be enclosed on all sides with a roof overhead.” The rules never prohibit filming coaches. The sections used against the Patriots only concern camera locations.
Anderson’s memo adds an emphasis on signals, which isn’t in the rules. Also, Anderson says that videotaping is prohibited from “any other locations accessible to club staff members.”
This isn’t in the rules either.
The rule mentions only three spots where teams can’t use video equipment during games—the coaches’ booth, the locker room, and the field. No rule bars teams from recording signals as long as they locate their cameras properly.
Despite this, Goodell and especially the media continue to portray signal taping as the problem when the only real issue is camera location.”…
In other words, the media and the league took a camera placement technicality and blew it out of proportion. It’s legal for NFL teams to scout opponents’ signals, and no rule actually says teams can’t film them. Coaches started videotaping opponents’ signals before Bill Belichick even got his first head coaching job. There’s no blow against the game’s integrity here.
At worst, the Patriots might have violated a camera location technicality, and even that’s disputable. The real problem is not what the Patriots shot, but where they shot from.
That involves the interpretation of the rules involved. Belichick knew them all and applied them. The NFL officials did not. Goodell fined Belichick $500,000, the Patriots $250,000 and took a number one draft pick from the Patriots. I can easily see where the literal (possible) Aspergian Belichick would interpret the rule and apply it to the letter, while overlooking the intent.
Goodell issued the fines 4 days before the NFL office received the tapes. Goodell never viewed the tapes. Upon receipt, he immediately had them destroyed.
But what was really on those tapes? No one besides Bill Belichick and his assistant Ernie Adams will ever know.
Sen. Specter also asked about the decision to destroy the tapes generally and found “no plausible explanation as to why Commissioner Goodell imposed the penalty on Sept. 13, 2007, before the NFL examined the tapes on Sept. 17, 2007.” The source said Goodell was “defensive” in connection with this issue. Also, while in Foxborough on Sept. 17, Pash spoke with long-time Belichick confidant Ernie Adams and explained that the publicity-shy Adams was the only person to receive the tapes from the video crew and was the one who did the analytical work in connection with the tapes. The notes accompanying the tapes, which were also destroyed on Sept. 17, were overwhelmingly about signals used by the Patriots’ AFC East rivals, with very little about NFC teams.
And other NFL coaches know that this taping is commonplace.
Recently, it has become painfully obvious that most people are quite irritated at the NFL and the New England Patriots for their “scouting” of NFL team’s Offensive and Defensive signals. At first, as a fan, I was crushed too. As the story broke, it started to make less and less sense to me. Members of the press core who were former coaches, Jimmy Johnson most notably, started to admit and even imply that the Patriots were not the only teams to video-tape other teams.
Furthermore, in great detail, information started to arise that this was an NFL wide problem. Most recently, Roger Goodell said that “scouting NFL signals is commonplace and legal.” Obviously, the use of a camera in certain spaces makes it more illegal than other places, but that’s not what’s troubling.
If the Patriots had taped signals from the press box, a fine would have never been imposed. As Jimmy Johnson said though “it’s not possible to tape signals from the press box when the team is on the wrong side.” In other words, you can’t tape their signals but they can tape yours, and it’s 100% legal.
Jimmy Johnson also went on to elaborate by saying that the idea was given to him by then KC Chiefs sideline coach to tape from the sidelines. “You merely have to put an extra camera man beside the rest of them.”
In short, much ado about nothing.
Goodell should have waited until he and the NFL’s Competition Committee reviewed the tapes and then talked with the parties involved, like a responsible, in-charge commissioner would do. He didn’t.
Now, even Eric Mangini regrets what he did.
“If there is a decision I could take back it’s easily that decision,” Mangini said. “Never in a million years would I have wanted it to go this way. It’s disappointing whenever it comes up.”
Mangini, who was an assistant on the Patriots’ three Super Bowl-winning teams, says he has never believed any of the Patriots’ titles were tainted, and he’s surprised that anyone would suggest they are.
“It’s regret, it’s disappointment, it’s all of those things,” Mangini said of the way he views Spygate now. “Because I know what it took to win those Super Bowls and I have so much respect for the people that were involved there. I’m disappointed that this is what it’s translated into.”
But without Spygate, Deflategate would be a non-issue.
Right before the start of Super Bowl 49, Belichick and the Patriots were accused of deflating the footballs used in the American Football Conference Championship Game, the 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts. The U.S. public now knows more about the inflation of the footballs used in NFL games than it does about the Affordable Health Care Act.
Before the Deflated Balls controversy, I thought:
1. The footballs used were brand new, untouched by the referees and the players
2 Before the games, the footballs were in the possession of the game’s referees.
3. Both teams used the same footballs during play
4. The rules that are used in the regular season, are used in the Super Bowl
And I would be wrong. The above are the rules used for the Super Bowl only,
In 2006, NFL quarterbacks, led by then Indianapolis Colt Peyton Manning and the Patriots’ Tom Brady asked the league to be able to alter the footballs to their liking. In the NFL Throwball era, the quarterback’s being able to alter the game balls prior to the game was approved by Goodell because it would enhance the quarterback’s accuracy in passing. Throwball is important to the marketing and image of the NFL because casual fans like to see high scoring offense dominated games. High scoring games means more television viewers. More viewers means more advertising dollars. For a more traditionalist fan like me, the game has become boring and one-dimensional. The drama of a well-played low scoring game has become almost extinct. The NFL under Roger Goodell is not about the game, it’s all about the money.
The Colts accused the Patriots, and quarterback Tom Brady of altering the balls below the 12.5 pound per square (psi) inch standard to make the balls easier to grasp, throw and catch. Each team is to supply 12 quarterback altered footballs to the referees before the game and the referees are supposed to check them to make sure the balls are blown up to be within the 12.5 to 13.5 psi standards.
NFL football operations chief Troy Vincent has confirmed Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson helped kick off Deflategate by contacting league officials about the New England Patriots using underinflated balls in the AFC Championship Game.
As a result, in the week off before the start of Super Bowl week, Belichick and Brady had to hold press conferences to state they had no knowledge of the deflated footballs.
The sports and news media blew up this situation way out of proportion because of the public perception that Bill Belichick cheats to win. This is the current status of the deflated balls situation:
Of the 11 deflated footballs used in the New England Patriots’ win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship, only one was well below the legal limit of 12.5 PSI. That one ball was a full two pounds under while the other 10 were just a tick below, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. That news counters previous reports that said officials found 11 of 12 balls deflated by two pounds of pressure or more.
Additionally, Rapoport reported the locker room attendant under investigation by the NFL may be “a man described as elderly.” The elderly man reportedly took two bags of 12 footballs into the restroom near the referees’ room in Gillette Stadium. He stayed in the room for 98 seconds before exiting and taking the balls to the field. There is video evidence of the man entering and exiting the bathroom, but there are no reports whether there is video inside the restroom.
Video inside the restroom violation of privacy is how stupid this whole situation has become. An elderly man went the bathroom for 98 seconds and supposedly could accurately deflate 12 footballs to supposedly Tom Brady’s liking in 1 minute and a half. The high-priced Washington D.C. lawyer, Ted Wells, who investigated the Miami Dolphin’s racism situation, is now investigating the actions of an elderly gentleman in the bathroom for 98 seconds. Insane.
If Wells’ investigation says there was no tampering with the footballs, I would expect Goodell to issue the same fines and stripping of draft picks to the Indianapolis Colts that he issued previously to the Patriots.
This situation did not have to happen with any degree of competent management by the NFL. If the pregame footballs were handled in a standard operating procedure, which any other business would do, let alone a $10 Billion one, this doesn’t happen. If the referees have the chain of custody of the game balls while in the stadium, this doesn’t happen. For the league that is allegedly so concerned about “the integrity of the game” to not be in control one of the most essential components of that integrity is beyond my comprehension.
And the most successful head coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick, would not have been found guilty, before there is any substantive evidence presented, by the court of public opinion. This is the fault of the continued mismanagement of the NFL Commissioner. To maintain the real integrity of the National Football League, Roger Goodell must go.
If there is one major consistency to the coaching career of Bill Belichick, he knows the players got to play, play, play; the haters got to hate, hate, hate and to shake it off, shake it off.
And he and his team did. It’s The Patriot Way:
(From Patriot Reigns)
Congratulations to the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks for playing the greatest game in Super Bowl history.
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Copyright © January 2015: Michael A. Maynard