By Anthony Tripicchio
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell refuses to tolerate inappropriate behavior, whether it’s on the football field or off of it. Bill Belichick is the latest person to realize that the hard way.
In the wake of last Sunday’s evidence that the Patriots videotaped defensive signals from the Jets’ sideline, Goodell fined Belichick the maximum amount of $500,000 and the Patriots organization $250,000. In addition, the Patriots will forfeit their 2008 first round pick if they qualify for the playoffs or their second and third round picks if they do not.
Belichick’s actions were inexplicable and it’s refreshing that such a severe penalty condemned his behavior. The elaborate spying didn’t affect the outcome of Sunday’s game against the Jets since New England dominated every facet, but it has no place in the sport. There is no way to tell how often Belichick spied in the past or how many wins it might have meant. It does raise a lot of questions, however.
The Patriots have the best team in football and yet Belichick, the best coach in the game, still cheated? His ego is out of control. Attempting this tomfoolery against your arch rival and your former defensive coordinator is not only ludicrous, it’s stupid. Confounding matters, the Patriots had been warned by the league about ceasing this activity in the past.
He got caught red-handed and now Belichick has cost his team a first round pick as a result; not to mention his wallet is a lot lighter now. Barring catastrophic injury, there’s no way the Patriots will miss the playoffs. Belichick is fortunate that the Pats will have San Francisco’s first round pick which will certainly be higher than the pick they forfeit. San Francisco’s pick should be anywhere from the high teens to the low 20s, whereas the Patriots forfeited pick will be high 20s to low 30s. Also, the Pats have stock-piled first day picks in the 2008 draft so that should further soften the blow.
Despite the fact that the Patriots will continue to be an NFL Super Power even without their first round draft pick, the punishment handed down by Goodell fit the crime. Many had speculated that Belichick would be suspended on top of the fine, but no one in the right mind can believe that he would be devoid of contact with his team for that time period. Belichick would find a way to communicate orders to his team by an underground railroad if necessary. Plus, the loss of a first round draft pick will have a longer lasting impact on the team than a short-term suspension would.
Although Belichick was formally chastised by the league, perhaps the biggest punishment is the embarrassment he will continue to suffer from the episode. His coaching fraternity has disapproved of his deplorable behavior including such brand names as Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, and Tony Dungy.
The true great coaches don’t need to cross moral boundaries to win football games. Sadly, Belichick doesn’t need to either.