The New England Patriots have been slapped with another penalty for breaking league rules by having an independent camera crew film eight minutes of the Cincinnati Bengals’ sideline as part of a documentary series. This will undoubtedly make all the haters come out of the woodwork calling them the “Cheatriots” and labeling their head coach Bill “Belicheat” — again. As was stated by the team at the time, however, the team’s football operations had absolutely nothing to do with this infraction.
There are some very simple reasons why they should be believed.
First, the NFL spent months trying to tie the Patriots’ football ops to this scandal, and found absolutely nothing. How do I know they found nothing? Because Adam Schefter, one of the most knowledgeable and sourced guys in the NFL, said they found nothing:
Adam Schefter via @TheGregHillShow on Patriots penalties for videotaping incident: "Even though it might seem severe and steep, the NFL needed to send a message. ... if there was no history maybe it goes away (with nothing)."— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) June 29, 2020
Compound that with the fact that the league released exactly zero findings about the investigation, and it’s pretty clear there was nothing there.
Second, let’s go back and take a look at the last two things the Patriots have been accused of and subsequently punished for. 2007’s SpyGate resulted in the loss of a first-round draft pick, and the largest individual fine in NFL history. Eight years later, DeflateGate resulted in the loss of another first-round pick, and the suspension of a quarterback who was never proven to even have any knowledge of the alleged situation.
Now, with another filming scandal, they are suddenly only docked a third-round pick? If the football operations had been linked to this scandal, the NFL would likely have brought down the largest penalty brought against a sports organization since SMU received the Death Penalty. Whether that would have meant Belichick being suspended, another first-round pick being taken away, or the team being fined an insane amount of money (or all three), we will never know.
However, the penalties would have been draconian; just consider the source. The NFL handed down disproportionate penalties against the Patriots despite no real proof in DeflateGate. They would have thrown the entire book at them if they had even one shred of evidence that remotely linked Belichick and the football operations to this mistake made by an entirely different department within the organization.
The simple fact here is that the Patriots as a football club didn’t really do anything wrong. Kraft Sports Productions asked permission to film for their documentary they were working on, but didn’t go through the correct process, and so the NFL killed them for it. If teams like the Broncos or Colts had done this, it likely would have resulted in a slap on the wrist, and they would have moved on. Because it was the Patriots, however, the league took away a draft pick and fined them because it simply looked bad.
At least we can now all put this stupid investigation to rest and continue fighting about whether Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham should be the Patriots’ starter this season.
Pat is a host of the Patriot Nation Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats