Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 13, 2007
FOOTBALL: Bill Belichick's Patriot Act

No, especially after reading KSK's take I couldn't resist that title.

The news that Jets coach Eric Mangini caught Bill Belichick in the act of stealing the Jets' defensive signals via video camera in violation of NFL rules presents a number of interesting issues. For obvious reasons, the NFL isn't going to go back and start forfeiting games or kick Belichick out of the league, but the penalty does have to be real and stiff to discourage this sort of thing from happening; the NFL has talked about docking the team draft picks, and a first round pick would be a sufficiently stiff penalty that it should be included. And yes, the penalty should fall on the team as a whole, since this was an operation involving multiple people from the head coach on down for the benefit of the club.

Sign-stealing has a long pedigree, of course, and in baseball we have the now-notorious example (only unearthed 50 years later) of the 1951 Giants' elaborate surveillance operation. But while baseball has mostly treated it as a venial sin and one that carries no penalty if you aren't caught red-handed (as the Patriots here were) it strikes me as being a more serious issue in football, given the elaborate nature of the play-calling process in today's game.

At the same time, I'm not so quick to jump on the bandwagon of people trying to strip the legitimacy of the Patriots' titles; as is often the case with these things, you start doing that and it raises the issue of who else got away with what that was never known or suspected.

Probably the biggest lesson of the whole affair is that you should never use dirty tricks against people who used to work for you and know your M.O. "The Mangenius" knew Belichick's tricks from having worked for the Pats; if Belichick expected Mangini to keep quiet out of an unspoken code of loyalty, he shouldn't have tried the same thing against Mangini's team.

Oh, and: don't mess with a guy who knows Tony Soprano.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 AM | Football | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

A first round draft choice would be an extrordinary penalty, and I think that is unlikely. But the league does have to do something. I would think suspending Belichick for a week (perhaps the week of the next Jets game, and not just keeping him off the sidelines, but completely away from the team for the week) would also be an option.

Posted by: Jerry at September 13, 2007 10:48 AM

Stealing signs is easy, figuring out what they mean is another matter. If they figured it out without inside help, more power to them. That is part of the game.

Posted by: maddirishman at September 13, 2007 11:09 AM

Forfeit game 1. Loosing 1 and 2nd round draft for next year. A strong enough signal have to be sent down from the league office that this behavior is NOT acceptable.

Posted by: BigFire at September 13, 2007 12:31 PM

If Mangini knew about this because of his tenure with the Patriots, then he is guilty as well, and he personally (not the Jets) should also face sanctions.

Posted by: Enigmaticore at September 13, 2007 12:40 PM

aww come on now all team at one time or another have tried to steal the other teams signals, why do you suppose catchers and pitchers talk to each other with their glove over their mouth, if a teAM IS DUMB ENOUGH TO BROADCAST THEIR SIGNALS SO AS TO ENABKLE THEIR OPPONETE TO STEAL THEIR SIGNALS THEY DESERVE TO LOSE.
you never assume your signals are safe but impliment safely measures to ensure you are not a victim only losers are victims
the good teams ensure their system is safe.

and to videotape actual signals does not mean anyone is cheating, as one would then have to study the tape to figure out what each signal means
just cases someone was videotaping them it would seem it was for later use and not for that game per say . as there would be no time to decifer the signals and then say try to get a counter play into the game, this is most unlikely, but could be used to after the game to see what defense was used against each offense.

i bet when push comes to shove every team does the same thing. to determine if they are predictable on certain plays.

Posted by: fredoftampa at September 13, 2007 1:02 PM

Why aren't the defensive signals radioed in just like the offensive signals?

Posted by: Dave in St. Louis at September 13, 2007 1:45 PM

Defensive signals are not sent by radio because enough teams (including the Patriots, but not the Jets) voted against allowing that in the offseason.

Whether something is gamesmanship or cheating is in the eyes of the commissioner, who pretty clearly views this as cheating.

Posted by: Jerry at September 13, 2007 2:34 PM

If the draft picks are too high the Patriots might sue (and courts have sided with teams against leagues in the past), whereas they have no legal recourse if it's a suspension. I predict a one game suspension and a mid-level draft pick.

Posted by: Hei Lun Chan at September 13, 2007 7:11 PM

Wow, less than 2 hours and my prediction is already wrong. Apparently the punishment is a first round pick and a big fine.

Posted by: Hei Lun Chan at September 13, 2007 8:54 PM

Belichick will probably quit the Pats after the season, leaving the franchise to pay the piper. Which is the kind of guy his history suggests he is, great coach or not.

Posted by: Jerry at September 13, 2007 10:05 PM

I don't think Patriots fans would really have much to complain about regarding the Belichick era no matter how it ends.

Posted by: The Crank at September 13, 2007 10:09 PM

True, although I'm sure that won't stop them, fans being fans. A fair amount of Giants fans (and Pats fans, and Jets fans) held a grudge against Bill Parcells.

Posted by: Jerry at September 13, 2007 10:18 PM

The punishment looks stiff but when you consider that Kraft has $250K in his couch cushions and Belichik is a multi-millionaire who has a clothing budget of $10/year AND the Pats have 2 first round picks in '08 it seems a little less severe.

Posted by: jim at September 14, 2007 10:14 AM

I agree, jim. I expected at least a 2 game suspension for the HC of the NEP.

Posted by: abe at September 14, 2007 6:32 PM

That the Pats have two 1st round picks is inconsequential, good for them to be in a position where they could weather the storm. I don't think it's 100% clear exactly why the Pats were doing it, or what the benefit was, but it is clearly illegal.

As for predictions that BB would jump ship based on his track record - one this is clearly a biased view - and two he just took a big extension.

Posted by: Brendan at September 20, 2007 10:04 AM
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