I was playing monopoly the other day with a few friends, and one from our group volunteered to be the banker. Now, there are only two types of people who actively want to be the banker. The first type is what I like to call “The Whistleless Cop” He’s paranoid, and wants to make sure everything is on the up and up in every way. The second type, and as it happens the type of this particular friend, is what I call “The Belichick”.
He’s also paranoid, but only because he’s grasping for any advantage, legitimate or not, because he’s not playing for fun, or even to win, he’s playing to make sure everyone else loses. You know the type, he’s in every group of friends, every locker room, every class, every office, and on every job site. I don’t know about you, but I hate that type of guy. (And yes, for some reason it always seems to be a guy.)
The worst part is, he always seems to get away with it, even though everyone knows what’s going on. Of course, an hour later, as players started to go bankrupt, and the banker’s seemingly never-ending stream of 500s grew stronger, the fun was over, and the game ended in disappointment.
So, when our editor from profootball24x7.com TL tossed out the idea of doing an article about the league letting Bill Belichick and the Patriots get away with consistently under-handed tactics, I jumped on it with an excitement borne of curiosity. I was excited to research and figure out the answer to an intriguing question regarding the very culture of the NFL.
Is the NFL intentionally biased on behalf of Belichick’s Patriots, or do they just not care?
Basically, it’s a question of motive. “Does the NFL want the Patriots to win?” Or “Does the NFL allow a culture of favoritism for the Patriots to pervade the game due to apathy?” It’s a hard thing to prove either way. I think the most telling evidence is during camera-gate.
We all know the bare-bones of the story. Belichick had a camera set up to, knowingly against league fairness rules, record the Jets’ sidelines to get their defensive call signals, and was caught. The league supposedly came down hard on him, fining him $500,000, the New England organization $250,000, and taking away a first-round draft pick. Sounds pretty fair.
However, like any scandal, you have to delve deeper to get to the meat of the story. It seems obvious to anyone but the most willfully-gullible Patriots fan that this was not the first time it had happened.
Consider the timing.
Who was the Jets coach when it happened? Why, it was long-time Belichick assistant Eric Mangini, who would obviously know through his personal involvement what was going on. Though, at the time, the Jets organization denied that Mangini was the whistle-blower in the scandal, in early 2011 Mangini made a statement basically apologizing to Belichick for ratting him out. Here’s the exact quote:
“It’s one of those things where the end result wasn’t the goal, I owe so much to Bill. I appreciate what he’s done for me and my intention was never to hurt him or the (Patriots) organization, the Kraft family.”
Now, how upside-down is that? But wait, there’s more. How about the fact that on four separate occasions before this, allegations of this exact same behavior were brought to the league. That’s right! The Patriots were caught spying on teams’ defensive signals four times before the time the league did something about it.
It seems pretty obvious that had the Jets’ camera-gate story not leaked to the press on a slow-news day, this incident would have been swept under the rug as well. If this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, think about this: During Super Bowl XXXIX, on New England’s go-ahead scoring drive, every single time the Eagles blitzed, the Patriots threw a screen. Every single time, no matter what down or distance, no matter if the blitz was perfectly disguised, the Patriots threw a screen. If there is one thing you’d be able to do if you knew your opponent’s defensive signals, it would be exactly that. And yet, despite many teams’ calls for investigation into prior spying, none was ever done. Why? Well, I’ll get to that in a moment.
First though, let’s look at the most current example of some Belichick shenanigans, the case of Josh McDaniels’ return to Boston.
This example is a bit more murky. Much like Mangini before him, Josh McDaniels was a long-time assistant to Belichick who got a shot at being a head coach in the NFL before being fired for sub-par performance. He coached the Broncos for all of the 2009 season, and most of the 2010 season before being fired and moving on to be St. Louis’ offensive coordinator.
This year, with St. Louis he coached against an interestingly specific group of teams, i.e.… The Ravens, The Giants, The 49ers, The Saints, and The Packers. Hmm… So he has specific knowledge about every remaining team in the playoffs except the Texans. (Who most likely will be knocked out by Baltimore this weekend)
So when he was released after failing miserably in his second straight NFL job who else would pick him up but the Patriots! Was this against the NFL’s rules? Not in the least, everything is technically above board. However, shouldn’t the NFL have stepped in, in the interests of avoiding the appearance of impropriety and said “You may hire him, but not until after the season is fully over.”? The NFL has the right to do this, and yet, they chose not to. Why? Again, I’ll get to that in a moment as well. First though, I’d be remiss to leave out officiating.
Now, any time you start to take a look at a possible bias in officiating, it’s easy to sound like you’re whining. Every team has bad calls go against them, and every team has bad calls go for them, and every fan remembers the former, and glosses over the latter. I mainly cover the Lions, and when you get a few pints in me I’m much more likely to wax lamentably about the “Calvin Johnson going to the ground” play than I am to even deign to recognize the “Face masking no-call-on-the-fumble-to-win-the-game” even though by rights of timing, the face masking should be fresher in my memory.
However, when looking at questionable calls for and against the Patriots, it seems the ones that are in the favor come at much more decisive times. I won’t directly call this evidence, or site the tuck-rule for the umpteenth time, however the more I watched in my research for this article, the more a pattern seemed to emerge. It’s something you have to see for yourself however, and I encourage everyone reading this to do a bit of digging on their own. Pay special attention to the timing of roughing the passer calls and pass interference calls, as these are the most subjective to the whims of the officials, whether intentionally miscalled or not.
Now the question becomes, if the NFL really is playing favorites, why? The answer is simple. People like winners. In professional sports, people especially like winners from big markets. In pro football, people like their winners to be big-market teams with handsome, Cinderella-story, white quarterbacks.
With the New England Patriots, you have a marketer’s wet-dream – something that sells itself. Not to mention, the timing, what with the September 11th tragedy, and its repercussive boost towards nationalism, you couldn’t have designed a better product to sell to the American people than the Patriots.
Now, I’m not such a conspiracy theorist as to say that the NFL set out to push things in favor of New England for these reasons. What I honestly think is happening is this: New England started winning; the NFL started making money on their winning ways.
Frankly, you don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg, simply because it crapped on your floor.
You simply sweep it under the rug, and hope no one notices.