The Patriots brilliantly leaked news regarding the signing of quarterback Cam Newton moments before the league leaked news of the penalties imposed upon the Patriots for filming the Bengals’ sideline during a game against the Browns, one week before New England faced Cincinnati. The combination helped keep the latter from becoming the story it should have been — even though the questions in the aftermath of the report have more to do with the league’s handling of the situation than with the team’s behavior.
On Friday, coach Bill Belichick was asked this question by a reporter: “With regards to the Bengals situation last year, how frustrating was it to lose a draft pick on something that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the football staff?”
Here’s his response: “Yeah, well, I think that obviously the league had a long investigation on that, but really we’re just looking ahead and we have a lot of things in front of us here, especially getting ready for the season and all that. We’ve moved on and we’ll deal with what we have to deal with in front of us here and just let everything go in the rear-view mirror and move ahead.”
So, basically, the man who made “on to Cincinnati” a catch phrase is now on from Cincinnati.
Still, questions linger about the league’s decision to force the Patriots to pay $1.1 million and to surrender a third-round draft pick. The investigation and ensuing punishment came with a stunning lack of transparency, which does nothing to deter the Patriots or other teams from engaging in similar behavior in the future.
We’ll assume based on what was (and wasn’t) disclosed by the league that no link was found between New England video operations and New England football operations, and that the Patriots got whacked as hard as they did simply because of their history, their reputation, or the lingering animosity toward the organization held by some who work out of 345 Park Avenue.