The first inquest into the matter of the Patriots Cameraman has officially been settled, and the news is terrible for Patriots fans.
The NFL announced today It has been reported today that its review of the videotape seized from a credentialed Patriots employee on the New York Jets sideline Sunday contained footage of the signals called from coaches to the Jets defense. Penalties have yet to be assessed, but the consensus is the Patriots will get slapped big time--it will certainly cost them in heavy fines, but the talk has also turned to how many draft picks the team will lose next year as a result of this.
Note: What follows is my perspective and my perspective only. I don't represent any other Pats fans whatsoever.
What's going to go on forever, though, is everything else the team stands to lose. Credibility is the first big one that's going out the window. Already the championships are being brought up, and no doubt some enterprising NFL official will be investigating them, as well. I wouldn't be surprised if every Patriots game for the last five years was brought under review for evidence of similar behavior. Meanwhile, as we know from, say, the Barry Bonds case, actual proof and convictions are far from requirements for aspersions to be cast on every accomplishment the Patriots have made in the Belichick era.
As a fan, and a gung-ho, emotional, passionate, extremely biased fan at that, I am still not sure how to process this. I don't want to rationalize it. I would only embarrass myself more than my team has already embarrassed me by making excuses for what was clearly an ill-advised, unethical act.
But at the same time, I'm desperate to find a way to make this less excruciating to contemplate. It hits me right where I live as a Pats fan--it calls into question the capabilities as well as the ethics of the vaunted Patriots coaching staff, right up to the head coach. And, because it involves the offensive play calling, you know who else could also be right at the center of it. Add on top of that the dogmatic scouting report on Brady--not as long on athletic ability as some of his counterparts but smart, poised, and gifted at reading defenses--and this news has the potential to take his reputation down right along with everything else.
The biggest thing I'm still struggling with personally is exactly what type of advantage the theft of signals via videotape in-game really conferred on the Patriots. I've heard as many opinions on this as I've heard people talking about the situation (read: many), but it's something I'm going to have to suss out for myself, and come to my own conclusion about.
The silver lining is that this can't have involved every player or every member of the Patriots organization. It doesn't change the fact that I still admire the Krafts for the way they've run the business end of the organization. And it doesn't change the fact that the Patriots are my hometown team.
But that's also what makes it so hard.
The one voice that's struck me most in all this has been the one of Ellis Hobbs, whose reaction when asked about the situation was much like mine when I first heard about it: hurt bewilderment and confusion. And the following statement: "We put too many hours in as individuals and as a team to have to go out there and cheat. We take pride in what we do."
And I believe that he does. I believe that 99% of the organization does. But right now, a minority within the team have made it so all that hard work, from everyone, is open to question and doubt. No matter what outlook I settle on about this situation as a whole, whoever they are--and right now I count Bill Belichick among them, as his position affords him no excuse of ignorance--I cannot defend them at all.