|Some film that won't make Belichick's home movies|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 12 September 2007 00:21|
It says something about the competitive nature of pro football that the only certifiable genius in the coaching ranks, with three Super Bowl titles, a deep-pocketed owner and the shrewdest player-personnel department in the game behind him, felt he had to cheat to keep winning. Then again, maybe it just says something about Belichick's monumental arrogance or his monumental insecurity, or both.
An NFL spokesman confirmed the league is investigating reports that a Patriots employee working the Jets' sideline on Sunday was videotaping signals between New York's defensive coaches and players. According to ESPN.com, commissioner Roger Goodell has determined a rules violation took place after looking at the confiscated tape and could hand down sanctions as early as Friday.
Considering how often Belichick messed with waiver-wire transactions and fudged weekly injury reports, the only surprise in the unfolding spy saga might be that he got caught. The Packers had similar suspicions after catching a Pats employee carrying a video camera on the sidelines at Lambeau Field last November, but let him go with a warning.
``When you're successful in anything, a lot of people like to try to take you down and do different things,'' New England owner Robert Kraft told reporters at a charity appearance Tuesday. ``We understand that.''
A few days before Belichick won his first Super Bowl in 2002, his father, Steve, turned up at a news conference and wound up holding an impromptu session of his own in the back of the room. His answers were much funnier and a lot more revealing than any that his son was delivering in the front.
Steve had been a coach, assistant or scout with the U.S. Naval Academy football program for over 50 years, so he knew plenty about football. All anyone wanted to know about, though, was Bill, and whether he'd always been so driven.
So Steve told one story about how his wife and the family dentist might be the only people who had actually seen Bill's teeth since then, as now, his son rarely smiled. The he told another about how 5-year-old Bill insisted on staying home and poring over game plans with Steve and his Navy assistants instead of playing with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.
There was something familiar, almost comforting about those stories at the time, since they reinforced the notion that the younger Belichick was not just smarter than his counterparts, but that he started preparing earlier. When the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls in 2004-05, that seemed to confirm he was not just still outsmarting rivals, but still outworking them, too.
Now, nobody is sure.
There's no need to debate where the line between gamesmanship and cheating is drawn. Besides, it's up to Goodell to make that determination and decide if a punishment is warranted.
But he might want to look at the film - the authorized version, anyway, and keep in mind that in the two games where the Patriots are alleged to have planted a cameraman on the opposing sideline, they outscored the Packers and Jets by a combined 73-14 and totaled more than 800 yards. And while he's at it, Goodell should take a look at last November's New York at New England game won by visitors.
Belichick has a tortured past with the Jets franchise dating to 2000, when he was promoted to head coach to fill mentor Bill Parcells' absence, only to abruptly quit the next day. Grievances flew back and forth, then things got even uglier when Eric Mangini, Belichick's one-time defensive coordinator, took the Jets' head coaching job despite Belichick's objections.
In their first game against each other, a win by New England, Belichick brushed off Mangini's handshake. After the Jets' won on the road, handing the Patriots consecutive losses for the first time in four years, Mangini practically put his old boss in an armlock to get the handshake he richly deserved.
Tough as it was to acknowledge the defeat for personal reasons, judging by the expression on Belichick's face at the time, it might have been tougher, for professional reasons, to acknowledge a new NFL order. The Colts had beaten New England the week before and right about then, it probably dawned on Belichick that the Pats' chances of getting back to the Super Bowl last season were already doomed.
It's probably just a coincidence, but the Green Bay game was the following week.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org