The New England Patriots once again find themselves mired in another scandal and cheating allegations due to videotaping an opponent’s sideline.
Why, oh why, must it always be the New England Patriots?
That’s surely the question at the forefront of most fans’ minds in Patriots Nation this week.
As if this season wasn’t already challenging enough with Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, the Antonio Brown saga, a maddeningly-inefficient offense, and three disheartening losses to the AFC’s other divisional leaders, fans learned early this week that the team is now under league investigation for sending a scout to film Sunday’s Browns/Bengals game, per Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway.
The concern for Cincinnati is that the production crew – who all had valid press credentials issued by the Browns – weren’t actually attending the game for the purposes they claimed to be there for. According to the crew, they were there shooting a segment on the life on an advance scout in the NFL for the Patriots’ popular “Do Your Job” web television series. The Bengals claim that the film crew spent at least the entire first quarter filming the Cincinnati sideline.
New England has reportedly admitted that the crew “filmed inappropriately,” but has also denounced any connections or ties between the crew and the Patriots’ football operations. New England head coach Bill Belichick reiterated this second point during his Tuesday conference call with the Cincinnati media, according to ESPN staff writer Ben Baby.
“We’re competitive and we’ll try to be competitive in every area. But we don’t knowingly, intentionally want to do anything that’s across the line. But since that’s [Spygate] happened, I’d say we’ve tried to keep a good distance behind the line and not maybe take it as far as we would might have in the past. But it’s never really fundamentally changed there.”
It’s a disturbingly vague answer from Belichick. Even if it’s true and he had no prior knowledge of the production crew’s intentions or actions at the Bengals/Browns game, he’s not exactly denouncing the fact that employees working for and wearing Patriots gear were caught filming the hand signals of Cincinnati’s coaches and players – just a week before New England travels to Ohio to play this Bengals team.
Certainly the timing of this incident doesn’t look good for the Patriots. While it’s true that the team should be considered innocent until proven guilty – and it’s also true that the film crew allegedly cooperated fully with the league and Cincinnati staffers in turning over all the footage immediately – this definitely isn’t the best look for a team that has routinely been accused of cheating during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.
This particular incident brings back immediate parallels of “Spygate,” the 2007 scandal in which Belichick and the Patriots were found guilty of and punished for filming the signals of opposing teams during NFL games. The Patriots and Brady, in particular, once again came under heavy scrutiny back in 2014 during “Deflategate,” a scandal in which New England staffers allegedly manipulated the air pressure of footballs to make them easier for Brady to handle and throw.
The problem for the Patriots with this most recent incident is the explanation – or lack thereof – for why this production crew was filming the Cincy sideline. It makes sense that New England might send a film crew to shoot footage of their advance scout doing preparatory work and research on the Bengals prior to the Patriots’ game against them.
What doesn’t make sense is why that crew would need to spend the entire first quarter filming the Cincinnati sideline. That has absolutely nothing to do with a feature on a scout’s job… unless that scout is also cheating.
There’s surely going to be a lot more to come with this story as information continues to be revealed to the public.
For the time being however, Patriots fans are left scratching their chins and shaking their heads, embarrassed and perhaps a bit flabbergasted as to why their team is once again stuck in the crosshairs of the league for another cheating scandal – especially when it concerns a team that, at 1-12 this season, should be a piece of cake for the 10-3 Patriots to defeat.