Easy street?

Despite a $500,000 fine for the coach, a $250,000 dock for the organization, and the likely loss of a number one draft choice, there are plenty in the media who think that Patriots coach Bill Belichick got off easy for his part in spying on the New York Jets last weekend at the Meadowlands.

But perhaps nobody goes to the border of hyperbole more than the Indianapolis Star’s Bob Kravitz, who writes: “What Belichick did — what he no doubt had been doing for years — was exponentially worse than Pacman Jones’ arrests or Rodney Harrison getting caught in a human growth hormone dragnet. This was a lot worse, because this kind of industrial espionage cuts to the heart of the NFL’s desire for competitive purity.”


Which seems to be the equivalent of saying Pete Rose is a worse human than O.J. Simpson.

“It wasn’t enough for Goodell to fine Belichick $500,000 — he won’t have to auction off his fashionable hoodies on eBay to come up with the cash — and to hit the Patriots for $250,000 and a conditional draft pick,” writes the New York Daily News’s Gary Myers, who pushed for a suspension. “It has absolutely no impact on this season, which makes this a penalty without much bite.”
It’s not just New York sour grapes either, apparently, as national writers such as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and Don Banks, as well as ESPN’s John Clayton all believe the Patriots got off easy.
Newsday’s Bob Glauber is a lonely soul on a island in a sea of self-righteousness in writing that the NFL got it right: “Belichick can handle the cash part rather comfortably, because he makes about $5 million a year. But it’s the draft compensation that really hurts. A banishment of a game or two, or even three or four, might have seemed stiffer in the short term. But taking away a first-round pick (New England is a lock to make the playoffs) is a killer. The lifeblood of teams is the draft, and taking away such a high pick inflicts far more pain.”
This story has obviously reverberated throughout the rest of the NFL. Media members in cities across the nation are nearly unanimous in decreeing the penalty is not stiff enough. Some examples:

  • Writes the Dallas Morning News’s Tim Cowlishaw: “Cowboys coach Wade Wilson gets five games for taking a banned substance to try to improve his qualify of life. Belichick, caught red-handed cheating, because that’s what it has to be if he’s being fined half a mil, is allowed to stay on the Patriots’ sideline without missing a beat. That seem fair to anyone?”
  • The Detroit Free Press’s Drew Sharp suggests the team deserved worse just for allegedly feeling the need to cheat against the inferior Lions last season. “Belichick already enjoyed numerous other benefits in that game — little things like immensely better talent and coaching. Who would have imagined that clandestine video production was needed? As if the Lions’ basic sideline defensive signal — the confused shrugged shoulder — demands special deciphering.”
  • The Chicago Sun Times’s Jay Mariotti writes that Goodell set a double-standard with a lax punishment: “In a year that can’t end soon enough, when Barry Bonds and Tim Donaghy and Michael Vick and so many others eroded our trust, add Belicheat to the crook list. We can’t even believe now in the one staple of 21st-century greatness in sports, the so-called ‘Patriot Way,’ because the coach of the three-time Super Bowl champs masterminded an illegal operation that videotaped the opponents’ offensive and defensive signals. The specific episode that busted Belichick and the New England Patriots came Sunday at Giants Stadium, when a team video assistant, Matt Estrella, had his camera confiscated while standing on the sideline of a New York Jets team coached by Belichick’s protege, Eric Mangini, who ratted out his former boss and won’t be getting backstage passes for Bon Jovi shows anymore. But there also is evidence of previous video scammery by the Patriots, including last season in Green Bay, which casts a permanent taint over the dynasty and prompts many dark thoughts.”
  • The Houston Chronicle’s John McCain writes, “With an opportunity to show the nation that his hard-line approach to discipline extended beyond the players and included club and league employees, Goodell gave Bill Belichick what amounted to a tap on the wrist.”
    (Again, this is $750,000 total and a probable first-round pick.)
  • The St. Louis Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell writes: “There is only one punishment that fits this crime: Make the Patriots forfeit the game. You don’t think that would deliver a message?”
    If the message is that the NFL is on equal ground with some no-name high school that forces its kids to forfeit a game for throwing a kegger, then sure. It fits.