RUSH: The New England Patriots have been fined $250,000. Their coach Bill Belichick has been fined half a million dollars for spying on the New York Jets with a video camera crew on the sideline last Sunday at Giants Stadium. They’re also going to lose some draft choices. But the Patriots, I have to tell you something. This spying in the NFL goes on all the time. Do you know who the best spies in the NFL are? The players on the field. Now, what Belichick was doing is a violation of the NFL Operations Manual. You’re not allowed to have video crews on the sideline. The only video crew can be in the press box. The rule says it has to have three walls and a closed roof. So that’s up there in the press box. But no video recording crew or equipment is allowed to be used by teams on the sideline in NFL games, and Belichick knew it. He’s got a little, I guess some issues, with Eric Mangini, a former assistant with the Patriots, now the head coach of the Jets, and it was Mangini that turned him in. Apparently a lot of teams have been suspicious of the Patriots doing this. It’s obviously a violation of the rule. The argument that’s underway today is whether the penalty was sufficient enough. For example, they play again, I think, it’s December 16th in Foxboro, the Jets and the Patriots, and some people think that Belichick should have been suspended for the whole week: no contact for the team for the week and suspended from the sidelines during that game. They also lost some draft choices, and it depends on how they finish as to what draft choices they lose.
They can lose a first-round draft choice if they make the playoffs. But that’s okay. You want to know how smart the Patriots are? It’s almost as though the Patriots had insurance here that they were going to get caught someday. They have two draft choices next spring. They have the San Francisco Fort’iner draft choice, and they have their own. They’re going to lose their own draft choice because they are going to make the playoffs. The 49ers draft choice is going to be a much better draft choice than their own would have been, so they’re not going to lose a first-round draft choice. Now, if they don’t make the playoffs, they will lose their second- and third-round draft choice, but that’s not going to happen unless Tom Brady gets hurt. That’s the only way they might have a stumble on the way to finishing in the playoffs, and probably winning the AFC East. So Belichick has apologized and said he’s not going to talk about it anymore. A lot of teams, as I say, have been suspicious that this was happening with the Patriots. It’s arguable, folks. I’m a football expert, and it is arguable to suggest that the sideline videotaping the Patriots were doing could help them during games, especially if you go back and look at this game on Sunday between the Jets and the Patriots. The video crew was spotted and escorted off the field in the first quarter.
Everybody knows the outcome of this game. The Patriots were able to run, pass, and run their game plan, their offensive game plan, at will. I think what they probably were doing is building up a library of videotape for future study down the road when they play the Jets again, and that’s probably what they have been doing all along with this, because using this stuff during the game, there’s really not enough time for it. Everybody said, ‘But why would he do it? He’s the smartest coach in the league. He’s the best coach in the league. The rule is the rule. He’s been warned about it before. Why would he do it?’ That’s the question they have in Boston: Why would he do it? What’s the point? Especially — no offense, Jets fans but especially– against the Jets. It wouldn’t be necessary. Of course, that’s where the Eric Mangini situation involves itself. So basically, I think, the Patriots people are going to be doubting their achievements. They’ve got, you know, half an asterisk around all their accomplishments, but in truth, that will probably subside. It’s an amazing thing. The real question they’re asking in Boston is, ‘Why do it, when you’ve been warned, and when you know what the rule is, and you don’t need to?’ It’s like Nixon and McGovern. ‘Why break in to DNC, Dick, when you knew you were not going to lose to George McGovern? Why do it?’ We’re still asking ourselves that.