The Bill Belichick Scandal: A $1.7 Million Fraud?
A word not used by Commissioner Goodell: “conspiracy.”
The bad news for Coach Bill Belichick: he was personally fined $500,000 (roughly 12% of his $4.6 million yearly salary). The good news for Belichick: the fine is tax-deductible. The Patriots also were hit with a $250,000 fine and must forfeit its first round draft pick in 2008.
“I specifically considered whether to impose a suspension on Coach Belichick,” Commissioner Goodell wrote. “I have determined not to do so, largely because I believe that the discipline I am imposing of a maximum fine and forfeiture of a first-round draft choice, or multiple draft choices, is in fact more significant and long-lasting, and therefore more effective, than a suspension.”
The Conspiracy as Seen by This Eagles Fan
Let me say at the outset, Peggy and I are rabid Philadelphia Eagles fans and—like all Philadelphians—are crazed for a championship of some kind. We were crushed by the 24-21 loss to the Patriots in the 2005 Super Bowl. In reviewing that Super Bowl XXXIX, Dan Gelston of the Associated Press wrote on Sept. 13, 2007:
Sheldon Brown and the Eagles hoped a blitz would rattle [quarterback] Tom Brady. One problem: Every time the Eagles rushed Brady in the Super Bowl, the Patriots nullified the defensive attack with screen passes. Lots of them. On almost every play defensive coordinator Jim Johnson called for a blitz, the Patriots used the short pass to confuse the Eagles. After the Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21 in 2005 to win the Lombardi Trophy, Brown thought the Patriots beat them with nothing but sharp offensive playcalling. Now, he’s not so sure.
The time line: The Patriots’ “video guy” Estrella was hired in 2004. The spy system could have been in place. But even if it were brilliant strategy in 2005—the intuitive genius of the defensive coordinator—it is clear from Commissioner Goodell’s accusation that a conspiracy was in place at the beginning of the current season. By breaking the rules, the Patriots were on track to reach their division championship and very likely win their fourth Super Bowl in seven years.