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Friday, October 30, 2015

Another Patriots Scandal?

Today Boomer Esiason reported that the NFL scanned the visitor's locker room at Gillette Stadium for listening devices before the game between the Patriots and the Jets. Later in the day, the NFL responded that this was part of a 'regular and random' program, with the implication that this has been occurring for an extended period of time, and that there was no specific request from the Jets. These two nuggets are summarized in an ESPN story (you can click on the name to get the link).  In a further report, Mike Florio expanded on this.

Let me be clear: There is absolutely no evidence that anything was found. If bugs had been found, there would have been reports on Sunday, not the Friday after. We all know that the NFL is about as leak-proof as the Titanic after the iceberg; it is impossible to believe that they would have sat on this juicy little nugget that would paint the Patriots in a negative light. There is no evidence that the Patriots did anything wrong. Nothing at all. There is no proof, there is no proof, there is no proof. If there was, then the NFL would be speaking up about it. And the Jets would be screaming about it. Neither has happened, therefore nothing did.

So now what? There are three possibilities, as I sit here:

1) The NFL is telling the truth about having a regular program but there was a request from the Jets.
2) The NFL is telling the truth, there was no request, and it is part of their regular program.
3) The NFL is telling the truth about the request but lying about it being regular and random.

Let's look at each scenario as it applies to the Patriots, since that's the lens here in New England.

1) The NFL is lying. The Jets requested a specific sweep of their locker room because they were so paranoid about their locker room being bugged. The NFL listened to the Jets because they either believed there was a creditable chance that the locker room was bugged or because they respond to requests like this all the time.
         If the former, then the NFL is still looking to pin something, anything, on the Patriots because, well, jealousy on the part of 31 other teams? Revenge for Brady beating them in court? Because Mike Kensil was part of the Jets before joining the NFL's office and can't stand the Patriots?
         If the latter, then good for the NFL in this one particular case. However, there might be a bit of an issue here, since I have heard (but was unable to find confirmation) that the Patriots have requested the NFL sweep and were denied the request. Again, I cannot find confirmation of this, so take that as you will.
         Back to the main issue, though. The NFL is lying. That's an issue, in and of itself; however, I would see the Jets' request as a positive. That means the Patriots and Belichik are soooooooo deep into the heads of the Jets' coaching and front office staff that they're seeing bugs on the walls and not concentrating on game planning. This is beautiful.

2) The NFL is telling the truth. Given the behaviour of the NFL in the past several months, this is unlikely in the extreme, but if it's true? The argument has been made that, if this was true we should have heard about this program long before now and that the NFL should have mentioned it earlier this year when Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy talked about bug worries. Addressing these two items in turn:
         Why would we have heard about this before now? Given that there are likely dozens of programs that the NFL conducts we never hear of unless something goes awry, then we might never hear of most of them. This little program probably came to light because the Jets are actually relevant this year (for the first time in a while) and there is an increased focus on the Patriots.
          As to the second point, when the report came out from Dungy, Deflategate was still looming large over the season. Judge Berman had not yet ruled and, according to the NFL, would have been confirming their suspension in just a matter of days. It made perfect sense for the NFL to say nothing about any routine sweeping program they might conduct, as they wanted the Patriots to be portrayed as negatively as possible. Bugging? Eavesdropping? Whispers in the hall? Why would they want to counter THAT? No, they wanted to smear them as much as possible, and here was an outside source doing their dirty work for them!

3) The NFL is both telling the truth about the request and lying about the regularity. If you're a Patriots fan, this is the most worrying of all. This means that the NFL is still looking for a hook to hang the Patriots out to dry, that the sweep of the locker room was about setting the Patriots up for the future. Let's dive more deeply into this scenario.
         In this scenario, the NFL is sweeping the visitor's locker room at Gillette to establish that they do sweep the locker rooms. Then, down the line, the NFL plants bugs themselves in the locker room before an 'inspection' and then, amazingly, 'discovers' evidence that the Patriots have bugged the locker room. They then persecute (yes, persecute, not prosecute) the Patriots and kick Belichik out of the League because he's on Double Secret Probation and has been since 2007. They are creating the conditions for a sting operation to destroy the Evil Empire once and for all.
         THIS is the scenario the scares me most of all.

I'm going to close this, though, with a positive thought on the NFL and all their efforts:
The NFL makes Laurel & Hardy look competent. Now that their little plan has been exposed, then what the Patriots need to do is hire their own firm to sweep the locker rooms before home games, in full view of media personnel, to show that there is no bug anywhere in the locker room before the NFL gets a chance to get in. Then, when the NFL tries to pin a trumped up charge on them they'll have ammunition to fight back.


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