The New England Patriots were the rare NFL team to make headlines this offseason yesterday when they signed former NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year contract. As you surely know, they lost 20-year mainstay and six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady in free agency, and up to now had not added to the position.
But the signing of Newton wasn’t the only headline the Patriots made. In fact, there were two other storylines circulating around the team, and a mind more inclined to suspicion might wonder if the timing of the move were not just a bit too convenient to draw attention away from the others.
Remember that little incident last season in which a Patriots camera crew, with the team claims was filming footage for a intra-organizational documentary, was caught filming the Cincinnati Bengals’ sideline? They were purportedly documenting a day in the life of a scout who visits upcoming opponents, but it’s against the rules to film an opponent’s sideline.
The NFL agreed, and handed down punishment yesterday. The Patriots will incur $1.1 million in fines, will lose their 2021 third-round draft pick, and their TV crews are prohibited from shooting games during the course of the 2020 season. Senior club officials will also have to undergo training on league operation and game policies.
The individual who was caught filming, David Mondillo, is now banned from all NFL facilities until further notice. The Patriots had already suspended him (of course they had no idea what he was doing, surely), and then later fired him as well.
New England under Bill Belichick has obviously not been free of controversy. They have already been fined before multiple times for various instances of having been caught cheating, notably the ‘Deflategate’ scandal of a few years ago, and the ‘Spygate’ saga that frankly we probably only ever saw the tip of the iceberg of.
Despite these controversies, the Patriots have been by far the dominant team of the century. They have won far more games than anybody else and claimed over a quarter of the Super Bowls that have been played during the past two decades.
By accomplishment, I do not believe it is even arguable that they have put together the greatest dynasty in NFL history. The only question is how big an asterisk is attached to that distinction. Or perhaps more accurately, how many asterisks.
As a bonus, their owner, Robert Kraft, who has been accused of enjoying himself a little too much, and a little too illegally, in certain massage parlors, is having his case now moved to an appellate court. Under scrutiny there is whether or not his rights were violated through secret police video recording that was installed in the parlor.
Even though the videos purportedly clearly show Kraft in an illegal act, their submission as evidence in his case was previously dismissed by a judge after determination that the warrant that allowed them to play the video surveillance in the building was not justified and did not adequately protect the civil rights of the innocent.