Bill Belichick, the controversial head coach of the New England Patriots, was fined a league maximum $500,000 yesterday for his involvement in the NFL equivalent of espionage. To put this in perspective, that's almost 15% of his annual salary, minus wardrobe expenses. Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement this morning to the media reiterating his ongoing and continued commitment to be "a major hardass", lest anyone should try this again.
Belichik was initially recalcitrant, insisting that it was simply a technical misunderstanding, but league officials quickly dismissed his assertion that he was filming sideline shots of Eric Mangini for an episode of Punk'd set to air this fall, apparently they believed the story but found Ashton Kutcher's acting stilted and one-dimensional. Belichick later recanted his innocence in the affair, taking full responsibility for his actions in the following statement:
I would like to apologize to our fans, coaching staff, sponsors, media personnel, players, equipment guys, cheerleaders, trainers, concession vendors, and to all of the people that I always refuse to talk to at the Pro Bowl for my involvement in this affair. I would also like to personally apologize to the Kraft family, who do not sell frozen dinners and macaroni, please people stop saying that, it drives me nuts.
When asked about his involvement in the videotaping incident and how long he'd been running a black ops scouting program however, he became more guarded:
Well, you know, different coaches have different approaches, sometimes there's a line you cross being aggressive and you have to watch that, you know, but different people do things different ways. Jack Del Rio wears a suit for example, and I like to dress like a vagrant from Mexico City. Tom Coughlin has a nice big house in town, I usually sleep behind the Dunkin' Donuts next to the stadium, saves time, and there's good stuff in the dumpster. So people just have different ways, that's all.
Not exactly a mea culpa, but likely as close as we're going to get.
Reactions from other head coaches around the league were mixed. Titan's head coach Jeff Fisher was among the most outspoken against Belichicks actions, stating that "there is no place for this sort of behavior in this league." Fisher, a member of the competition committee, has long been a proponent of replacing the current hand signals used to signal defensive players with radio receivers similar to those used on offense. He states "People have been doing this for years, stealing signs, reading lips. It's nothing new. I grew a goatee this year because one of our new players, Nick Harper, told us that Tony Dungy can read lips through a mustache. Seriously. Can you f'in believe that? We have to put a stop to this."
Others appear less concerned. Lane Kiffin of the Oakland Raiders, the youngest head coach in the NFL, stated that the video taping incident did not bother him at all. "We don't even use those hand signals anyway, those guys are fossils. We're on the cutting edge. We code all our defensive alignments with hit songs from the 80's, and a guy plays them on the sideline by making farting sounds with his hands. It's impossible to defend." When asked about his defenses performance in the season opener, Kiffin quickly dismissed it, saying "That was simply a mental error, turns out Michael Huff doesn't know the difference between A-ha and Scritti Politti. We're working on that."
One thing is for certain, all eyes will be on Belichick this season, wondering if the loss of half a mil and a draft pick they don't really need is going to take it's toll on the hard driving head coach. Early signs point to no; when asked a follow-up question today concerning the scandal, Belichick replied "What?"