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September 12, 2007

What's a fitting punishment for a cheating NFL team?

I have not done any football posts recently (even while experiencing such schadenfreude over the early season fates of the maize and blue).  Consequently, I cannot help but turn a brewing NFL controversy into a sentencing debate. 

As detailed in this ESPN report, "NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has determined that the New England Patriots violated league rules Sunday when they videotaped defensive signals by the New York Jets' coaches."  And, continues the ESPN report, "Goodell is considering severe sanctions, including the possibility of docking the Patriots 'multiple draft picks' because it is the competitive violation in the wake of a stern warning to all teams since he became commissioner....  The Patriots have been suspected in previous incidents."

Is loss of NFL draft picks a sufficient sanction for what seems like blatant cheating that likely impacted the game play?  I suppose this sanction could serve some deterrent purposes, but what about other other theories of punishment.  Why not, in service to the goals of retribution and restitution, require the Patriots to forfeit the game (which, I believe, is a common NCAA sanction)?  Why not, in service to incapacitation, force the Patriots to play the rest of the season without any technological devices?

And there is one additional question I am pondering: what will this mean for Tom Brady's future performance on my fantasy team?

September 12, 2007 at 09:32 AM | Permalink


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(defense attorney)


I believe forcing Bill "Belicheat" to forfeit the game would probably be appropriate due to the degree of the advantage that this form of cheating could give, as well as the message it would likely send. However, "cheating," in many and various forms, has always been part of the game. (see also, vaseline on players clothes to avoid tackles, stickum on receivers hands, anything found in/on a pitcher's glove/hat, "slick balls" -used for kicking field goals, corked bats, etc, etc) with nominal, if any, punishment.

That said, this form of cheating makes it seem unfair to The Jets to allow the victory to stand. Perhaps it is because the advantage is so great, knowing what play a defense is going to run, that it appears so. Does the fact that The Pats have such a great offense play any part in the fundamental fairness of this situation?

ESPN radio guys Mike and Mike didn't believe there is any chance whatsoever that would happen though. I agree that forfeiting won't happen largely because of the proof involved showing the plays in which it was used and whether or not the advantage actually worked, or to what extent.

But most importantly, I would argue that Brady's stats should stand. No sense in punishing thousands of people across the nation for this! And I doubt this will affect his future performance whatsoever!

Posted by: mike | Sep 12, 2007 11:33:38 AM

If the Patriots "cheated," there should be some punishment. But a forfeit of that game seems unreasonable. For example, last year the Chargers star linebacker Shawne Merriman tested positive for steroids. He was subsequently suspended for 4 games but the Chargers didn't have to forfeit the games he had previously played in. If the Pats cheated it would seem the loss of a draft pick would be more than sufficient punishment to fit the "crime."

Posted by: FD | Sep 12, 2007 12:35:29 PM

The comparison to individual players cheating is in apt. The argument that Shawn Merriman was suspended but the Chargers didn't forfeit any games doesn't work because in those cases Shawn Merriman was cheating not the Chargers (all though I'm sure they knew about it and implicitly condoned it). However, in this case, it is the Organization that was cheating, not an individual player. For that reason the entire organization should be penalized and forfeiting a game seems completely appropriate.

Posted by: da_2_b | Sep 12, 2007 1:26:04 PM

Is it cheating for a runner on second to steal signs in baseball? For the same reason, this doesn't really bother me as a fan. If it's against the rules, that's a wimpy rule. Opponents who don't like it should shuttle in players or mask their signals. It's an age-old part of the game.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Sep 12, 2007 2:33:13 PM

My suggestion for punishment is as follows:

1.No home playoff games for the next 5 years (if they make the playoffs all games on the road)
2.Suspend head coach for the rest of the season and post-season
3. Fine the team $1,000,000.00
4. No draft picks in 2008.

When you interfere with the integrity of the on-field contest you must face severe punishment. In my mind, this is little different than a crooked official. However, even with the sanctions I suggest they can still win the Super Bowl if their true on-fielf performance is good enough.

P.S. As a Steelers fan I would like to see them spot the Steelers 20 points every time they play.

Posted by: Michael Hadley | Sep 12, 2007 10:36:03 PM

Mike: It's awfully brave for a Steelers fan to speak about cheating since somebody clearly paid off the refs for to bring a Superbowl trophy to Pittsburgh. That game was the most fixed championship since the Blacksox... there needs to be an * next to it in the record books.

Posted by: | Sep 13, 2007 10:37:44 AM

The punishment should be sufficient but not greater than necessary. If it were a close game, say, a field goal or a touchdown difference, forfeiture might not be unreasonable. But 38 to 14? Moreover, the cheating involved the Jets' defensive schemes, giving Brady and the Pats' offense a leg up. But the Jets still could only put up 14 points, and that generally is not enough against the Pats.

The NCAA does order games forfeited, but that typically only occurs in the context of ineligible players.

Make the Pats give up their top two '08 draft picks or make Kraft move to Hartford, Connecticut after all.

George (a prosecutor)

Posted by: George | Sep 13, 2007 12:43:14 PM

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