The Patriots' videotaping scandal: Let's all take a deep breath here

I'm not sure there's any way I can attempt to take a rational look at the recent revelations of the Patriots' videotaping tactics in a way that will make me look like anything but a homer, but I'm going to try.

What happened on Sunday was against the rules. And the Patriots got caught doing it. Whatever penalty the league decides to hand down in this case will have to be something we as fans accept and move on. It's only fair.

That said, let's not go overboard here. This is not "the worst NFL scandal yet."

Here's the thing: if the team's reputation for these antics was truly as widespread in the NFL as people like Mike Tomlin and LaDanian Tomlinson have been saying, then shouldn't teams have prepared accordingly? Hell, in that same article in which Tomlin discusses the simmering backroom discussion of the Patriots "family" and their usage of underhanded video, an unidentified Steelers coach says words to that exact effect:

One assistant said the Steelers changed their defensive signals whenever they played against New England because of their suspicions
And, let the record show, that since 2001, the Steelers' video-counter strategies have led to exactly one win over the Patriots. So were the Steelers the only team doing something like this, and poorly at that? We somehow doubt it, especially if the cameraman was as blatant as the photo document suggests.

Compare these hijinks to baseball, in which stealing signs is common. As a result, teams think ahead, and do things like cover their mouths in conferences on the mound (like Joe Kerrigan used to do when he was the Sox' pitching coach) or, more simply, change their signs during the game. Also, consider Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, who beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl thanks to his advance knowledge of the Radiers' playbook (from when he was the Raiders' coach) - was that somehow unsportsmanlike?

We're not trying to completely exonerate Belichick. Certainly his bending of the rules in this case was a little sleazy, following a pattern of sleazy behavior dating back some time. And we can understand why the legions of Patriots non-fans are enjoying this right now, and we don't blame them for that. But at the same time, any team that wants to blame their losses to the Patriots entirely on some video tape is going to come off reeking of sour grapes. Those teams probably should have prepared better for such things.

UPDATE: King Kaufman says it better than I could.

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