By Howard Balzer
In the NFL, as Roseanne Roseannadanna would frequently say on Saturday Night Live, “It’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”
This week in NFL Bizarro World, another controversy involving the New England Patriots and video made Roseanne so prescient and gave new meaning to the words of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick when he famously said repeatedly “We’re on to Cincinnati.”
That occurred in 2014 after a 41-14 Week-4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football. The Patriots dropped to 2-2 after that game, leading to the almost yearly question of whether this was the beginning of the demise of the Patriots.
They went on to win the Super Bowl, but in the aftermath of the game, in one press conference where there were persistent questions about the game against the Chiefs, Belichick said “We’re on to Cincinnati” five times. The Patriots defeated the Bengals in their next game, 43-17 and finished the regular season 12-4.
In the NFL Network documentary “Do Your Job” the next year, Belichick was asked why he responded the way he did.
He said, “I could have done it three times, I could have done it 53 times, it could have been 103 times if that’s what they wanted to keep asking, because we had to turn the page.”
Turn the page they did.
Now, they are hoping to turn the page again following a week of stories concerning a team videographer taking video of the Bengals sideline in a recent game against Cleveland ostensibly for a feature on what pro scouts do at games.
Naturally, Patriots skeptics don’t accept the team’s explanation and believe it’s simply another example of serial cheaters trying to cheat again.
The reality is, despite a 10-3 record, New England could be in danger of not achieving a first-round bye in the playoffs. Sunday, they will be in Cincinnati to play the 1-12 Bengals after two consecutive losses to Houston and Kansas City.
Perhaps the most fitting aspect of the story came when the New England media had a conference call with Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, who did a great channeling job of Belichick. It went like this:
Q: What are your general thoughts on the videotaping situation with the Patriots?
ZT: I have no comment on that.
Q: Some reports have said that you are livid about the situation. Is that true?
ZT: I have no comment on that.
Q: How much do you and your coaching staff use hand signals during games?
ZT: I think, like any team, we communicate visually and verbally, depending on the environment we’re in.
Q: Do you believe the Patriots’ explanation for this situation?
ZT: I don’t have any comment on any of that stuff.
Q: Has anyone from the Patriots organization reached out to you to clear the air?
ZT: I don’t have any comment on any of that.
Q: Why do you believe it’s in your best interest not to have any comment at any point on this ongoing incident that’s affected your team?
ZT: Because this is a tough opponent right now, and we’re devoting all of our time to making sure we’re prepared. And so that’s where all of our focus has been on.
Q: Your time now is spent with us, though.
ZT: Yeah, it is. And I have no comment.
Q: Do you regret anything about how this all transpired?
Too bad Taylor didn’t say, “We’re on to New England.”