The optics aren’t great.
But Scott Pioli has a hard time believing the New England Patriots knowingly cheated.
The NFL is investigating the Patriots after team employees were discovered videotaping the Bengals’ sideline from the press box Sunday during Cincinnati’s game against the Browns in Cleveland. The Patriots released a statement Monday accepting full responsibility for the incident, which the organization claims was the result of a production crew unknowingly violating league rules by filming the field as part of a “Do Your Job” behind-the-scenes feature on New England’s scouting department.
Pioli, a former NFL executive who served as New England’s vice president of player personnel from 2000 to 2008, explained in an interview with ESPN this week that he understands how such a mix-up could happen. He also doesn’t think the Patriots are that stupid, for what it’s worth.
“My personal feeling is I really doubt this is as nefarious as it appears because here’s what I know: I can’t believe that anyone would be this dumb, quite honestly, to do it in the setting that it was done and for it to be something nefarious,” Pioli said, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “I’ve also been with enough teams to know that very often, people that are in new media, or social media, there’s so many employees now. You look at every team’s social media group, and the production teams, there’s a lot of inexperienced people doing jobs that this very well could be an honest mistake.
“I think what we need to do is just let’s wait until we get all the facts. None of us have seen this. People are going to see this, if and when the tape becomes public, they’re going to have an opinion. But I think we just need to get to the truth. I think too often, in too many ways, all of us — myself included — are too quick to rush to judgement of guilty or innocent. Let’s let some of the truth come out here.”
It should be noted that Pioli was with the Patriots during Spygate, the 2007 scandal for which New England was disciplined by the NFL for videotaping New York Jets defensive coaches’ signals from an unauthorized location. That controversy — along with Deflategate and other troubling allegations against the Patriots over the years — certainly isn’t helping New England in the court of public opinion in light of this latest debacle.
That said, Pioli, who became general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs and assistant general manager of the Atlanta Falcons upon leaving the Patriots, isn’t ready to declare his former team in Foxboro was out looking for a competitive on-field advantage ahead of its Week 15 matchup with the Bengals in Cincinnati.