Who Do We Blame for the Patriots’ Unforced Spygate 2.0 Error?

Given the history, the filming scandal boggles the mind.

Bill Belichick crosses his arms and looks down while walking

Photo by AP Photo/Elise Amendola

So now the first head has rolled.

This weekend, the Patriots revealed that the cameraman responsible for filming the Cincinnati Bengals from the press box in Cleveland, Dave Mondillo of Kraft Sports and Entertainment, has been suspended, meaning that the person most obviously, tangibly responsible for the team once again being branded cheaters and scoundrels has been punished.

There will be more consequences to come. The team is now staring down a fine likely in the six figures, as well as the loss of a draft pick, not to mention the cloud that will likely hang over the season the way the original SpyGate did in 2007. But whatever punishment is handed down by the league, which is reportedly taking the Patriots’ less-than-savory history into account while making its decision, there’s no way we can blame Roger Goodell for this one. The Patriots did this to themselves.

So who is ultimately responsible here? Not just the cameraman, that’s for sure.

In their statement last week, the team accepted responsibility for the screw-up and acknowledged that, although the camera crew had been given a press pass and had a legitimate purpose for being there, it acted “inappropriately,” apparently unbeknownst to the team. But even if the film staff and the coaching staff had no contact with one another, as we’ve been told over and over, that doesn’t mean the Pats aren’t culpable. Given the notoriously tight ship Bill Belichick runs in Foxboro, how were they not made to be in constant fear of getting chewed out by the team’s larger-than-life coach?

Video captured at the scene of the filming incident and newly released on Sunday shows the suspended cameraman telling stadium security he “didn’t know” that filming the Bengals sideline was off-limits. And hey, mistakes happen. But how could videographers linked to the Pats not have been warned repeatedly about the risks to the team’s reputation posed by just carrying a camera around in the first place, not to mention how bad a look it would be to record eight whole minutes of sideline footage?

It boggles the mind. What a disaster.