The entitlement is mind-boggling.
One week, the New York Giants’ sideline staff is sticking needles in footballs in the middle of games, taking PSI measurements and squealing to the league that their opponents may be cheating. The next, their head coach is wandering around with a walkie-talkie, communicating with his quarterback because the coach-to-quarterback communication system went down. And he’s doing it in full view of the stadium.
The punishment will be coming down on Tuesday for John Mara’s team and the NFL Operations office will no doubt have a voice in what the penalty will be. It’s been reported the Giants will likely be handed a fine. Maybe it’ll be something in the $500,000 range, which would be about the equivalent of a halftime worth of concession sales. Some deterrent.
UPDATE AT 5:33 P.M.: It wasn't even that. The Giants were fined $150,000 and coach Ben McAdoo was fined $50,000. In addition, the Giants' fourth-round pick in next spring's draft was dropped to the end of the round . . . but, since they're 10-4 heading into this weekend, it's not going to be much of a drop.
But why would the NFL Operations folks -- the ones who mete out fines -- feel compelled to go tough on Mara’s team? Everybody loves John. A cornerstone guy in the league and all that, management council leader and son of Wellington. Former Giants coach Tom Coughlin is working on Troy Vincent’s operations team this year and so is Stephanie Durante, the daughter of Ann Durante, Mara’s longtime secretary with the Giants.
One would imagine the intensity of the walkie-talkie investigation was as tepid as the one that led to the one-game suspension of Giants kicker Josh Brown in the offseason. That suspension was quietly handed down without explanation after the league’s investigation poobah Lisa Friel -- lifelong Giants fan with an actual shrine to the team cobbled together in her home -- farmed out the domestic-violence investigation of Brown and the league turned up virtually nothing.
When the stuff hit the fan and it came to light that Brown’s case was a lot more sinister than the league wanted anyone to know, the NFL hid behind its so-called Shield, affording none of the transparency it by now owes the public .
This is what happens when you enjoy most-favored-nation status. The ones who’ve been scratching backs, smoothing passage and doling out favors and influence for decades are the ones that enjoy the benefit of the doubt.
A Mara rolling in the mud with a Rooney, as nearly happened earlier this month when the Giants tampered with footballs to try and prove the Steelers tampered with footballs? Hell, no. That was squashed with the most cavalier of "nothing to see here" condescension.
Ray Farmer, former slappy GM of the Cleveland Browns, a man put in place by new-to-town owner Jimmy Haslam? Farmer sent a text message to the Browns sidelines during a game and got suspended four games while the team was fined $250,000. That suspension was handed down by NFL Operations head Troy Vincent in May of 2015.
If you’re mobbed up with the league office positioned at 345 Park Avenue, New York, New York, you never have to worry about selective rules enforcement, whisper campaigns against your organization, or dime-dropping because people there don’t like you.
You thought the Giants would be publicly chastised for tampering with footballs one week, then using a walkie-talkie the next? That’s akin to thinking Jets owner Woody Johnson would have received a letter from Dave Gardi – son of a longtime Jets assistant and supervisor of NFL officials and now the second highest-ranking individual in NFL Ops – dotted with inaccuracies and false allegations like Robert Kraft received from Gardi at the outset of Deflategate.
Or that former Jets executive and then NFL Ops guy Mike Kensil would have prowled another team’s sideline telling personnel the club was in “big f****** trouble,” the way he did with the Patriots? The Patriots are the ones that are the habitual envelope-pushers, we were told as Deflategate unfolded. In 2007, they videotaped sideline signals. In 2014, there were text messages that smelled fishy.
The NFL chose to link the two crimes against the state and prosecute the Patriots as repeat offenders. No tears outside New England were shed for the combined punishment for Spygate and Deflategate -- two first-round picks confiscated, the $1.75 million in fines and the four-game suspension of Tom Brady. Made sense, most agreed, because the league so successfully sold its position to the public via media friendlies who’d been co-opted by the league hierarchy decades ago.
The Giants tampered with the Steelers footballs and the league never mentioned it. The next week, they used walkie-talkies to illegally communicate. Talk about habitual. If the league were consistent, what would the penalty for this crap be?
Probably a two-game suspension for Bill Belichick.