- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

So the NFL coach who dresses like a bag lady falls in the unethical company of Glen Taylor and Kevin McHale, the would-be geniuses who cut a secret contract deal with Joe Smith and wound up costing the Timberwolves five first-round draft picks.

The video fallout could not have happened to a friendlier guy, who seemingly was cheating for cheating’s sake.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick needed to cheat against the Jets about as much as the Timberwolves needed to flaunt the NBA’s collective-bargain agreement in pursuit of Smith’s mediocre services.

This apparently sullies the clean-cut image of the Patriots, although Belichick being named the “other man” in an ugly divorce case involving a New Jersey woman was hardly G-rated stuff.

Belichick showered the woman with gifts, cash and a four-bedroom townhouse, which, believe it or not, the husband found objectionable.

That was merely the first of two relationship issues to undermine the image of the Patriots in the offseason.

Tom Brady leaving his pregnant girlfriend for a leggy model showed that the quarterback does not fall far from the coaching tree of New England.

Belichick always has been something of an eccentric personality, even by the one-dimensional standards of the football coaching fraternity.

He is typical of the men who spend their lives in film rooms and converse in the arcane language of X’s and O’s.

It is possible, or even likely, that Belichick never has heard of Gen. David H. Petraeus.

After Oliver North paid a visit to Redskin Park amid the Iran-contra scandal in the late ‘80s, Joe Gibbs confessed he did not know who the man was.

Yet Belichick has come to redefine the socially inept persona of a football coach. It sometimes appears as if he just rolled off the couch in his office and neglected to wash the sleep out of his eyes and put a comb through his hair.

Despite all his success and time in the public eye, Belichick looks about as comfortable in front of a camera as a dental patient having a root canal. He is accustomed to dressing in the mustard-stained hand-me-downs of sports writers, which at least gives the two parties something in common.

Both would elicit squeals of horror from fashion maven Tim Gunn.

Belichick is not inclined to dispense snappy one-liners or bask in the warm-and-fuzzy platitudes of the day.

If he is a genius, he is a reluctant one.

He is as aloof and brusque as football coaches come, a deeply private person stuck in the fishbowl that is the NFL.

And now the leading coach of his generation has come to the attention of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whose get-tough policies with the players was put to the test with management.

Only to appear consistent, Goodell fined Belichick the NFL maximum of $500,000 and the Patriots $250,000 for videotaping an opponent’s offensive and defensive signals. Goodell also took away one to two draft picks.

All of which was done with public perception in mind.

Goodell certainly does not want to be seen as a law-and-order type with the players but a lackey of the owners.

Belichick issued an apology in the form of a one-paragraph statement earlier this week, with the warning that he would have no further comment on the matter.

That, of course, led to an abbreviated press conference after the curious in his midst pressed for a parsing of the apology.

Football coaches hate distractions almost as much as losing.

Belichick, in being the distraction, no doubt is having a difficult time coming to terms with that reality.

His Patriots face the Chargers in the NFL’s showcase event Sunday night.

For now, that is secondary concern to those who chronicle the goings-on of the team.

They are awaiting to learn the fate of Belichick and the Patriots.

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