Is Bill Belichick a cheater? His arch-rival Rex Ryan, coach of the New York Jets, has taken his share of shots at Belichick and the New England Patriots, but on Thursday Ryan stepped up with an angry defense of Belichick against charges that the three-time Super Bowl winning coach obtained a copy of the Jets playbook.
The allegations came from Cleveland Browns Coach Mike Pettine, a former protege of Ryan’s.
Pettine said in an interview with the SI.com site Monday Morning Quarterback, that he heard a third-hand story about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady bragging about how the Patriots may have obtained the Jets playbook.
“It didn’t shock me because Rex would give them out like candy anyway,” Pettine told MMBQ writer Greg Bedard. “He gave one out to [Alabama coach Nick] Saban and I was like, ‘Don’t you know Saban and Bill [Belichick] are pretty good friends? I have a feeling it’s going to end up in New England.'”
On Thursday, Ryan lashed back at his former defensive coordinator, calling the allegation that Belichick is a cheater “ridiculous.”
“One thing I know for a fact: Number One, I think it’s disrespectful to New England to say, ‘Oh, they did this.’ I can tell you every single game we’ve ever had with New England has been decided on the field,” said Ryan, who acknowledged giving a copy of the playbook to Saban. “To discredit somebody like Belichick, who is a real coach, studies his butt off, is ridiculous.”
Saban, for his part, flatly denied giving the playbook to Belichick, saying in a statement that the copy he received from Ryan remains locked in his office at the University of Alabama.
Pettine, however, refused to backtrack on his charge that Belichick was, essentially, a cheater who got his hands on the Jets playbook — saying only that he meant no “disrespect to Belichick,” and saying that he would do the same thing if he had the chance.
“It’s a credit that [the Patriots] have been able to get that information,” Pettine said. “I didn’t mean to imply it was gathered illegally. To me, it’s a sign of a smart team. We’re not actively pursuing playbooks, but when they fall in your laps, you’ll study it. We’re all in the business of gathering information. If I can get someone’s blueprint for how they build their offense or defense, of course I’m going to look at it.”
As for Bill Belichick, he offered no comment on the allegations that he is a cheater. “Talk to Mike Pettine,” the Patriots coach told reporters Thursday. “I don’t know.”