Whether or not that's fair or unfair, I couldn't tell you. That fairness of it isn't relevant. What is relevant is winning football games.
Here's the question that matters: What if Bill Belichick hadn't made an example of those four players?
This is obviously a team that has some issues. They've lost three of their last four games, including an embarrassing Monday night blowout and a loss to Miami that was completely avoidable. If that didn't hammer it home that the Pats have problems, Tom Brady(notes) made it crystal clear with his postgame comments on Sunday, questioning the fight and the heart of certain members of the ball club.
These Patriots, had they continued along the same path they were on, weren't going to be winning a Super Bowl. They might not have been winning the AFC East. That's what would have happened if Bill Belichick had done nothing.
Now, though? The team got hit in the chest yesterday with a cattle prod. It can either shock them awake, or it can kill them. And if it kills them, well, then they die quickly instead of the slow death they had been experiencing.
If Moss and the other guys had walked in late yesterday, and Belichick said, "Hey, you know, things are rough out there, so it's no big deal," then we'd be sitting here today and nothing about the New England Patriots would have changed. That was a surefire recipe for not winning the Super Bowl.
And maybe things still won't change. Or maybe they'll change for the worse. So what? I'm pretty sure that within Patriots headquarters, not winning a Super Bowl one way is just as big a failure as not winning the Super Bowl in a different way.
Maybe, though, the team responds. Maybe the technique in practice gets a little better, the focus gets a little sharper and the execution gets a little crisper. Maybe everyone starts listening when Tom Brady talks about the work ethic it takes to win. It's possible.
If the reaction is negative, though, then the Pats are right back where they started -- not being a championship team. So why wouldn't Bill Belichick go nuts and make an example of a few guys, including a team captain? There was nothing to lose. Doing nothing and leaving things on cruise control would've been the riskiest move of all.