Since the Super Bowl, the Cleveland Browns have been the most amazing team in the NFL. For every reason.
Their owner is under investigation and faces possible indictment. A homeless guy implored the owner to draft Johnny Manziel, which the Browns of course did following a blockbuster trade involving their other first-round pick. Manziel is, of course, a one-man circus, and he somehow has distracted everyone from the potential Josh Gordon suspension and also the Browns' insane postseason firing spree of Rob Chudzinski and two front-office cogs, followed by the scattershot coaching search that eventually landed on Mike Pettine.
Pettine told a story of how, at Wes Welker’s wedding, Tom Brady bragged a little bit to Jets outside linebackers coach Mike Smith, who was Welker’s college roommate, that the Patriots may or may not have had possession of a couple Jets defensive playbooks.
“It didn’t shock me because Rex [Ryan] would give them out like candy anyway,” Pettine says. “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.' "
That story came about when Bedard asked Pettine about the Browns' playbook, which Pettine said was quite thin. Why?
“I don’t put a lot of graduate-level information in it,” Pettine says. “We know in places like New England, it’s only a matter of time that they somehow mysteriously end up with our playbook.”
Oh, you don't say?
When asked about it Thursday, Ryan and Belichick were not too pleased with Pettine's comments.
Ryan was especially upset with his former colleague. So much so that Ryan — gulp — defended the Patriots and said it was "ridiculous" that they could have gained any real advantage from it, even if they had a copy of the playbook.
“One thing I know for a fact: No. 1, I think it’s disrespectful to New England,” Ryan said via Newsday. “Everyone needs to talk to Mike Pettine cause he’s got all the answers. … I don’t understand what he’s trying to gain by it.”
When asked where his relationship with Pettine is right now after this, Ryan laughed and said: “It’s in a bad spot right now. Like, really, dude?”
Belichick also didn't seem thrilled that this story got out, responding in Belichick-ian fashion.
“Go talk to Mike Pettine,” Belichick said Thursday. “I don’t know.”
The Jets-Patriots rivalry is quite the dirty thing, and the "Spygate" scandal — which happened before Pettine arrived with the Jets in 2009 — still cloaks the two teams. As for Belichick and potentially facing his wrath, Pettine is free and clear for now — the Browns are not scheduled to face the Patriots until 2015 at the earliest, unless they meet in the playoffs this season.
And it almost seems like this Browns team has no chance of being average. They'll either be a spectacular failure to the tune of 4-12 or go win the darned division (and earn their playoff bid at New England?). These guys are fun to listen to and watch, and that's before they've played any real football together.
As for the Patriots, does it stun you they'd find their way to get ahold of a Jets playbook? The question we might ask is, is that wrong?
If Ryan was as blasé about handing out playbooks as Pettine makes it sound, it was only a matter of time before one found its way to Foxborough, just as the Patriots' (alleged) scouting report of Manziel saw the light of day. Things slip through the cracks in this clandestine NFL world, in which every team is trying on some level to gain an edge, fair or not.
In the end, does it matter? Probably not, but it's certainly fun to talk about. Just like the Browns are in general these days.