Nearly six years later, Spygate still hasn't gone away, and I wouldn't expect it to go away anytime soon.
Harbaugh was asked for his thoughts about the Saints and their pay for performance scandal, better known as "Bountygate," and whether he thinks it's worth bending the rules to gain a competitive advantage.
Here are the quotes via MassLive.com:
In the end, everything is brought before the light of day...Even the thing in New England. No matter if those things had any impact on whether they won their championships, they got asterisks now. They've been stained.
To me, it's never worth it. You have to figure out ways to use the rules to your advantage, you have to figure out ways to make the most of everything...You have to find a way to do things better than somebody else. But if you're cheating, in the end, you're going to get discredited. It's not worth it.
The specter of Spygate has loomed over Gillette Stadium since Week 2 of the 2007 season, and remains a key argument for those looking to discredit the Patriots Super Bowl wins.
Harbaugh was making a statement on the public perception behind rule-bending/breaking, in that once you get caught, the perception is completely out of your hands. The Patriots Super Bowl wins are tainted not because of the act itself, but because of the perception.
That perception will never change, no matter how many times the details of the scandal are explained.
Taking it one step further, the Patriots needed Super Bowl XLVI to provide at least some level of vindication. It would have been the ultimate, "Look! See! We won a trophy post-Spygate!" argument to expunge the theory that they needed the videotaping to win championships.
Instead, we were treated to this from two other AFC Northers:
Told you, cheaters never win!!!!!!!!!— James Harrison (@jharrison9292) February 6, 2012
0-2 post spy gate! Just saying!! Cant spell ELIte w/o Eli!! Night my friends!— ryan clark (@RealRClark25) February 6, 2012
By comparison, Harbaugh's comments were far from out of line; more of a statement on the nature of scandals in sports as it pertains to public perception, and not specifically on his perception as to whether the Patriots' Super Bowls are tarnished.
Let's not forget that Bill Belichick vouched for Harbaugh to be the Ravens head coach back in 2009, and that Harbaugh even went as far as to call Belichick, "the greatest coach in our league right now," prior to the 2011 AFC Championship game.
The two have a good relationship; I doubt this was Harbaugh's way of putting an axe in it.
That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if Belichick and the Patriots were using it as bulletin board material for their Week 3 contest at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday Night Football anyway.
Update: John Harbaugh has since clarified his statements through the Baltimore Ravens' official website, directed at both the Patriots and the Saints.