From 2001 until 2004, the New England Patriots stood atop the National Football League as a dynasty.
The word "dynasty" is rarely used throughout sports and when it's brought up you think of teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s, the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s and the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s—and now the Patriots of the early 2000s.
But when the word "dynasty" is brought up when referring to the New England Patriots of the 2000s, another term tags along with it—spygate.
It's been nearly six years when the whole spygate scandal arose with the New England Patriots illegally videotaping the New York Jets defensive coaches' signals during the Week 1 battle back in 2007, which ultimately led to a $500,000 fine against head coach Bill Belichick, a $250,000 fine against the Patriots organization as well as the team being docked their first-round selection in the 2008 NFL draft.
The storm has certainly been rather calm over the past few seasons, but Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh decided to throw his two cents in regarding the beaten dead horse known as spygate.
The Ravens head coach appeared on "98 Rock" in Baltimore to promote an ALS charity run but somehow ended up on the topic of spygate:
"In the end, everything is brought before the light of day, when it’s all said and done. What happens, even the thing in New England, no matter whether those things had any impact on whether they won their championships or not, they got asterisks now. It’s 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. We have new work rules here as far as what we can do and what we can’t do with our players, and we’re going to make the most of it. What we’re finding is, ‘Man, maybe we can do some things even better than we did before, because these rules make us focus more on some things that we didn’t focus on before. You just have to make them work for you. That’s what success is in the world. 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."
It's certainly nice to know that Harbaugh believes cheating isn't worth it—but we also discovered that he believes the Patriots have an asterisk next to their three Super Bowl titles and their dynasty is "stained."
Granted, some may feel that Harbaugh is a bit disgruntled after his team's recent AFC Championship loss against the Patriots, but he raises some good questions: Do the Patriots deserve asterisk next to their Super Bowl titles?
You have to admit that videotaping opposing defensive signals do give you some sort of an advantage, but we have to deem that advantage as a slight one—it will not be the deciding factor in which team wins the game.
Obviously videotaping did give New England some edge, as they continued their practices despite a league-wide memo to warn teams of the rule in place, but the Patriots failed to acknowledge it.
Whether or not the Belichick found a "loophole" in the rule books, he was still punished along with the entire Patriots organization.
Many of the "footie-pajama" wearing, homer Pats fans out there will likely throw out the idea that "everyone was doing it." And believe it or not, they do have a valid point.
A little over a year ago prior to Super Bowl XLV, former NFL head coach Dick Vermeil discussed the spygate scandal and even threw out the notion that it was a common practice throughout the league:
"I don’t know if everyone was doing it, but everyone might’ve had a method of trying to do it. Maybe he did it better than everyone else. OK? And I’ll tell you this: In all honesty, I’ve coached as a head coach 15 years and an assistant four years, I know some things that have been done in the National Football League and I could document them, if I wanted to, that are far worse than that ever came close to being."
When it's all said and done, asterisks should not be even brought up with the New England dynasty—it was a slight advantage at best.
Rather than taking shots at the New England Patriots, which is a first-class sports organization, we need to direct our attention to one of the most filthiest organizations in professional sports, the New Orleans Saints and their disgusting bounty scandal and the now newly discovered eavesdropping scandal.
When you look at people that bring up spygate, it often tends to be disgruntled players, coaches and fans of teams that the Patriots had beaten over the years: the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and the Oakland Raiders.
Spygate is half a decade old—it's old news.
There are no asterisks and the New England Patriots dynasty will forever stand and be long remembered for winning three out of four Super Bowls in an era of free agency in the National Football League.
Be sure to check out Tony Santorsa's blog: PatriotsPlus.