NFL Cheating: As Much As Patriot Fans Hate to Hear It, Spygate May Never Go Away

Kevin MillerContributor IDecember 7, 2010

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick (right) and Josh McDaniels (center) with quarterback Tom Brady   against the New York Jets in  an NFL wild card playoff game Jan. 7, 2007 in Foxborough.  The Pats won 37 - 16. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

With the firing of Denver head coach Josh McDaniels, we are left to ponder the real reasons for Bronco's owner Pat Bowlen having a sudden change of heart.  Just a week ago Bowlen stated flatly that McDaniels would be the Bronco's head coach in 2011. 

But that statement doesn't mean much now as McDaniels has officially been let go.  (On a side note, I did feel that Josh McDaniels handled his firing with class.)

One has to wonder how much the recent videotaping scandal played into this decision.  In my opinion, it had to have weighed heavily in Pat Bowlen's thought process.  After all, no team wants the stigma of cheating hanging over them. 

Just ask fans of the New England Patriots.  Patriot fans hate few things more than having "Spygate" brought up.  But with the recent videotaping scandal in Denver it all came back to the forefront once again.

As everyone is well aware by now, this recent scandal involves two former New England Patriot employees, Josh McDaniels and Steve Scarnecchia.  And interestingly, when the NFL handed down fines to the Broncos, Scarnecchia was referred to as a "repeat offender."  But the NFL didn't define his other offense(s).

So, reading between the lines, Scarnecchia must have been involved in at least one previous videotaping scandal.  The obvious candidate for previous scandal would be the "alledged" illegal videotaping of several opponents practices, including the St. Louis Rams prior to Superbowl XXXVI.  (The underdog Patriots went on to beat the Rams for their first Super Bowl championship.)

I remember a friend of mine, who was a big Rams fan, claiming there was some kind of scandal at the time.  I also remember that I laughed because I thought his claims were absurd.  I'd been cheering for the Patriots at the time. 

But now, after the admission of cheating by Bill Belichick and the Patriots in 2007, I'm no longer laughing.  No one wants to think that cheating somehow affected the outcome of any game, let alone a possible championship.

This whole "spygate" thing is exacerbated by the fact that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell destroyed the "evidence" back in 2007.  The videotapes that New England turned over to Goodell were destroyed before anyone else could view them. 

At the time commissioner Goodell claimed he had destroyed the tapes so that the Patriots "would not secure any possible competitive advantage as a result of the misconduct."

This explanation, of course, made no sense as the Patriots no longer had the tapes.  commissioner Goodell had them.  Had this been a court of law, Goodell's destruction of the tapes would have been a serious offense indeed.  Goodell is no fool, he knew that destroying the tapes would cause an uproar, but he did it anyway.

Why would Goodell have dared destroy the videotapes?  The only reason a person would dare destroy evidence is because the threat of what the evidence reveals is far more dangerous than the possible penalties for destroying it.  I have to think that was the case with the Spygate tapes. 

The only reason I can see for Goodell destroying the tapes is because they showed cheating at such a level that the implications of making the extent of New England's cheating known to the public would have been far more devastating, for the NFL, than any consequences Goodell might face for destroying them.

The NFL's reference, in the recent scandal, to Steve Scarnecchia as a "repeat offender" also goes against Roger Goodell's claim in 2007 that the Spygate tapes were only of games in 2006 and 2007.  Scarnecchia was no longer with the Patriots during those seasons.  So does this further suggest that Goodell was lying about the Spygate tapes and what they contained?

Back in 2007 the former New England Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh claimed that there had been much more that wasn't known by the public.  So in regards to the recent scandal in Denver, can we really be certain that what has been made known to the public is the true extent of this issue?

Let's look at this objectively.  Would an individual choose, of their own accord, to put their entire career on the line to tape a few minutes of an opponents practice, especially when they know the penalties for doing such.  Steve Scarnecchia had worked for the Patriots, and knows very well the results of what had occurred with Spygate.

So we are to believe that Scarnecchia, knowing the penalty for illegal videotaping, decided to do so anyway, without being asked to do so by Josh McDaniels or anyone with the Broncos. 

And then we are to believe that he presented this videotape to McDaniels even though McDaniels claims he hadn't requested it.  McDaniels claims further that he didn't watch the tape.  This reminds me too much of Bill Clinton's excuse, "I didn't inhale."

And we are to believe that this is the only time Scarnecchia had videotaped an opponents practice.  If so, why would Scarnecchia put his career on the line to tape the hapless San Francisco 49'ers?  They had only won one game to that point.  And Scarnecchia risked his job to tape them?

It all seems far-fetched to me that anyone would choose to risk their career in such a way without someone much higher up in the organization requesting the videotaping be done. 

And as Scarnecchia presented the tape to McDaniels, and McDaniels didn't turn it over to the NFL, the appearance is that the request came from McDaniels.  It also seems far-fetched that a lowly, struggling team, like the 49'ers have been this year, would be the only team that was taped. 

In the end, the Broncos never disclosed how the videotaping incident was discovered.  Nor did they disclose who it was that turned in the tape.  So we are left to speculate about what the truth really is regarding the original Spygate and these more recent events that some are calling Spygate 2.

On several NFL related chat rooms Patriot fans have claimed that this sort of cheating is done by other teams, as well.  And under any other circumstances Patriot fans would have probably felt some vindication at another team being caught cheating.  But when the only other team to ever be caught cheating is comprised of former New England Patriots, it just makes Spygate seem all the worse.

I think that the only way to really put Spygate behind us would be for the Patriots to win a championship that wasn't somehow tainted by cheating or alleged cheating.  They haven't been able to do that yet. 

If they never do win another championship before the Belichick era comes to a close, many will feel that they very possibly would never have won a championship without the help of cheating.

Saying something like that will certainly make Patriot fans angry.  But that is not my intention.  They need to put themselves in the rest of the world's shoes. 

If the team that had gotten caught cheating in the original Spygate had not been the Patriots, but rather one of the Patriots rivals, you can rest assured that Patriot fans would have been outraged at least as much as the rest of us.  So they should be able to understand why the rest of the football world is still upset.

Indeed, when we see further scandal that involves individuals formerly with New England, and when the NFL makes statements like calling Scarnecchia a "repeat offender," we see why Spygate may never go away.