It has been almost a year and a half since the infamous scandal of "Spygate" took place. In that timeframe, the New England Patriots went through a number of experiences regarding the effect the scandal had on the team.
What concerns me is that the entire scandal seems to have faded away for the most part. More disturbingly, it seems that far too many players, coaches, and especially fans have managed to provide an unwarranted excuse for the Patriots in an effort to minimize what might be the greatest sports scandal of our age.
He fined Bill Belichick $500,000, the Patriots $250,000, and stripped them of their 2008 first-round draft pick. What might seem to be harsh punishment at first, can be seen as a slap on the wrist with further evaluation.
Those fines were the most in NFL history so there can be no doubt that this scandal was something major. The severity of the issue, however, was blatantly covered up by the NFL.
Within two weeks, they destroyed all of the evidence handed over to them by the Patriots. I have an issue with two things here.
No. 1, it could not have been more ignorant than to just assume the Patriots would hand over their most incriminating evidence (assuming they'd even still be in possession of it), and secondly it was completely suspicious for them to destroy the evidence they did receive so quickly and take no note what so ever regarding what they did discover.
At this point in time, no one was aware how long the Patriots had been cheating for. This bred far to much speculation and the opportunity for Patriots fans to deny the possibility that it has happened for an extended period of time.
It was not untill congress started breathing down Roger Goodell's neck that he finally came forward with the most important details of his investigation.
He admitted that Bill Belichick told him that he had been illegally videotaping since he became the head coach in 2000. That was quite a revelation considering there were still some ignorant fans who were under the impression that it had only happened for one game.
There is a big difference between cheating in one game and cheating in a total of 127 games which included 14 playoff games, four AFC Championships, and three Super Bowls.
Why withhold the length of time he discovered them to be cheating during?
The Patriots have been the face of the NFL for many years now. Any cheating scandal can harm the reputation of a sports league, just ask Major League Baseball. Roger Goodell knew that the more the Patriots were exposed as cheaters, the more harm it could do to his league.
Nothing positive could come out of this being exposed to the public. It would draw fourth too many questions about the effect it had, does it taint the Super Bowl, etc. Therefore, Goodell did everything he could to sweep the scandal under the carpet. He handed out quick fines, destroyed the evidence, and hoped it would go away.
Of course, it always comes back to Bill Belichick's blatant dishonest defense.
He claims that he misinterpreted the rules and therefore thought that what he was doing was okay. Let's take a look at those rules so you can judge for yourself...
p. 105 of the NFL's Game Operations Manual
"No video recording devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game."
That seems pretty clear cut to me but if that's not enough, read the memo sent out to all 32 NFL teams in 2006...
"Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponents offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sideline, in the coaches booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game."
Yet another clear-cut warning that the Patriots chose to ignore.
Why ignore these rules if our team is good enough to win on its own?
This is another good question that most people fail to ask. I've often heard the argument that the Patriots did not need to cheat to win their three Super Bowls. If that theory is correct, you have to ask the following question.
Why even bother if you can win by the same margin anyway?
Think about it, if you believe that their illegal stealing of opponents signals had little to no effect on the game, why would they bother. I'll be the first to tell you that Bill Belichick is one of the smartest coaches in the history of football.
Do you really think that he would go so far out of his way and risk so much if there was not a substantial benefit to be had?
Furthermore, if they could have won three Super Bowls without cheating, why would they even bother? Do not be ignorant enough to believe that Bill Belichick would ever go out of his way for nothing.
He is a student of the game and a man intelligent enough to weigh risk with reward. He took that risk and certainly reaped the benefits of doing so.
Every single Super Bowl the Patriots won was only by a three-point margin. Don't you think it's reasonable to believe that stealing your opponents signals would be at least a three-point advantage?
It would be one thing if the Patriots were so dominating that they beat their opponents soundly, but instead each game was a close one with the Patriots just squeaking by. Squeaking by with a nice little illegal advantage under their belts.
Which brings me to the next defense of the Patriots. How many times have you heard a Patriots fan say, "Well everyone does it, do you think the Patriots are the only team to ever cheat?"
This question has a rather simple answer in my mind.
First off, no I do not believe that every team cheats. I do believe that there have been plenty of teams to send a scout to an opponents practice to jot down notes. I do believe that there have been people who have tried to read coaches lips. These kinds of things are also wrong but have been around for as long as football has.
My issue is that when you bring technology into the picture, it takes things to a whole new level. So my answer to the question is that yes I do believe that other teams have cheated but I do not believe cheating has ever been done to the same extent that the Patriots took it to.
I've heard people say that the Cowboys cheated in the 1990s because of the remarks Jimmy Johnson made. Although this allegation has no evidence to back it up, I wouldn't be shocked if a team with the Cowboys reputation were doing more illegal things.
When the Broncos coach Mike Shanahan claimed to have a guy who used binoculars to steal signals, that is also wrong. The issue here is the use of the binoculars more then it is the viewing of signals. I still do not believe that using a naked eye (albeit-aided) to witness signals is the same as videotaping them to view at your will.
Finally, I have heard people accuse the Jets of doing the same thing New England did. This accusation lacks any evidence and originates from the word of the Patriots (not exactly the most reliable source).
Even so, their head coach Eric Mangini was once an assistant to Bill Belichick himself. I wouldn't find it that hard to believe that he carried over some of his cheating methods to New York.
Even with all of these arguments, that does not transform into hard evidence that all 32 teams cheat, much less cheat to the extent that the Patriots did. Did you know that in the 88-year history of the NFL, the New England Patriots are the only team to ever been proven to cheat in this fashion?
You'd think with 88 years of history that something would turn up. That means either thousands of NFL teams managed to never be caught, or that the Patriots were the only team dirty enough to do so.
Which brings me back to my original point. Why do the Patriots get a free pass on all of this? How could a team that cheated for six seasons be punished so little and allowed to continue as if nothing ever happend. It's sad to see how offended Patriots fans get when this is brought up. They feel as if people are still going on about yesterdays news.
I got news for you, if everyone talked about it for six years straight it wouldn't even out the damage the Patriots caused in their six years of dishonest practices. Teams lost games they otherwise wouldn't have, players got cut from their positions, coaches lost their jobs over the course of those six years.
One really has to imagine how different history would be had "Spygate" never happened.
For those who continue to believe that "Spygate" was blown out of proportion, the fact is that the opposite happened. People tried to sweep it under the rug and minimize the impact of what the Patriots did. The reality of the "Spygate" legacy is that it has rather transformed into one of the most underplayed scandals instead of being exposed for its reality.