Patriots Saga: Getting to Know the Spygate All-Stars

John McCloryAnalyst IFebruary 7, 2008

Just when the public thought Spygate was put to rest, the media dug up the corpse and dished out thirty lashes.
Coincidentally—or perhaps intentionally—the agonizing tale caught a second wind on the doorstep of Super Bowl XLII.

For those who had better things to do and missed the Spygate sideshow entirely, let's review a brief timeline complete with a who's who.

I now present...the 2007-2008 Spygate All-Stars!
Eric Mangini

Don't let the fact that he's gained fifty pounds since his stint as a Patriots assistant fool you, the "Man-genius" can still blow the whistle with the best of 'em.
And by, "blow the whistle," I mean rat out the man who let young Eric ride his coattails since his days at Wesleyan University.
Ah, the sweet smell of back-stabbing is prevalent in the NFL.

During week 1 of the 07-08 season, Mangini accused Belichick and co. of filming the Jets defensive signals during the game, a direct violation of league rules.

The Spygate-outing ended in a 38-14 blowout in favor of New England.
Wow, just imagine if the Patriots had adhered to the NFL code of ethics—the final score might've been a narrow 35-14 victory.
It's clear that both coaches trashed their work relationship—and friendship—once Mangini traded Super Bowl rings for onion rings.

But what about their frat buddy days at Wesleyan? Did Belichick pants Mangini? Did he spill a wine cooler on his v-neck sweater vest?

If Spygate has a deeper history than Watergate, then isn't it reasonable to assume that Mangini was in on the ruse under Belichick's command? Roger Goodell has no legit reason to question coaches not named Belichick? Is the commish afraid the "Man-genius" will outfox him faster than Jack Bauer?

An intriguing aspect of the controversy was vastly overlooked.

In a January 2007 playoff game, the Jets were accused of doing some spying of their own. Allegedly, they were caught illegally filming by a Patriots security employee and were asked to leave. The Jets organization later denied the accusations and claimed the Patriots had given them permission to do so. Belichick denied permission was given.

(Raven's coach, Brian Billick, also accused Mangini of illegal tactics. Hmmm.)

If the lowly Jets were under the same microscope as the mighty Patriots, would more attention be given to this story?

You gotta wonder.

The accusations made against the Jets were, afterall, only accusations. But isn't that what Spygate is all about—accusations, allegations, and assumptions?

Without these three ingredients, what would ESPN's Gregg Easterbrook write about?

The thorn in the NFL's side, ladies and gentlemen!

Who would've thought the man behind such dead-pan quotes as, "We're gonna take it one game at a time," and, "Tom's a great player," could be capable of orchestrating one of the biggest scandals in NFL history.

Of course, to his credit, we honestly don't know how much weight Spygate truly carries. But it has the potential to blow the roof off the joint, especially when you're dealing with a media that documented the growth of Barry Bond's cranium.

Belichick, of course, was on the receiving end of Mangini's wrath in week 1. Watching them reluctantly shake hands at the end of a Jets-Pats game is like watching a newly split couple cross paths in a public place—they think about going in for the hug and ultimately decide a handshake is somehow less awkward.

NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, dealt out a $500,000 fine to the coach—the largest ever—and the organization was fined an amount of $250,000. Additionally, the Patriots were forced to forfeit their upcoming draft pick.

In the mean time, the media has shifted their focus to Belichick's "early exit" in the last second of Super Bowl XLII. Numerous questions still loom about him, but it's reassuring to know the media has their priorities straight.

Is Belichick's so-called arrogance and pigskin I.Q. just a shield to cover up blatant cheating? Are we missing the big picture and ignoring other NFL cheating issues? Is the media's microscope so intently fixed on him that the accusations are vastly blown out of proportion?

Most importantly, what's keeping the Patriots organization from marketing his hoodies? They are sitting on a retail gold mine.

"Beli-cheat's" lack of cooperation with the media has officially come back to haunt him—the silent treatment in post-game press conferences, the shoving of hovering cameramen, and the plethora of unuseable quotes such as, "We played good."

As Spygate details begin to unfold, the annual Mangini and Belichick family BBQ will become increasingly more uncomfortable.
Roger Goodell

Every commissioner has their "welcome-to-the-league" moment.
Apparently, Goodell decided to get his kick to the groin out of the way early.
Now, however, it's likely that Goodell was more than familiar with NFL coaches gaining a "competitive advantage" in games.

Sound familiar, Bud Selig?

Goodell was crowned NFL commish in August of 2006, taking over for the retired Paul Tagliabue. He was chosen over four finalists for the position after singing an enchanting version of "When a Man Loves a Woman," by Michael Bolton.  Simon Cowell referred to the performance as "absolutely memorable."
The commish was called out early in 2008 for imposing a limited punishment on the New England Patriots cheating scandal.

Limited? Really? The largest fine ever given to a coach, plus an additional team fine and loss of a draft pick isn't sufficient?

What did the critics want? A stripping of Super Bowl titles based on limited evidence and witnesses with questionable credibility? How about forcing Belichick to thoroughly answer redundant post-game questions at gunpoint?

Goodell may be caught between a rock and a hard place. His apparent destruction of the Patriots illegal tapes leaves him in hot water with the critics.
It's crucial for Goodell to do the exact opposite of his counterparts in order to avoid dragging the NFL through the mud. Stern—who has been a model commish up until last year—endured a brutal corruption scandal of his own. Although, in his defense, Stern's hands were likely tied.

Selig, on the other hand, staggered blindly through his stint as commish, ignoring all signs of obvious juicing.

A boiling cup of coffee has been thrown in Goodell's lap and now he must wash away the stains.
Arlen Specter

Easily the nerdiest person to be associated with the sport of football since Corey Haim in the movie, Lucas.
Specter took a page out of George Mitchell's book and decided politics and sports somehow mix. Perhaps his perpetual investigation of the Kennedy Assassination grew tiring.

Goodell received a letter from Specter concerning the destruction of the Spygate tapes. The explanation he received was that the tapes contained nothing earth-shattering and were no longer needed.

Oops, Goodell pulled an Enron.

But get this: Comcast has an ongoing battle with the NFL over fees related to the NFL network. Specter has received a hefty amount of campaign contributions from Comcast and those affiliated.

In most schools of thought that's called a "conflict of interest."

And how ironic that Specter is a devoted supporter of the Philadelphia Eagles. I was going to refer to him as a, "diehard Eagles fan," but somehow I can't picture him polishing off a six-pack, rounding up his fellow senators to chest paint E-A-G-L-E-S, and heckling Donovan McNabb for four quarters.

Nevertheless, it's not far fetched to assume that Specter is still licking his wounds from Super Bowl XXXIX and T.O.'s leftover poison.

Hey, why not kill two birds with one stone, right? Spit some old-fashioned revenge at the Patriots and show false concern for a game he never played.

A true politician, indeed.
Matt Walsh

The most recent addition to the Spygate All-Stars, Walsh is a former Video Assistant for the New England Patriots.
Walsh—who was fired by the Patriots in 2002—recently stated he has groundbreaking information regarding the Patriot's alleged violations.
On February 2, 2008, a day before Super Bowl XLII, an "unnamed source" informed the Boston Herald that the Patriots videotaped the St. Louis Rams walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI.

Upon putting two and two together, the assumption can be made that Walsh is, in fact, the "unnamed source." Either that, or the other video assistant who worked for the Pats during 2001 suddenly felt compelled to shed some light on the situation.
Like Specter, Walsh's timing is impeccable. The Patriots seem to be in the business of burning bridges, yet this is the first person to come forward with potential information? No other disgruntled employees, players, or ex-coaches are intent on settling a score with the cutthroat organization?

As the media began to investigate Walsh's background, it became apparent that he lied about being a member of his college golf team.

So, let's recap: Walsh claims he has the power to fully expose the biggest cheating scandal in NFL history, yet he spins a yarn about his history on the links.

How do you say, "No credibility" in Belichickian?

At this point, Walsh's statements seem a tad skewed but not all the pieces to the puzzle fit quite yet. It's entirely possible that Walsh can serve as the missing link to the Spygate circus.

Or maybe he's just really pissed the Patriots organization didn't provide him with a "Farewell" fruit basket.


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