Nov 192015

The Patriots Were Huge Cheaters And Roger Goodell Covered It Up

You should read the story immediately, but the thrust is this citing interviews with 90 sources in and around football as well as primary documents, ESPN reports that Bill Belichick and the Patriots videotaped opposing teams’ signals from 40 different games from 2000 through 2007. And when the scandal broke, Goodell did everything in his power to protect Robert Kraft, who was one of his strongest supporters and without whom he would not have been named commissioner. The thesis statement in this story is that the cover up and if this report is accurate, the league’s actions can’t be called anything else but a cover up so rankled other owners that Goodell came down extra hard on New England and Tom Brady for Ballghazi as “a makeup call.”

As the Patriots became a dynasty and Belichick became the first coach to win three Super Bowls in four years, an entire system of covert videotaping was developed and a secret library created. “It got out of control,” a former Patriots assistant coach says. Sources with knowledge of the system say an advance scout would attend the games of upcoming Patriots opponents and assemble a spreadsheet of all the signals and corresponding plays. The scout would give it to Adams, who would spend most of the week in his office with the door closed, matching the notes to the tapes filmed from the sideline. Files were created, organized by opponent and by coach. During games, Walsh later told investigators, the Patriots’ videographers were told to look like media members, to tape over their team logos or turn their sweatshirt inside out, to wear credentials that said Patriots TV or Kraft Productions. The videographers also were provided with excuses for what to tell NFL security if asked what they were doing: Tell them you’re filming the quarterbacks. Or the kickers. Or footage for a team show.

Several of them acknowledge that during pregame warm ups, a low level Patriots employee would sneak into the visiting locker room and steal the play sheet, listing the first 20 or so scripted calls for the opposing team’s offense. (The practice became so notorious that some coaches put out fake play sheets for the Patriots to swipe.) Numerous former employees say the Patriots would have someone rummage through the visiting team hotel for playbooks or scouting reports. Walsh later told investigators that he was once instructed to remove the labels and erase tapes of a Patriots practice because the team had illegally used a player on injured reserve. At Gillette Stadium, the scrambling and jamming of the opponents’ coach to quarterback radio line “small s ” that many teams do, according to a former Pats assistant coach occurred so often that one team asked a league official to sit in the coaches’ box during the game and wait for it to happen. Sure enough, on a key third down, the headset went out.

Inside a room accessible only to Belichick and a few others, they found a library of scouting material containing videotapes of opponents’ signals, with detailed notes matching signals to plays for many teams going back seven seasons. Among them were handwritten diagrams of the defensive signals of the Pittsburgh Steelers, including the notes used in the January 2002 AFC Championship Game won by the Patriots 24 17. Yet almost as quickly as the tapes and notes were found, they were destroyed, on Goodell’s orders: League executives stomped the tapes into pieces and shredded the papers inside a Gillette Stadium conference room.

The next step was to get the controversy to blow over. Coaches and executives from the Steelers (who believed they had been taped prior to their 2002 AFC championship loss) and Eagles (the 2005 Super Bowl) put out public statements denying that the spying had anything to do with the games’ outcomes and supporting the NFL’s investigation. We do not know if they were pressured to do so, but former Rams coach Mike Martz says Roger Goodell called him personally and urged him to do the same regarding the 2002 Super Bowl.

During a five minute conversation, Martz recalls that the commissioner sounded panicked about Specter’s calls for a wider investigation. Martz also recalls that Goodell asked him to write a statement, saying that he was satisfied with the NFL’s Spygate investigation and was certain the Patriots had not cheated and asking everyone to move on like leaders of the Steelers and Eagles had done.

“He told me, ‘The league doesn’t need this. We’re asking you to come out with a couple lines exonerating us and saying we did our due diligence,'” says Martz.

ESPN’s interviews with owners and executives paint a picture of an NFL as resentful of the Patriots’ special treatment as they were jealous of the team’s onfield success. So when the Patriots were accused of illegally deflating footballs an overblown scandal if there ever was one Goodell decided to bring down the hammer. The massive investigation, the unprecedented penalties, the preemptive court filing? All were apparently efforts to assuage other owners sick and tired of the Patriots getting away with things. One NFL owner declared Goodell’s heavy handed response was his “makeup call.”

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