Details Emerge About The Patriots’ Spying On Other Teams
What a former employee aledges and fact are often two different things, so by no means does Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham's piece on the crumbling relationship between the New England Patriots and the National Football League indicate that Bill Belichick's regime frequently spied on other teams. There's no irrefutable proof that he'd send an equipment manager on a recon mission into the opposing team's locker room to steal their playsheet. We have no idea whether opponents' hotels were searched by the Pats' intell ninjas for scouting reports.
But there's more than one person out there willing to dish dirt on defending Super Bowl champions...
In fact, many former New England coaches and employees insist that the taping of signals wasn't even the most effective cheating method the Patriots deployed in that era. 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.
When you read stuff like this, it's clear why the NFL went after Tom Brady (and owner Robert Kraft, who was fined $1 million this offseason) with their guns ablazin'. They've been hearing of clandestine activity up in Foxboro for years and probably faced pressure from the other owners -- who've had to watch the Pats' unprecedented 15-year run of good fortune -- to do something, anything about it (hence the heavy-handed four game suspension for DeflateGate). The ESPN article goes on to detail Bill Belichick's strange, long relationship with a mysterious researcher named Ernie Adams, who most certainly knew of the shady off-field rule-bending, and appears to have participated in much of it.
When Bill Belichick became coach of the Browns in 1991, he hired Adams to be a consigliere of sorts. Owner Art Modell famously offered $10,000 to any employee who could tell him what Adams did. In short, in Cleveland and in New England, Adams did whatever he wanted -- and whatever Belichick wanted: statistical analysis, scouting and strategy. Years later, Walsh recalled to Senate investigators that Adams told old stories from the Browns about giving a video staffer an NFL Films shirt and assigning him to film the opponents' sideline huddles and grease boards from behind the bench. The shared view of Belichick and Adams, according to many who've worked with them, is this: The league is lazy and incompetent, so why not push every boundary? "You'd want Bill and Ernie doing your taxes," says a former Patriots assistant coach. "They would find all the loopholes, and then when the IRS would close them, they'd find more."
Then there was this little tidbit about a room filled with stolen signals and scouting reports that the NFL ordered to be destroyed (but didn't punish the team for).
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.
If that sounds like Roger Goodell was covering the Pats' asses, he was, and former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz made it clear that he was asked by the league to help them sweep Spygate under the rug.
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.
Of course, the Patriots have vehemently denied any and all of the claims made in the ESPN article, condemning the reporting in a statement that blasted ESPN, specifically.
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) September 8, 2015
In other news, Tom Brady is an unabashed Donald Trump supporter, who in no way thinks it's weird to tell reporters that they're friends because Trump's "done great things."
Be the first to know
Want FREE Fantasy and Gaming Advice and Savings Delivered to your Inbox? Sign up for our Newsletter.