The most successful NFL franchise of the last decade gets a lot of push back for being cheats. Yep, the New England Patriots always seem to be in some situation that makes you think that Belichick and company are up to no good.
This all started with the now infamous 'Spygate
', where the league caught wind the coaching crew headed by Belichick had been secretly tapping practices of other teams from years '02-'07. They were eventually found guilty of video tapping other teams and fined about $500,000, while also losing out on a 1st round draft pick. And even though it is widely believed that the tapings never actually helped the franchise win any truly competitive games (meaning the cheating was probably all-for-not) still, the cloud of doubt has surrounded Brady, Belichick and Kraft ever since.
Even the very first Super Bowl win of the Brady era was hotly contested, back in 2002. That's where the 'tuck rule
' was first introduced into the game with any actual significance, and lead everyone to believe that the Pats should have never even been in that Super Bowl to begin with; many believe that the Raiders should have won that playoff game. And without that obscure call at a pivotal point in the 4th quarter, they likely would have been.
Then you have two more controversies that happened pretty recently, during the 2014-2015 playoffs. First was the Pats being super clever and disguising a play during the divisional round against Baltimore that tricked the Ravens D into defending the wrong guy, and allowed Brady to find a wide open 'receiver' for an awesomely deceptive 40-yard plus dash that got them right back into the game, and kick-started their offensive run into eventually prevailing. It wasn't technically cheating. But Raven's head coach Harbaugh certainly made noise about the shady nature of the play, implying in all ways but outright saying that Belichick plays dirty. And since all controversies in today's world need a corresponding -gate name, this has been dubbed 'Deceptiongate
And last but not least, Deflategate
. This is the most recent, and likely the most silly controversy. But since the Pats have such a cloud of deception ever looming, with a sorted history of clever but controversial actions, people can't help but believe that fowl play was involved. I mean, its the Patriots, right? Given the chance, they cheat. It's just what they do. Any edge, any advantage, and they seize the opportunity, shady or not. The team has lost so much credibility over the years, and owns almost zero benefit of the doubt.
Deflategate happened during the AFC Championship game against the Colts. The Patriots were accused of deflating the game balls in order to make them more catch-able. But when a Colt's player intercepted a Brady pass, he noticed something funny about the ball. Word quickly escalated to a ranking ref, and now the league is 'looking into it'. The Pats are at risk of losing even more draft picks (and possibly more fines) from yet another controversy of shady behavior that blurs the lines of cheating, and taking advantage of the grey areas of the rule book.
So the question becomes, are the New England Patriots cheaters? I'll leave you with this: Consider Spygate, Deflategate, Deceptiongate, the tuck rule, hell even Aaron Hernandez
if you really wanna pile it on.. and then think about all the accomplishments New England has achieved since this current iteration of the franchise took the reins. Since year 2000, here is what Brady, Kraft and Belichick have done, courtesy of Wikipedia
Since Bill Belichick was hired as the team's head coach in 2000, the Patriots have finished first or second in the AFC East every year except Belichick’s first season, with both second place finishes caused by tiebreakers. Over that time, they have won three Super Bowls, five AFC Champsionship Games, and nine AFC East titles, while amassing a regular season record of 137–53. The team's quarterback over that same period, Tom Brady, has been awarded twice each the MVP and the Super Bowl MPV; he is one of only four men named Super Bowl MVP more than once.
Do the Patriots' controversies diminish their achievements in your eyes? Do you asterisk their wins with doubts that they cheated their way to the top? I know that the New England Patriots are probably the second most hated franchise in the NFL right now (my Cowboys being number 1, with a bullet). Just comes with the territory of repeat success, and seriously high expectations, year in, year out. And with that also comes life long haters, pouncing on any and every chance to diminish their legacy.
Because, let's face it, the modern-day Patriots are truly one of the best and most talented sporting franchises in all of American sports, not just the NFL. But they have brought this cloud of doubt upon themselves. That is also true. They deserve to have to defend their integrity. Are they cheats? My end-of-the-day feeling is that yeah, they probably have cheated a good amount of times over the years. But so have likely every other team out there too. The New England Patriots are just the best cheats in the game. Or the worse because they get caught so much. Depends on which way you look at it.