By: Denery Noone
Innocent or Guilty, Brady and the Patriots legacy should not be looked down upon. Denery is here to tell you why.
I am not here to argue whether the Patriots and Tom Brady are innocent or guilty. I am not going to mention destroyed cell-phones, potential sting operations, or anything of that nature. I am simply here to tell you that innocent or guilty, Tom Brady’s image and legacy should not be changed. Over the past few months, the New England Patriots have been under tremendous scrutiny over the claims of the under-inflated balls during the AFC Championship Game vs. the Indianapolis Colts on January 18th, 2015. The claim was that the Patriots played the game with 11 of their 12 primary team football’s nearly two pounds under the minimally required 12.5 PSI(Pounds per square inch). A later report came out that only one of the twelve balls was nearly two pounds under-inflated, and all of the other balls were only a pound or less under the requirement.
Bill Belichick held a press conference after much research and informed the public that the cold weather forces the ball pressure to deflate by nearly one pound, which partially explained the reasoning for why the balls were under inflated. Several ESPN Analysts immediately deemed the team guilty of altering the inflation of the ball, without any proof whatsoever. They have suggested that the Super Bowl win vs. the Seattle Seahawks have an asterisk placed next to it due to the suspect occurrences during that game against the Colts. Now, Brady has been suspended for four games as many of you know, and the case is being taken to a New York City court where Brady will attempt to get rid of this situation once and for all, as he claims he did nothing wrong. However, people continue to deem the Patriots cheaters, and the argument still continues.
All of the points that are about to be presented are being made in defense of the Patriots in the unlikely possibility that the Patriots are found guilty (unlikely because there is still no proof that they have done anything wrong). Technically, if the Patriots and Brady are found guilty, with sufficient proof, and if you consider a team breaking any rule regardless of importance, then yes, the Patriots were cheating. However, the level of importance that this rule-breaking presents is miniscule. The alteration of the pressure of the footballs is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things because the score was 45-7. The Patriots could have traded the footballs with rocks and they still would have won the game.
There are several examples of other players breaking the rules of air pressure in the footballs in the past but they were not noted. Aaron Rodgers has said before that he goes beyond the legal limit of inflation for the footballs because he prefers the over-inflated footballs. Brad Johnson, quarterback of the 2002 Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers told the media that he paid $7,500 for his footballs to be under-inflated for the Super Bowl. Earlier this year, Carolina and Minnesota played, and the equipment managers of each team consistently placed the balls under the heaters for the entirety of the game, which technically, is against league rules. In each of these situations, there were no penalties imposed, even a mere conversation about the wrongdoings failed to occur. With that being said, why are the Patriots being so heavily criticized?
It is the belief of many that the Patriots are under so much heat because of their past. The Spygate situation in 2007, where then-Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini claimed that the Patriots were videotaping the defensive signals of the Jets from the Jets’ sideline, leads to this heat. Under league rule, the teams are allowed to place video cameras on the sideline of the other team as long as they obey the certain locations allowed for camera placement, and all teams do this. The Patriots merely violated the location aspect of the rule, by placing their cameras outside of allowed areas. In my opinion, this is a misdemeanor offense, but the NFL took swift action fining both the Patriots and Bill Belichick, along with the removal the team’s first-round draft pick in the following year. However, the Patriots are not the only team to have broken the rules, yet they remain the scapegoat for the NFL. Jimmy Johnson, coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990’s was quoted saying:
"This is exactly how I was told to do it 18 years ago by a Kansas City Chiefs scout. I tried it, but I didn't think it helped us." Johnson also said, "Bill Belichick was wrong because he videotaped signals after a memo was sent out to all of the teams saying not to do it. But what irritates me is hearing some reactions from players and coaches. These players don't know what their coaches are doing. And some of the coaches have selective amnesia because I know for a fact there were various teams doing this. That's why the memo was sent to everybody. That doesn't make [Belichick] right, but a lot of teams are doing this."
In 2010, The Denver Broncos did the same thing, videotaping the San Francisco 49ers practices illegally. This is much more of an advantage because the Broncos were able to see all of the plays and schemes the 49ers were going to run against them in the game. Yet, the team was fined marginally less money, were able to keep all of their draft picks, and have avoided any criticism from the media. This was not the only rule they have broken in the past. The Broncos exceeded the salary cap limit from 1996-98, which included two Super Bowl victories, and then again in 2001 and 2004. These violations are much more serious because the Broncos were paying players more than they were allowed to, giving them the ability to sign better players. Again, the Broncos have kept their clean image.
Finally, legendary head coach of the Miami Dolphins for many years during the 1970’s and 80’s, Don Shula, a man who has called the Patriots cheaters on several occasions, was part of a little bit of cheating led by then-owner Joe Robbie. Dolphins owner Joe Robbie committed several tampering violations in 1970 in order to get Shula to become his head coach. Robbie had a member of the Miami Herald, a friend of Shula’s, meet with the Shula to inform him of the interest the Dolphins had in hiring him. He had to do this because Shula was the head coach of the Baltimore Colts at the time. Once Shula was informed, Robbie came in and sealed the deal, signing Shula as the head coach. This information was later leaked and the Dolphins were found guilty of three tampering charges, “First, by permitting a third party -- not an employee of an NFL team -- with their full knowledge to initiate contact with Shula. Second, by beginning what constituted direct initial negotiations without having contacted the Colts by confirming to Shula their interest in hiring him. Third, by failing to make direct contact with the Colts ownership until Feb. 18th, the day the hiring of Shula was announced.” (quote from miamidolphins.com). The hiring of one of the greatest coaches in NFL history involved cheating, and without their willingness to break the rules they would never have accomplished the things that they did.
Another huge breaker of the rules, a team I have yet to mention, is the New Orleans Saints. As most of you remember, the Saints are famous for their role in “BountyGate” during their 2010 Super Bowl Run. I am putting this infraction in a separate category because this offense is so much more egregious than the other wrongdoings that they do not qualify to be discussed in the same category. A bounty is when a coach places a bounty on a player on the other team, offering up thousands of dollars to the player on his team that hurts the player on the other team that the bounty was placed on . Such bounties were placed on players such as Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings, both quarterbacks of teams that the Saints opposed in the NFC playoffs that year. If these players were taken out, then the player who took them out would receive a hefty financial bonus. Other bounties occurred throughout the entirety of the season.
The idea was started and ran by then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended indefinitely once these actions were made public (He has since been reinstated after a year-long suspension). Head Coach Sean Payton and Middle Linebacker Jonathan Vilma were both suspended for an entire season. When people suggest that deflating footballs destroys the integrity of the game, they have to take “BountyGate” into account, because this offense does not only destroy the integrity of the game, it massacres it. The idea of injuring a player and putting their safety at risk for a competitive and financial edge is horrendous. These penalties should have been much heavier. They won a Super Bowl possibly in part because of this “Bounty Gate” and yet, there is no suggestion of an asterisk next to their championship, or a destruction of a player or coach’s legacy. Yet, when the Patriots are thrown into the middle of the media frenzy known as “DeflateGate”, their integrity is highly questioned among all doubters, which is wrong in comparison to “BountyGate”.
Many of the ESPN reporters (Mark Brunell, Damien Woody, etc.) are saying that the Patriots’ legacy is destroyed because of spygate, and now DeflateGate. If this is the case, then the legacies of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins, the 1997 and 1998 Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, the 2010 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, the 1992, 1993, and 1995 Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys, the 2002 Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the present day Denver Broncos, along with their elite coaches and players should all be tarnished as well. The claims that Brady’s suspension should be upheld and the Patriots should have been hit with the penalties that they were hit with, when there is no tangible evidence against them, are all ill-conceived because none of these coaches, players, or teams were ever punished more than the removal of a draft pick. Most importantly, they were able to celebrate their legacies without being challenged, despite their violations being equal, if not worse than those of the New England Patriots.
The main thing that is wrong with “DeflateGate” is that these allegations are taking away from the incredible accomplishment of winning the Super Bowl. These players endured offseason workouts, Organized Team Activities(OTA’s), minicamp, training camp, the preseason, the regular season, and the playoffs and came out victorious. They dedicated all of their time to studying film, working out and staying healthy from May to February. The idea that the deflation of footballs in one game, a violation that has yet to been proven to be at the fault of the Patriots, is the reason that they won the Super Bowl is false and unfair to the players and coaches that worked tirelessly to accomplish such a difficult feat. Yes, if the team is found guilty they should be penalized to an extent, but their accomplishments should not be questioned.
The most prominent issue with all of these rule violations is the integrity of the game. The hit that the integrity of the game takes when a team cheats is the most important issue of all. If they Patriots broke the rules at all, the significance of the rule break that they made simply deserves a slap on the wrist, and nothing more. All of these teams that exceeded the salary cap budget, tampered illegally, and placed bounties all deserve as much, if not more suspicion and rejection that the Patriots are currently receiving. The fact of the matter is, the nation views the Patriots as the bad guys. The Patriots have dominated the league for the last fifteen years and people will take any chance they get to change that. Each organization acting all high and mighty needs to recognize that they have broken rules as well and they need to defuse the criticism that has been directed at Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Cheating is wrong, but in a league that has seen several examples of extreme rule violations, the image of the Patriots should not be any less than that of any other team in the league.