February 5, 2017
Bill Belichick in 2007 (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Just remember, Bill Belichick cheated.
Everybody knows it. The NFL fined him $500,000 and took a first-round draft pick away from his team. Of course, the NFL then conducted a massive cover-up, beginning with the immediate mass destruction of all the evidence.
It’s something you might want to keep in mind after the Super Bowl if the New England Patriots do what most people expect them to do: beat the Atlanta Falcons.
You’ll be hearing Belichick called the greatest coach in NFL history, and you might not hear Spygate mentioned at all.
Interestingly enough, I was cleaning out my office this week and stumbled upon a copy of “Spygate, The Untold Story.”
It’s an excellent book by a Pittsburgh guy named Bryan O’Leary, who, after extensive research, calls Spygate the biggest sports scandal in United States history.
ESPN The Magazine did an extensive story on the NFL’s insistence on making the Patriots pay a heavy price for the Deflategate scandal and determined, based on conversations with other owners, that much of it was a result of anger over the Patriots getting off easy for Spygate.
As O’Leary points out, the Patriots admitted to illegally taping opponents’ defensive signals from 2000 through 2006.
Belichick downplayed how much of an advantage the recordings were to his team, but during those seven seasons, the Patriots won 20 games by three points or less.
Included in those 20 games were three playoff games and three Super Bowls.
Belichick goes for No. 5 today in Houston. Does he strike you as the kind of guy who would devote time and energy to a practice that he didn’t think would make it more likely that he would win?
O’Leary quotes Roger Goodell in 2011: “I think I’m pretty well on the record here. I didn’t accept Bill Belichick’s explanation for what happened and I still don’t to this day.”
Yeah, but that was a long time ago. There’s no way Bill would still be cheating now, right?
He was told in a letter from the league to stop taping in 2006 and went right on taping.
If you’re cheating, it’s going to be much easier to get away with it at home. Some former Patriots have said that the visiting locker room in Foxborough was bugged. O’Leary presents evidence that the Patriots might have violated the rule that requires the speaker in the quarterback’s helmet to be shut off before he gets to the line of scrimmage. That would be almost impossible to get away with at a road game.
Did you know that the Patriots had five 8-0 records at home in 11 seasons? O’Leary said that the odds of that happening are 7,000 to 1.
How many NFL teams have a mystery man with the title research director? Meet Ernie Adams. He’s the guy nobody has ever interviewed, even though his voice is in Belichick’s headset during Patriots games.
During the Spygate investigation in 2007, Belichick admitted that Adams received tapes during games from a sideline camera recording opponents’ defensive signals.
Belichick said it wasn’t a big deal and it didn’t give him much of an advantage.
Hines Ward was a wide receiver on the Steelers team that lost the 2001 AFC championship game to the Patriots. He’s convinced they knew the Steelers’ audible calls.
“Oh, they knew. They were calling our stuff out. They knew a lot of our calls.”
Belichick and Tom Brady will probably win their fifth Super Bowl today. And that will be one more than any other head coach or quarterback has ever won, but if you’re going to mention Belichick with Noll, Lombardi, Walsh and Shula, and Brady with Bradshaw and Montana, you really also need to mention that there’s no evidence that those other guys cheated.
• The story in this space last week about the poor behavior at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School football games by Mike Tomlin and his assistant Joey Porter caused quite a stir on talk radio, but didn’t get much of a response from the Steelers.
Art Rooney II was asked for a response and said that he didn’t give it much thought because it was based on anonymous sources.
The story said it was the North Sewickley Township police who were threatened by Porter when he was asked to leave the field after running out to argue with officials.
If Rooney cared, he could have called them to verify the story.
And then apologized.
It should be noted that North Catholic’s official response, when asked if the stories were true, was, “No comment.”
I’ll take that as a yes.
John Steigerwald's blog can be found at www.justwatchthegame.com, and he is the author of "Just Watch The Game." His column appears each Saturday.