The New England Patriots are the standard for NFL success under head coach Bill Belichick. However, Belichick’s tenure has come with several questionable incidents involving cheating scandals. These matters guided Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning to go the extra mile to avoid shady situations.
Patriots’ shady reputation fueled by cheating scandals
The Patriots under Belichick became the NFL’s gold standard for success after winning seven Super Bowls over a two-decade stretch.
However, New England didn’t venture through that without developing a shady reputation due to their involvement in cheating allegations. It began in the 2007 season after the NFL disciplined the Patriots for videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive coaches’ signals in an unapproved spot. The matter resulted in a $500,000 fine and losing their 2008 first-round pick.
Months after that incident, things became more suspicious as a report revealed New England also videotaped the then-St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough before Super Bowl 36. The situation became dubbed as “Spygate,” which Belichick denied the allegations. Still, New England gained more public ire after the team’s former video assistant, Matt Walsh, confirmed he was present during the Rams’ walkthrough.
Despite that, nothing came about due to the league not possessing any video evidence. The Patriots’ reputation took another hit after the “Deflategate” cheating scandal involving several footballs used in the 2015 AFC championship game against the Colts. The NFL chose to punish Tom Brady due to his involvement with a four-game ban to begin the 2016 season.
Lastly, the Patriots received a $1.1 million fine and lost a 2021 third-round pick due to filming the field and sideline during a December 2019 regular-season game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. All that further muddied up the Patriots’ questionable reputation that still lingers today.
A paranoid Peyton Manning admitted he talked to his wide receivers in the shower because he feared the Patriots bugged his locker
Over the years, The Patriots‘ shady reputation has remained in the background, leading opposing teams and players to take precautionary measures.
Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning was one of those that went the extra mile to avoid any questionable situations. During ESPN’s Week 2 “Monday Night Football” Manning cast, the former Indianapolis Colts great revealed he used to talk to his wide receivers in the showers before playing the Patriots because he thought his locker had been bugged.
“Every time I played against New England, I used to talk to my receivers in the showers in the corner,” Manning said. “Don’t talk about a play next to my locker because I know it’s bugged. I know it’s got a hot mic in there. Very strange to see seven guys hanging out in the shower. Taking all the precautions out there.”
Beyond the allegations of filming the opposing team’s sidelines, New England was also accused of bugging other team’s locker rooms. Manning’s recent comments line up with the report in 2010 by longtime NFL reporter Peter King that the star quarterback believed the Patriots had hot mics in the visiting locker room at Gillette stadium.
Meanwhile, in a 2015 interview on the Dan Patrick Show, former Colts head coach Tony Dungy confirmed Manning would take his receivers in the hallway to have important discussions.
“I know that that is very true, and, you know, as Peyton talked to guys who played for the Patriots, some of the guys who came over — whether it’s true or not he treated it as true. We didn’t have a lot of strategy discussions inside the locker room there,” Dungy said.
Although the allegations weren’t proven to be true, it further shows the suspicious reputation the Patriots have around the league.
New England will never shake the shady reputation
Manning’s anecdote demonstrates another reason why the Patriots will never shake their suspicious reputation.
New England is certainly not the only NFL team conducting punishable activity, but the repeated incidents have cemented the negative sentiment. The franchise will likely never shake the reputation firmly linked to Belichick and Brady.
Despite that, the two will one day earn first-ballot Hall of Fame inductions, but the shady cloud will always remain.