Since becoming the NFL commissioner in 2006, Roger Goodell is known for giving out harsh penalties. Some are more deserved than others, but there are times when fans believe he went too far. Goodell is not the only commissioner to dole out punishments, however. Here’s a look at some of the harshest penalties in NFL history, including one that predates Goodell by a few decades.
1. The gambling scandal of the 1960s
During the 1963 season, Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras were both suspended by the NFL for betting on NFL games and associating with gamblers.
Hornung, the 1961 league MVP and a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, was believed to have wagered up to $500 on games, while Karras bet $50 to $100, reports ESPN. Those amounts may not seem significant now, but they were at the time — enough for the league to bring down the hammer on both players and force them to sit out a season.
2. Adam Jones’ run-ins with the law
In the mid-2000s, cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones was a controversial figure, having been interviewed by police for 10 separate incidents. The biggest legal issue involving Jones was a fight and shooting at a strip club that paralyzed a man. All of this eventually led Goodell to suspend Jones for the 2007 season, explains ESPN.
The commissioner told him that his “conduct has brought embarrassment and ridicule upon yourself, your club, and the NFL, and has damaged the reputation of players throughout the league.” Jones was also out of the league in 2009. However, he played as recently as last season when he was active for seven games with the Broncos.
3. The Patriots’ Spygate scandal
The New England Patriots were accused of videotaping the New York Jets coaches’ signals during a game in September 2007, which was against league rules. The league fined the Patriots $250,000 and took away a first-round draft pick, but head coach Bill Belichick suffered the worst of the punishment. He received a $500,000 fine, the biggest penalty for a coach in league history at the time.
4. The Saints’ Bountygate scandal
From 2009 to 2011, the Saints faced accusations of paying out bonuses, or bounties, to New Orleans players for injuring opponents during games. Following an investigation, Goodell handed down one of the biggest penalties in NFL history.
The commissioner suspended head coach Sean Payton without pay for a year and GM Mickey Loomis received an eight-game suspension. The league also gave defensive coordinator Gregg Williams an indefinite suspension that ended up lasting just under a year. The Saints were also fined $500,000 and had to forfeit picks in the 2012 and 2013 drafts.
5. The Patriots’ Deflategate scandal
Once again, the New England Patriots were involved in an infamous scandal. In this one, Tom Brady was accused of coordinating deflated balls during the 2015 AFC Championship game, a 45-7 victory over Andrew Luck and the Colts. The league’s investigation led to a strong penalty being levied against the Patriots.
New England was fined $1 million and lost a first-round 2016 draft pick and a fourth-round 2017 pick. For his role in the scandal, Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season. The appeal process ended up allowing him to play for all of that season. Brady ended up serving his suspension at the start of the 2016 season.