Less than a week after the NFL accused the New England Patriots of bending the league formation rules, a scandalous controversy struck the team once again. This time, the scandal revolved around the Patriots using deflated footballs.
At first thought, one may presume that deflated footballs would be a disadvantage. In reality, slightly deflated footballs are easier to throw and catch. The Patriots’ Deflategate scandal — which consumed much of the NFL offseason and even extended into the first month of regular-season play with a four game suspension for Tom Brady — was, to say the least, a bit of a reach. The team clearly didn’t need any illegal help in beating the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game and ultimately winning the Super Bowl.
The Patriots have a fairly lengthy history of bending NFL rules. Here’s a look at the four biggest scandals in New England Patriots history.
This is simply the latest in a long line of accusations against the Patriots. The NFL accused the New England of using slightly deflated footballs in their AFC Championship Game rout of the Indianapolis Colts.
The NFL’s rulebook states that the footballs used in games must be inflated to 12.5–13.5 pounds per square inch of air. Each team is required to provide officials with 12 balls that are subject to testing prior to the game. Slightly deflated footballs are easier to throw and catch, especially in the rainy and windy conditions like the Patriots faced in the AFC Championship game. Would the air pressure of the footballs have altered the results of the game? Absolutely not.
In the end, the NFL fined the Patriots $1 million, suspended Tom Brady for four games, and stripped the team of their first–round draft pick in the upcoming draft. While Brady appealed the ruling, he ultimately served the NFL’s suspension.
“Deception” happened almost exactly a week prior to Deflategate. In this scandal, the Patriots actually did nothing wrong; they simply used the rules of the game to their advantage. Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh claimed his team was not given enough time to establish which players were eligible and which were ineligible receivers. Was the tactic deceiving? Yes. Was it illegal? No. At least, not at the time; the formation is now illegal.
This was far and away the worst scandal in Patriots history. In a way it tarnished the team’s legacy as one of the best dynasties in NFL history. In a game against the New York Jets in 2007, New England was caught videotaping the Jets’ play-call signals. After a thorough investigation, the league determined that this was a common practice for the Patriots from 2002–07, which was during the peak of their success.
Commissioner Roger Goodell responded by fining the Patriots $250,000, taking away a first-round draft choice, and fining head coach Bill Belichick $500,000. On a side note, Josh McDaniels, a Belichick disciple, was caught filming the practices of the San Francisco 49ers while he was the head coach of the Denver Broncos. The apple apparently doesn’t fall very far from the tree in New England.
4. The Snowplow Game
This scandal doesn’t actually involve Bill Belichick. Way back in 1982, the Miami Dolphins were in Foxborough to take on the Patriots on a snowy December day. In a game that was scoreless heading into the fourth quarter, a controversial field goal decided the outcome.
Leading up to the game-winning field goal, Schaefer Stadium snowplow operator Mark Henderson conveniently plowed off a spot on the field for Patriots’ kicker Josh Smith to kick the game winner. Then–Dolphins head coach Don Shula called this the “most unfair act” in the history of the league.
Information courtesy of ESPN.