Here’s Bernie Miklasz’s take:
Were Rams Cheated Out of Super Bowl Win?
By Bernie Miklasz
09/13/2007 2:21 amAfter years of suspicion eminating from other NFL teams, the New England Patriots and their devious head coach Bill Belichick finally got tripped up and caught.
The Patriots’ cheating has been exposed, this time in the form of stealing the New York Jets’ signals during Sunday’s season-opening win.
A Patriots’ video assistant snaked onto the sideline with a camera to record the Jets’ defensive signals. What happened next? The theory: the information would be decoded to be used later. Once the Pats had a clear understanding of what the hand signals represented in terms of strategy, they’d apparently inform the QB through the helmet radio transmitter. (The helmet radio is permitted by the NFL in the offense’s huddle).
The interesting thing about the reaction is that opponents were hardly surprised. As Jacksonville defensive end Paul Spicer told reporters: “This ain’t news. I’ve heard it in the past. They finally got caught. The Patriots got caught. They’re busted.”
And now that the Patriots have finally been nabbed, there are all sorts of things going around. The Packers caught the same NE video weasel stealing signals in a game at Green Bay last season; he was escorted off the sideline.
The Indianapolis Colts reportedly ordered all video cameras off the sidelines (except for network TV) when they played the Patriots in past seasons.
Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters how the team’s radio communications mysteriously malfunctioned for an extended stretch during a loss at New England.
There’s even some buzz (all speculation to this point) that the Patriots rigged up helmet transmitters for defensive players in order to change a call before the snap – which is against NFL rules.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward told reporters that he wonders if the Patriots victimized the Steelers with forms of illegal sabotage.
“Oh, they knew,” Ward said of the Patriots stealing the Steelers’ plays. “They were calling our stuff out. They knew, especially that first (AFC) championship game here at Heinz Field (in 2001). They knew a lot of our calls. There’s no question some of their players were calling out some of our stuff. And you would hope that, during their run, when they were winning all their Super Bowls, all that stuff wasn’t going on.
“You look back in the past, and we played them in the championship games, and you kind of wonder. It seemed like they were a step ahead of us at all times, but those games are behind us. There’s nothing we can do about it. You just look forward and see what the commissioner will do.”
In a conference call with Wisconsin reporters, NY Giants defensive end Michael Strahan questioned the validity of New England’s three Super Bowl championships over the past six seasons. And he put the Patriots into the same category of shamed NBA ref Tim Donaghy, who was snared in an investigation of his activities with gamblers and his possible manipulation of betting lines or game scores.
“When I heard about that, I said, ‘Whoa, how long have they been doing that?’ Stealing signals? That’s pretty heavy, man,’’ Strahan said. “I don’t know if that’s much different than the cheating ref in basketball. It just makes you wonder how long they’ve been doing this and has it really helped them win some games? And if they’ve been doing it in those games that they won Super Bowls in or won playoffs in. It does make you wonder. Because that team has won some big games. I’m not saying that stealing signals definitely did it, because they have extremely talented players, but obviously it didn’t hurt if they were doing it.”
It makes you wonder even more about the legitimacy of the Patriots win over the Rams in Super Bowl 36 to cap the 2001 season. As is, Belichick flouted the rules in that game by having his defensive backs mug the Rams receivers downfield, knowing full well that the tactic would work because the NFL refs weren’t going to litter the Super Bowl with frequent penalty flags.
But the Patriots’ dirty tricks have been going on for so long, what else were they up to during that Super Bowl? The Rams didn’t play or coach well and had themselves to blame for their demise, but it may have been a tarnished triumph for the Patriots. We may never know what else was in the mix for that upset of the Rams.
And think about this: how did that Super Bowl change history for both teams? If the Rams had won their second Super Bowl in three seasons, would Mike Martz still be coaching the team? (The nature of his relationship with his bosses changed dramatically after that bitter defeat). Would a second Super Bowl title in three years mean automatic Hall of Fame inclusion for Rams such as Orlando Pace and Kurt Warner? If Belichick and the Patriots cheated in other ways during that game, then they may have stolen more than a Super Bowl from the Rams. They may have snatched the Rams’ team legacy and the St. Louis players’ individual career honors.And think of what Belichick has done to his own legacy, and that of his team. All of their accomplishments are tainted now, because unless you’re some Kool-Aid swilling Patriots fanatic, it is reasonable to have questions about the depth of the Patriots’ cheating under Belichick, and how much it affected the integrity of competition.
This is insidious stuff, and it attacks the very heart of fairness. It shatters the faith we have that the outcome of a sporting event will be determined based on talent, straight-up performance and permissible coaching tactics.
When you sell tickets to an NFL game and rake in billions of dollars from TV on the premise that we can count on seeing a fair game between two teams, such brazen and dastardly violations of the NFL’s competitive integrity is a devastating blow to the NFL’s image.
This is far more troubling than offenses committed by club-hopping knucklehead defensive backs, gun-possessing defensive linemen or dogfight-promoting quarterbacks suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. As terrible and annoying as that junk is, none of it improperly influenced the outcome of an NFL game in.
And there’s more to this than wins and losses. Were any opposing players injured because the Patriots had plays scoped out through video spying and could attack accordingly? Did any NFL players lose their starting jobs (and perhaps future salary considerations) because they were at a disadvantage against the Patriots? Did New England’s success, aided by cheating, cost other NFL coaches their jobs? Was the success of Patriots’ QB Tom Brady in any way enhanced by his coach’s cheating?
If Goodell is comfortable with the evidence presented to him, he should suspend Belichick for the rest of the season.
If Goodell can be the big enforcer and slap Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson around because their off-field conduct was detrimental to the league’s image, then I ask: what’s more damaging to the NFL than illicit, unethical conduct during games that gives one team a grossly unfair edge over an innocent opponent?
What’s more damaging to the NFL’s image than having fans not knowing if the Patriots’ victories were legitimately earned or gained through dirty tricks? What’s more damaging than the real possibility of rigged, sham Super Bowls featuring Belichick’s Patriot games?
Goodell suspended Denver punter Todd Sauerbrun for four games for using ephedra, and he suspended Dallas assistant coach Wade Wilson for five game for using HGH (human growth hormone — which Wilson claimed he needed for medicinal purposes).
What Belichick and the Patriots have done is give themselves an unfair and competitive advantage which destroys the sanctity of sportsmanship and fairness.
The Belichick case is a huge test of Goodell’s own credibility.
Goodell is friendly with New England owner Bob Kraft. So we’ll see if the new Commissioner believes cheating an opponent on an NFL field to unfairly win a game is more egregious than some cornerback acting like a fool in a nightclub.
We’ll see if the Commissioner will stand up to the Patriots and take the necessary action to protect and preserve his league’s integrity.