The New England Patriots were among the best teams in the NFL from the early to mid-2000s and won three Super Bowls during that era. However, their reputation forever took a hit when news broke during the 2007 NFL season that the Patriot’s were being disciplined by the NFL for videotaping New York Jets defensive coaches and their signals during a game on September 9th 2007. This (and the other damning allegations that would follow) have been dubbed “Spygate” and has been one of the biggest scandals in NFL history.
While videotaping opposing coaches is not illegal in the NFL per se, there are specifically deemed areas where that is allowed, and the Patriots were taping outside of those areas. The move was seen by the NFL as a deliberate and clear attempt to evade the rules of the league and as such, Roger Goodell handed down some serious discipline. He not only docked the team’s first round pick in that year’s draft and fined the Patriots $250,000; he also fined Bill Belicheck $500,000 (which was the maximum fine allowed by the league and the largest fine ever imposed in the history of the NFL).
While this could have been the end, in reality, it was far from it. After another investigation, it was claimed that the Pats filmed a walk through practice of the St. Louis Rams prior to their Super Bowl matchup many years prior, but that was denied and there was never any definitive proof of this. But in 2008, something else would happen that would break this whole scandal wide open.
In 2008, former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh (who was with the team in 2001 and 2002 before being fired), claimed he had knowledge and information regarding the Patriot’s and their videotaping action, but would not reveal it until the NFL agreed to an indemnity agreement. The NFL and Walsh came to a deal and as a result, Walsh sent eight video tapes of opposing coaches signals that were taken between the 2000 and 2002 NFL seasons. This is evidence that the Patriots had likely been filming numerous opposing coaches illegally throughout their dynasty, but the NFL handed down no other fines or disciplinary action as a result of Walsh’s tapes and admission.
While there is no arguing they were among the best NFL teams at that point, this revelation has tarnished their legacy in the eyes of some. However, this is unjust as the Patriots have actually won a higher percentages of games since the Spygate scandal broke than before, though fewer Super Bowls. While you may not be a fan of what the Patriots did (like me), you cannot simply attribute all of their success to those tapings. With or without these tapes its likely that the Patriots still would have won all of those games and Super Bowls. Even still, knowingly going beyond the rules of the league is obviously not okay and they were harshly punished in a way that will hopefully deter other teams from doing this again.