- The NFL is investigating whether the New England Patriots illegally filmed the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14.
- It is not the first time the Patriots have been accused of bending the rules.
- From “Spygate” to “Deflategate” to malfunctioning headsets and stolen play sheets, here are other examples of how the Patriots have been accused of cheating.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The New England Patriots are once again embroiled in a controversy over whether they cheated.
The Patriots were found to have had an advanced scout and film crew at the Cincinnati Bengals Week 14 game. The Patriots said they were filming a team show called “Do Your Job” and that not informing the Bengals and NFL was an “oversight.” According to a report, however, the footage included the Bengals sideline. The details are similar to those from “Spygate,” and the NFL is now investigating.
It’s not the Patriots’ first brush up against the NFL rule book. Over the last 20 years, the Patriots have been accused of bending the rules. In some cases, like “Spygate,” it was pretty certain that they broke the rules. In other cases, like “Deflategate,” it was unclear how involved they were. Many of the other accusations against them have come from paranoid teams.
Below are some examples of Patriots cheating scandals and accusations.
In 2015, ESPN reported that the New England Patriots had long had a reputation in the NFL for cheating.
A former member of the NFL competition committee told ESPN that from 2001-2006, the committee spent much time “discussing ways in which the Patriots cheated.”
The biggest cheating scandal was “Spygate,” in which the Patriots filmed opponents’ offensive and defensive play signals to study them. The Patriots would recognize signs during the games and relay them through headsets.
According to ESPN, the videographers filming the signals would go to games as employees of Robert Kraft or Patriots TV and had excuses for what they were shooting, such as a team show.
Though the Patriots had long been accused of filming opponents’ signals, the scheme truly came to the surface when the New York Jets caught them in the act. Then-Jets head coach Eric Mangini, a former Patriots coach, knew of the scheme and told security to be on alert.
The NFL investigated the Patriots, eventually destroying tapes the Patriots had of opponents’ signals. The Patriots were docked a first-round pick and fined $250,000. Belichick was fined $500,000. He later said he misinterpreted the rules.
According to ESPN, there has been league-wide “paranoia” about how the Patriots would cheat.
According to ESPN, former Patriots staffers would admit to some methods of cheating during the Spygate years. For instance, they would steal play sheets from the opponents’ locker room.
The practice became so widely known that opponents started putting fake play sheets out.
Opponents also said their headsets would get scrambled when they played at Gillette Stadium.
One of the more recent accusations came from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who said in 2015, the Steelers headsets were tuned to a local radio station. According to NFL rules, when one team’s headsets fail, the other team is supposed to abandon using theirs. Just as the Patriots were going to be told to stop using theirs, the Steelers headsets began working again.
“That’s always the case [at Gillette Stadium]”, Tomlin said.
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There were “regular rumors” that the Patriots filmed the Rams walk-through for the 2001 Super Bowl, which the Patriots won in an upset.
Occasionally, odd things have happened to Patriots opponents before big games. In 2017, the Steelers had to evacuate their Boston hotel after someone pulled the fire alarm at 3 AM on the day of a game against the Patriots.
The man who did it had no connection to the Patriots, but the incident still raised eyebrows.
The Patriots have drawn criticism for finding gray areas in the rules. In 2015, they ran a brilliant trick play vs. the Ravens in the playoffs that upset John Harbaugh.
The Patriots lined up an ineligible receiver in the slot and an eligible receiver where an offensive lineman would normally be. The play baffled the Ravens, who felt the Patriots weren’t making clear who was eligible and ineligible (as are NFL rules). Harbaugh said the play was “deception.” The NFL later banned the formation.
Belichick has defended the Patriots methods before, saying the team will always try to push the envelope and find an edge within the boundaries of NFL rules. Over the years, not every team has enjoyed the Patriots’ methods.
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