IT WAS SECOND-AND-GOAL FROM THE HALF-YARD LINE. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was in the shotgun with Marshawn Lynch waiting to his left. With the world expecting Wilson to hand the rock off to Lynch, including my own grandmother (God rest her soul), the unthinkable happened…
Instead of handing the ball off for a not certain, but almost assured second Super Bowl win in as many years, Wilson launched the ball to his intended target Ricardo Lockette and was intercepted by Malcolm Butler; thus cementing the New England Patriots into Super Bowl history with their fourth Lombardi trophy since 2000.
Rewind two weeks earlier to the American Football Conference Championship. The Patriots hosted the Indianapolis Colts in a game where Andrew Luck and company completely faltered in a 45-7 blowout at Gillette Stadium. As the media made their rounds thereafter, news started leaking out the Colts had gone to the league with specific information involving said game. This information would lead to the infamous investigation known as Deflategate.
For those who don’t what Deflategate is, here are 10 things you need to know:
1. Patriots accused by Colts for deflating footballs in AFC Championship game.
2. The National Football League investigates Patriots for deflating footballs.
3. Patriots coach Bill Belichick denies knowing anything about deflated footballs.
4. Belichick tells media to ask his quarterback about deflated footballs.
5. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tells media he knows nothing about deflated footballs.
6. A fantastic song is made and put up on YouTube about Brady saying the word footballs a lot.
7. NFL publishes 243-page report called the Well’s Report.
8. The report concludes it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots equipment personnel were to blame.
9. Brady is implicated that he was “more probable than not” aware of the deflation.
10. NFL suspends Brady without pay for four games for upcoming season (which he appeals) and Patriots are fined $1 million plus lose 2016 first-round draft pick.
Since the whole Deflategate fiasco started, many have wondered if the Patriots dynasty was tarnished since this wasn’t the first time they were caught cheating.
Remember Spygate? The incident, involving Patriots personnel videotaping the New York Jets defensive coaches signals in a 2007 game, thrust Belichick and Brady (mostly Belichick) into the light as cheaters, a stigma that non-Patriots fans seem to not forget.
So the question remains: Is the Patriots legacy, and more specifically Brady’s legacy, completely tarnished after this latest punch-to-the-gut debacle?
The Success Story
Since Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe in 2001, the Patriots have gone 160-47. In that 2001 season the Patriots won 11 of the 14 games Brady started. The Patriots ended the regular season 11-5 with a division title before going on to win Super Bowl XXXVI. Brady would be named Super Bowl MVP.
The accolades don’t stop there though for the former sixth-round pick and the Pats. In Brady’s 13 seasons as starter, the Pats have gone to six Super Bowls and won four. Brady won three Super Bowl and two league MVP awards, joining Joe Montana as the only players to win multiple MVP and Super Bowl MVP awards.
On top of that, Brady has 10 Pro Bowl selections and more division titles (12) than any other quarterback in NFL history. In short, Brady has been a damn good quarterback.
Ultimately, it comes down to two camps. People either believe the Pats aren’t cheaters/don’t care or think they are guilty of all of the above.
According to profootballtalk.com, NFL rival Terrell Suggs has had nothing but praise for Brady and believes his legacy isn’t tainted. He also said he has a sterling reputation in the NFL for what he’s done on the field.
Suggs’ comments can be interpreted a number of ways, but the biggest takeaway could be just that. Brady still has a sterling reputation in the NFL. Even the man who lost his starting job to Brady is defending him.
“It’s being treated like this major crime,” Drew Bledsoe said, via NESN. “Ultimately we’re talking about something that has zero impact on the game.”
One argument that could also be made for Brady is that he had nothing to do with Spygate; that was Patriots personnel. But since Brady is a Patriot, and arguably the face of the franchise, his name is going to be associated with any kind of cheating that comes out.
There also are those with mixed feelings like NFL great Dan Reeves. He believes that the Patriots use of deception in substitution is actually a bigger deal than the deflated balls and they are more-or-less stretching the rules than cheating.
“The game shouldn’t be decided upon deception,” Reeves said, via USA Today. “It should be decided by execution. To me, they don’t need to do it. They’re extremely good, period. So they’re just stretching the envelope, I guess. That I don’t like. I don’t think (the sneaky substitutions) are right. Is it illegal? No. Is it done as if it is illegal? Yeah.”
The Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eaters
Some former NFL players aren’t taking too kindly to the whole deflating of balls situation.
Former NFL running back Jerome Bettis thinks someone’s guilty.
“Do I think Tom cheated?…Someone did,” Bettis said, via USA Today. “Maybe Tom didn’t…But it was under his direction of how he liked his footballs.”
Bettis’ words “of how he liked his footballs” are a reference to Brady’s previous comments expressing his desire for slightly under-inflated footballs. He said he likes them set at closer to 12.5 psi instead of 13.5, the league maximum.
There always will be doubt and speculation when the words Patriots, Belichick or Brady are used in the same sentence. It will always be a hot topic of conversation, as many will still associate the word cheaters to that franchise. Nevertheless, we simply cannot ignore what they have been able to do in the past decade – and longer.
And while many will still play the blame game and point the finger, the Patriots’ situation should be looked at from all perspectives. They are a franchise with skins on the wall. They have spent the past decade managing the salary cap to a tee and producing good football players from the draft. They do all of the football operations very well and that is hard to ignore.
Yes, they were caught. Yes, they were punished. And yes, Brady is still married to the lovely Gisele (which is another reason why people probably dislike him so much). But time and again the Patriots have done so many other things right. And who’s to say the other 31 teams aren’t doing the same thing? Time will only tell what kind of legacy the Patriots and Brady leave behind, but that’s the beautiful thing about time—there’s plenty of it.