clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

ESPN just nuked the Patriots and NFL for Spygate

The latest bombshell from Bristol links the NFL's tough stance on DeflateGate to its fumbling of the Spygate investigation.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It may be hard to believe, but Roger Goodell's seemingly tenuous position as commissioner of the NFL is more secure following his handling of the DeflateGate scandal, according to a bombshell of a story co-written by ESPN's Don Van Natta, Jr. and Seth Wickersham under the Outside the Lines banner. The reason goes all the way back to Spygate, the 2007 New England Patriots videotaping scandal.

Owners and others were disappointed that the NFL did not issue stronger discipline to the Patriots in the wake of the investigation over video taping opposing teams' hand signals. The ESPN report, in talking with owners, executives and others around the league, found that many inside the NFL view Goodell's tough stance on DeflateGate as a "makeup call" for how the league handled the Spygate.


Get all kinds of NFL stories, rumors, game coverage, and inane comments from the NFL media in your inbox every day.

The commissioner denied any link between the two investigations and disciplinary actions for the Patriots during a Tuesday morning appearance on ESPN radio's Mike and Mike show. Nevertheless, Goodell's decision to come down hard on Kraft and the Patriots was something that pleased the majority of the league's owners, according to Outside the Lines.

"Roger did the right thing -- at last," one owner said to Outside the Lines, in reference to Goodell's decision to uphold Brady's punishment. "He looks tough -- and that's good."

Goodell's job now being more secure is just one of the many revelations from this Outside the Lines pieces. Here are some others.

Goodell pushed then-Rams head coach Mike Martz to exonerate the league's Spygate investigation

It appears that actions like this are why the Goodell has been pushing so hard during this DeflateGate scandal. He went easy on the Patriots last time around, even, according to Outside the Lines, calling up Mike Martz, the Rams head coach at the time of Super Bowl XXXVI, and asking him to back off.

Martz also recalls that Goodell asked him to write a statement, saying that he was satisfied with the NFL's Spygate investigation and was certain the Patriots had not cheated and asking everyone to move on -- like leaders of the Steelers and Eagles had done.

A congressional inquiry that would put league officials under oath had to be avoided, Martz recalls Goodell telling him. "If it ever got to an investigation, it would be terrible for the league," Goodell said.

This, understandably, angered the rest of the league's owners, who were pushing Goodell to go after the Patriots this time around.

The Patriots' comical spying techniques

The Patriots went to great lengths to get signals and other information about their opponents. In fact, it borders on Keystone Cops type stuff or Spy vs. Spy, the old Mad Magazine series.

Patriots staffers would dress like media members, covering team logos on their clothing or turning sweatshirts inside out to hide their team gear. They would also wear badges, credentials marked for Patriots TV or Kraft Productions. That trick came in handy when the league, in cooperation with the Jets, set up a sting to catch the Patriots in the act.

The assembled tapes would typically include three shots, one for the down and distance, a shot of the signals and close up of a cheerleader's skirt or top.

Patriots employees would go through a visiting team's hotel looking for playbooks and other materials left behind. They would also send a staffer into an opponent's locker room to steal play sheets with the first 20 scripted plays on them.

Stealing signals wasn't always an advantage, but it did help them against the less sophisticated teams, like the Dolphins and Bills.

* * *

Again, it seems like most of the league's owners were aware of many of these details. You can certainly understand why they'd be peeved by Goodell letting Kraft and the Patriots walk in 2008, and deciding to "stomp" the tapes.

The NFL world was reeling on Tuesday morning in the wake of the ESPN report. The Patriots released a statement immediately, pushing back on some of the allegations laid out in the article.

The whole piece is really worth your time, so give it a read.

* * *

SB Nation presents: Pats fan was furious with Brady suspension