Right now “deflategate” is all anyone is talking about ahead of Super Bowl XLIX. And it’s pretty understandable. The problem is not that Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots actually beat the Colts in the AFC Championship Game because they let a little air out of their balls. Nobody in their right mind thinks that—not even Colts players. The problem is that this is a pattern for the Patriots. They are some of the biggest NFL cheaters we’ve ever seen. Their arrogance and systematic disregard for rules is maddening.
Still, the Patriots are hardly the first NFL cheaters. They might be the most famous and most notorious, but they’re not alone. So today, let’s take a look at some of the other cheating scandals the NFL has endured over the years.
First up? The New York Jets…
WHO? 2009 New York Jets
WHAT? Oh, the Jets were breaking all sorts of rules during Mike Tannenbaum's six year reign (2006-2012) as general manager. For the most part it was nothing that might directly influence the outcome of specific games. They just falsified injury reports (pertaining to Brett Favre) and tampered with free agents (most notably Michael Crabtree).
Actually, come to think of it, the Jets are still doing that stuff. The Patriots, of all teams, recently accused the Jets of tampering after team owner Woody Johnson made remarks about Derrell Revis. Maybe Johnson, not Tannenbaum, is the one who doesn't get and/or respect the rules
9. Tannenbaum's Tamper Tantrum
WHO? 2007 Colts, 2013 Washington
WHAT? Honestly, it seems like just about every team in the NFL has been accused at one point or another of piping in artificial crowd noise during the opposing team's possessions. However, accusations against two teams in particular seem to have more weight: the 2007 Colts and 2013 R******s.
The first formal accusations against the Colts came in 2007 after a game against—guess who!—the Patriots. A strange reverberation could be heard on the CBS broadcast, but apparently not at the old RCA Dome. However, according to a local news reporter, a security guard told him flat out that the Colts amplify crowd noise during opponents' possessions. In the end, the NFL officially exonerated the Colts, but the NFL's word doesn't mean anything to anybody, so to this day people are still accusing the Colts of pumping in sound. And I say where there's smoke there's fire.
As for the 2013 Washington R******s, a Washington sports blogger said multiple fans who were at the 2013 NFC Wild Card Game reported hearing crowd noise coming from stadium speakers. Then that sports blogger went and retweeted a bunch of people making the claim.
Smoking gun? Not quite. But why would people go and make stuff up about their own team?
8. Artificial Crowd Noise
WHO? 2011 New York Giants
WHAT? Faking an injury to delay the game, giving your defense time to breath and make substitutions? Some people call this good, smart gamesmanship. But you could also call it stealing mini timeouts. And if you do, it sure sounds like cheating.
Lots of teams do and have done this over the years. However, the most ridiculous recent example comes from the 2011 New York Giants in a game against the St. Louis Rams.
WHO? Jim Burt, Brian Habib, Gary Zimmerman, Mark Schlereth, and Many More
WHAT? Officially, players rub vaseline on their arms and necks for games played in extreme cold because it blocks pours and insulates them from the cold. Unofficially, players who don't touch the ball grease themselves up with vaseline so opponents have a harder time grabbing on to them. It's an old school trick that numerous players have done and continue to do.
Of course, it's also against the rules. And on a few notable occasions, players have been caught and punished. In the olden days, when guys like the Giants' Jim Burt got caught in 1988, they just had to go wipe the vaseline off, then they could come back to the game. However, the NFL eventually started fining players. So when the Broncos' Brian Habib, Gary Zimmerman, and Mark Schlereth (pictured) got caught in 1998, it cost them each $5000.
6. Vaseline Dream Team
WHO? Bill Romanowski
WHAT? A lot of NFL players readily admit they "cheated" every way they could. Bill Romanowski is one of them. He rubbed himself down with vaseline, applied silicone to his gloves for better grip, gouged eyes, and even took an anti-inflammatory medication that gave him bad breath and horrible b.o.—which technically wasn't cheating, just disgusting.
Oh, and the steroids. Bill Romanowski took lots and lots of steroids throughout his career. That's definitely cheating.
5. Everything Bill Romanowski Ever Did
WHO? Brad Johnson
WHAT? Prior to Super Bowl XXXVII, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson paid some guys $7500 to handle his balls.
Wait, that didn't come out right. He paid some NFL employees $7500 to break in his calls.
Nope, still didn't come out right. Let's try this: he paid NFL employees $7500 to scuff and break in the 100 footballs used in the big game.
There. Nailed it.
Anyway, yeah, in the wake of deflategate, Johnson admitted this week that bribed NFL officials to help him win a championship victory over the Raiders. This probably didn't give Jonson an advantage over his counterpart, Rich Gannon, since Gannon would have been using the same balls. However, bribing people to break rule is generally frowned up, you know?
4. Super Bowl Bribery
WHO? 2007 New England Patriots
WHAT? Ah yes, who could forget spygate? In 2006, the NFL sent out an official memo reminding teams that "videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game." Then in 2007, the Pats were caught videotaping the Jets defensive coaches signals. And they said they didn't know it was illegal!
The league confiscated evidence, reviewed it, fined Bill Belichick $500,000 and the Patriots $250,000, then destroyed the evidence.
Wait, huh? Destroyed the evidence? Why would they do that, unless they didn't want people to know that the Pats had basically been cheating since 2000 and possibly won three Super Bowls because of it? That, of course, was the allegation reported in the Boston Herald. They said a source told them that the Pats taped the St. Louis Rams' walkthrough practice on the ever of Super Bowl XXXVI.
The Patriots shocked everybody by beating the heavily-favored Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
WHO? 1996-98 Denver Broncos
WHAT? Speaking of teams that won back-to-back Super Bowl by breaking the rules, how about those 1997 and 1998 Denver Broncos?
In 2004, it was learned that the Broncos restructured payments to John Elway and Terrell Davis so as to get around the salary cap and put an impossibly good team out on the field. As a result, the NFL vacated their Super Bowl wins.
No, just kidding. The NFL fined the Broncos $968,000.
2. Cap Cheats
WHO? 1982 New England Patriots
WHAT? The worst case of NFL cheaters involved the Patriots? Shocking.
On December 12, 1982, the Dolphins and Patriots played a game in the middle of a New England blizzard. Conditions were so bad that the teams combined to attempt just 11 passes, while rushing got them a combined 375 yards and zero touchdowns. Meanwhile, kicking? Haha, right. Through the first three and a half quarters, the two teams only attempted two field goals, and both missed.
However, with just over four minutes left in the game and the Patriots about to attempt another field goal, they decided they'd just go ahead and cheat. So they had to snowplow operator who had been clearing off the yard markers go out and plow a clean spot on the field for New England kicker John Smith.
Dolphins coach Don Shula went apesh*t on the sidelines, but Smith made the kick and the refs allowed it. Pats won 3-0...the dirty cheaters.