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New England Patriots Cheating Scandal

New England Cheatriots LogoThe New England Patriots have been caught using electronic means to steal signals and otherwise violate league rules, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has determined that the New England Patriots violated league rules Sunday when they videotaped defensive signals by the New York Jets’ coaches, according to league sources. NFL security officials confiscated a camera and videotape from Patriots video assistant Matt Estrella on the New England sidelines when it was suspected he was recording the Jets’ defensive signals. Sources say the visual evidence confirmed the suspicion.

Goodell is considering severe sanctions, including the possibility of docking the Patriots “multiple draft picks” because it is the competitive violation in the wake of a stern warning to all teams since he became commissioner, the sources said. The Patriots have been suspected in previous incidents.

The Patriots will be allowed an opportunity to present their case by Friday, sources said, most likely via the telephone. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said on Tuesday that no official decision has been made and that the club has not been notified.

The league also was reviewing a possible violation into the number of radio frequencies the Patriots were using during Sunday’s game, sources said. The team did not have a satisfactory explanation when asked about possible irregularities in its communication setup during the game.

Stunning news. The Pats have managed to put together a modern dynasty in a league that rigs the system to make that virtually impossible. I’m inclined to agree with Sean Hackbarth that great coaching, scouting, and players are the main explanation.

Still, as Travis G. notes, these accusations have been floating around for a while and the fact the got caught red handed “makes you wonder how long they’ve been doing this.” It would be sad, indeed, if it turned out that they’ve been doing this sort of thing all along.

UPDATE (September 24):  See Patriots Cheating Scandal Could Get Worse on OTB Sports.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. rodney dill says:

    if it turned out that they’ve been doing this sort of thing all along.

    …Then again there isn’t much precedent in human nature for a successful organization to spontaneously start cheating. Either they’ve been doing it all along, or some key personnel change (i.e.hire) will be traced to the cheating.

    One thing I am fairly certain of is that the players were in the dark about it. I would think that that would be the last group to keep their mouths shut about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. James Joyner says:

    I would think that that would be the last group to keep their mouths shut about it.

    Especially the disgruntled ones who don’t get their money from the Pats and have to sign with another team. The Pats’ system is brutally callous toward even star players, refusing to overpay at less-than-key positions or for players who are thought to be getting too old. That can’t breed much loyalty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  3. markm says:

    “One thing I am fairly certain of is that the players were in the dark about it.”

    Why would they know???. The play is called in by the coaching staff…the players probably wouldn’t know WHY the play was called.

    That said, this explains why the Lions play against the Pats…….sorta….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. markm says:

    ooops. this explains THE Lions play against the Pats…….sorta….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  5. yo says:

    Romeo Crennel was the defensive coordinator in Cleveland in 2000. The Browns sucked. He goes to New England, becomes a guru. Returns to Cleveland, the Browns (still) suck.

    Hm.

    Now, what about Charlie Weiss?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  6. PJens says:

    I think the Patriots ought to be stripped of the victory, and the Jets given the win.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 9

  7. Jay says:

    I don’t “do” sports, especially football, but it completely puzzles me as to why such a thing would be against the rules.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  8. Right Truth says:

    An Offer We Must Refuse…

    An Offer We Must Refuse BY: PHYLLIS CHESLER (posted by request) Here he is again, Big Brother holding forth, bearing poisoned gifts, giving the infidels a chance–both to convert and to see our own Stalinized image reflected back to us…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  9. Michael says:

    FL commissioner Roger Goodell has determined that the New England Patriots violated league rules Sunday when they videotaped defensive signals by the New York Jets’ coaches, according to league sources.

    So they watch the coach’s signal, then watch the resulting play, and put the two together and remember that for next time, that’s cheating now? Haven’t they been watching player positions to pre-determine what play is going to be run, since the beginning of the game itself? How is this morally/ethically different?

    The league also was reviewing a possible violation into the number of radio frequencies the Patriots were using during Sunday’s game, sources said. The team did not have a satisfactory explanation when asked about possible irregularities in its communication setup during the game.

    Unless their radio frequencies were overlapping the other team’s frequencies, why would it matter how many they were using? Is there something in the rules that states that the coaches can only communicate with ‘x’ many players on the field using radios?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

  10. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation since it sounds like peering over to the opponent’s sidelines with a pair of binoculars is kosher.

    Another odd rule is no computers can be on the sidelines. That’s why you see coaches creating ever-bigger sheets of laminated paper to hold their huge playbooks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

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  12. James Joyner says:

    I don’t “do” sports, especially football, but it completely puzzles me as to why such a thing would be against the rules.

    It’s an unfair advantage that only the home team would have. While watching game film to learn what the opponent tends to do is kosher, using electronic means to intercept their calls and so forth isn’t.

    Is there something in the rules that states that the coaches can only communicate with ‘x’ many players on the field using radios?

    Yes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  13. Michael says:

    It’s an unfair advantage that only the home team would have.

    From the article in the summary:

    NFL security officials confiscated a camera and videotape from Patriots video assistant Matt Estrella on the New England sidelines

    Why couldn’t a visiting team give a video camera to an assistant? It doesn’t sound like this was build into the stadium or anything.

    What is the limit on coach->player radio communications, and what exactly is the justification for allowing ‘x’ many at all?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  14. James Joyner says:

    Why couldn’t a visiting team give a video camera to an assistant? It doesn’t sound like this was build into the stadium or anything.

    Presumably, the home team would have better facilities for doing that sort of thing. But stealing signals is highly discouraged, so disallowing electronic means makes sense.

    What is the limit on coach->player radio communications, and what exactly is the justification for allowing ‘x’ many at all?

    Quite a while back, they allowed it for quarterbacks only because road teams were often unable to hear each other in the huddle because of crowd noise. A believe they allowed teams to designate one defensive player (typically a middle linebacker) to have this capability, too, a couple years ago.

    UPDATE: While there has been discussion by the rules committee about allowing a defensive player to have a radio, that change has not been made. Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips argues in favor of the idea here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. spencer says:

    One of the reasons they got caught is that they still had the same guy doing this job as when the Jets head coach was in New England.

    Apparently they have gotten away with it for years and just got sloppy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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  18. another matt says:

    Personally, I think the easy thing to do is to legalize this type of spying; it would add a whole new element to the game. Electronic surveillance, electronic counter measures, counter electronic counter measures…football could be ushered in to the 21st century…

    Imagine a scenario where one team had completely decrypted the communication protocols of the other, but couldn’t act on all of the information for fear of giving away the fact that they had decrypted the protocols!

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  20. Imagine a scenario where one team had completely decrypted the communication protocols of the other, but couldn’t act on all of the information for fear of giving away the fact that they had decrypted the protocols!

    Ugh! The game is complex enough as it is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Brett says:

    A suspension and a draft pick is a BS penalty. Coaches & players lost their jobs as a result to how “Great” the Patriots supposedly were. Franchises lost millions of dollars in revenue that they would have made if their teams seasons would have continued but didn’t because of the Cheating Patriots!!

    Has anyone ever wondered of a crap QB out of collage that was picked late in the draft suddenly was able to carve up complex defenses in the NFL? Look at the stats, how many times have the Patriots sucked in the first half and then looked golden in the second. You have to think that if he had the balls to do this in other team’s stadiums, you KNOW he always did it at home.

    This obviously calls into question ALL of the wins, not only post season but regular season as well. This is an illegal activity that should be investigated completely. The word “Fraud” comes to my mind, and if the NFL doesn’t act on this I would expect the federal government to.

    That team should be stripped of everything it did under Bill Belichick.
    2004-2005 Lombardi Trophy should go to the Eagles
    2004-2005 AFC Championship Trophy goes to the Steelers
    2003-2004 Lombardi Trophy should go to the Carolina Panthers
    2003-2004 AFC Championship Trophy goes to the Indianapolis Colts
    2001-2002 Lombardi Trophy should go to the St. Louis Rams
    2001-2002 AFC Championship Trophy goes to the Steelers

    1. Take ALL of their Superbowl & Division Championship Trophies away.
    2. Make their ownership pay hefty fines to the league (I.E. Revenue earned from post season appearances since Belichick began coaching there.)
    3. Belichick and anyone else who had knowledge of this should be banned from the league indefinitely.
    4. The Patriots should have to forfeit all of their remaining games for this season.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

  22. Bandit says:

    Especially the disgruntled ones who don’t get their money from the Pats and have to sign with another team. The Pats’ system is brutally callous toward even star players, refusing to overpay at less-than-key positions or for players who are thought to be getting too old.

    WTF are you talking about? They didn’t overpay guys at the end of their contracts and let them walk away? Which one of them went on to win a super bowl with somebody else? Like Don Corleone said – this isn’t personal – it’s business.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

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  29. matt says:

    First I admit I’m a Jets fan but I’m going to be
    objective about this subject. I’m not arguing that the Patriots have superior players on the field or even whether the team would have won without the cheating, BUT

    The NFL stated prior to the beginning of the season that the videotaping is against league policy.

    I’ve heard arguments that penalizing the team a fine or draft picks would be too harsh.

    I’ll give an example:
    What happens when a kid cheats on his/her exam by sending notes or signals and the teacher catches
    that person? Usually it’s detention or possibly
    failure or forfeit of the exam.

    The Patriots should be punished. The fact that Bob Kraft thinks any team wants to drag him down may be the truth, but that’s a side note. Cheating is the issue here and this puts a black eye on the team, organization and league especially if no punishment is served at all. What example are we setting here? Cheating should not be tolerated and Bob and Bill should be ashamed of themselves. Where are your ethics guys??? You break the rules you pay the consequences, fess up.

    In addition what turns me off as a fan is that we’re heading into an ugly hate-fest between the two teams. I like a good rivalry but can’t they play the game clean as is with some respect and sportsmanship no matter who loses?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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  31. Dav says:

    Not being a fan of either team, I feel that if the NFL wants to make a statement on this issue, I would suggest that the commissioner forfeit the game(s) in which a team is caught cheating. As you know, in boxing if a fighter is caught cheating are doing something illegal the fight is forfeited. Even for Olympians this holds true. So if the NFL really wants to make an organization, coaches and players to conform to the rules of the NFL, I feel that forfeits and also fines may be the best solution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. Brett says:

    Everyone says that team is so talented, what if all that success is only because the so called “coaching genius” figured out excellent ways to cheat? I think the videotaping is just the tip of the iceberg with this guy. I’m sure the deeper you look into that organization, the more you will find.

    Think about, how many times has a 7th round pick defied the odds and became a instant star in this league? Not many.

    Don’t get me wrong, the team has some talent, they have to. Cheating or not you still have to execute. But, always knowing what coverage the defense is in, and where the pressure is coming from sure makes execution A LOT easier doesn’t it.
    Hell you could put Charlie Frye back there and he’d be winning championships too.

    If I were a Pats fan I’d be on all these forums saying how it’s no big deal too. Because Patriots fans, just like their coach, are sore winners & even worse losers. And all the time they’ve been gloating about how great they are, we all come to find out that their team had to cheat their way to the top.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  33. scooter says:

    I am a Bengals fan, so I really don’t care, but I always have to listen to Colts fans across the border talking about how “classy” their franchise and Tony Dungy are. We usually just ignore that.

    I’d be happy to be them right now with a team that does actually show pretty much class and is still good. New England has always seemed like a classless team with coaches and players who have no regard for sportsmanship.

    I don’t think they won their super bowls because of cheating. They are actually good. This just proves that they truly are classless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  34. Michael Sheremeta says:

    I am a jets fan and i will admit that, but i think that patriots should get more punishment then they did. Not only should they get fined and lose first round draft pick but they also should count last game against the jets as forfeit, so that we get the win. You don’t know how long this could have been going on. Yes the Patriots are a good team but this could have won them close games. You never know that maybe this could have won them some of those super bowls they have. I also think the coach should be suspended for at least 5 games too so Patriots lets see how you can do now after all this is happening to your team and maybe i will change my mind about this topic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  35. Marty Kendrick says:

    There isn’t a team in the league that does not try to steal signals one way or another. In fact, it would be interesting to investigate the Jets and every other NFL team for their activity in stealing signals and gathering intelligence on its opponents. Get it all out in the open, and Goodell will find that no one has had any advantage.

    As for the 0-2 Jets getting the forfeit win, I’d be embarrassed as a fan to accept a win like that. Plays had to be executed, and the fact is that the Jets didn’t do much executing. The Pats could have given the Jets their play book and it would not have made much difference. The same could be said of the Chargers, who have brought whining to a level that only the Steelers could be envious of. The Patriots have been dominant this decade, because they play better team football, focus better on preparation, and are coached better than any other team in the league. If you listen to the coaches past and present, who have commented, none think that “stealing signals” have been the difference in their winning run.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  36. ed steward says:

    The patriots are cheaters and we have to face the facts. Roger Goodell made a ruling on the patriots in a week to make it go away. With Michael Vick he waited to gather what he said where all the facts before he made the ruling. He is makin 9 million dollars as a result of his good friend Bob Kraft. Bill Belicheat should have been suspended for the year. And continue the investigation. The integrity of the league is at stake.What message are we sendin? When I coach my son and we are playin offense and defense. We have to guess if they are runnin or passing and that is the chess match thatis called football.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2