The New England Patriots are one of the most hated teams in all of sports and, unfortunately, it may be for good reason.
Despite having one of the winningest coaches of all time in Bill Belichick and the All-American champion in Tom Brady, there's still a dark cloud that's been surrounding the franchise for over the past decade.
It was reported this morning that the NFL is now investigating if the Pats actually deflated balls before the AFC Championship game against the Colts yesterday, and if these dirty tactics are true, it just reminds everyone of that dirty C-word: cheating.
Yes, New England has a dirty reputation of doing literally whatever it takes to win, but how much longer will they be allowed to get away with tactics like this?
And what will it take for the NFL to finally do something about it? The full history of their lack of integrity tells us everything we need to know.
2002: Marshall Faulk claims Patriots cheated Rams out of Super Bowl win
Tom Brady won his first championship with the Patriots at Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams, and Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk was the first person ever to call out Belichick for having just a little too much intel ahead of the game. He said,
I understand Bill is a great coach. But No. 13 [Kurt Warner] will tell you. Mike Martz will tell you. We had some plays in the red zone that we hadn't ran. And a couple of plays on third down that we walked through also. And they created a check for it. It's just little things like that. It's either the best coaching in the world when you come up with situations that you had never seen before. Or you'd seen it and knew what to do.
2004: James Harrison calls out the Patriots for more signal stealing
More claims of the Patriots having impossible information about the opposing team's game plans came in 2004 via Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
I should have another ring. We were the best team in football in 2004, but the Patriots, who we beat during the regular season, stole our signals and picked up 90 percent of our blitzes [in the AFC title game]. They got busted for it later, but hey, they're Goodell's boys, so he slapped 'em $500,000 and burned the tapes. Was he going to rescind their Super Bowls? Man, hell no!
2007: The videotaping controversy known as "Spygate" rocks the NFL
After multiple accusations of spying on teams, proof of this reality came to light in 2007 when the league finally disciplined the Patriots for recording the Jets' practices.
Defensive signals, formations and different personnel strategies were stolen and the Patriots were finally punished... Sort of.
The Patriots were stripped of their first-round draft pick the following year and fined $250,000.
Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, but the team still got their shot to play in the Super Bowl.
Of course, that was the year the Giants spoiled their perfect season, proving karma is a bitch.
2015: Legendary coach Don Shula calls out Bill Belichick
The former Miami Dolphins coaching legend, who went head-to-head with Belichick, had a hilarious nickname for the Pats coach.
During an interview, he said,
The embers of competition have cooled some. But they're still warm, if you care to see them. The coach can still can bring it when he wants, like when a forgotten scab is picked with the mention of the current king, New England's Bill Belichick. 'Beli-cheat?
2015: Used illegal plays against Baltimore in divisional playoff game.
The Patriots came back to beat the Baltimore Ravens in the 2015 AFC divisional playoff game after falling down 14 points.
However, with the use of illegal plays and formations that even fooled the refs, they came back to stay in the title hunt, beating their foes 35-31.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh immediately called out the Pats for something that should've never happened. He claimed,
It was clearly deception. That's why I had to take the penalty, to get their attention so they would understand what was going on because [the Ravens' defense] didn't understand what was going on. That's why guys were open, because we didn't ID where the eligible receivers were at. The league will look at that type of thing, and I'm sure that they'll make some adjustments and things like that.
2015: Accused of deflating balls during AFC Championship game against Indianapolis
Just one game later, the Patriots were accused of even more cheating, and allegedly deflating balls in the AFC Championship game is as low as it gets.
Granted, the Colts were completely outmatched and New England was the better team, but this cheap tactic is all but confirmed, and, according to Bob Kravitz, the team is awaiting league punishment.
Told if a league investigation confirms deflated footballs it will result in lost draft picks. Stay tuned. — Bob Kravitz (@bkravitz) January 19, 2015
According to Kravitz, balls that are deflated are easier to throw and catch. He said,
I initially thought a softer ball would be tougher to throw, but people who understand physics have since told me it would be easier to throw and catch. Naturally, Boston fans went nuts on me, calling me every conceivable name. Nobody is suggesting the footballs had any appreciable impact on the game; it was a butt-whooping. But if the league believes the balls were deflated, expect the Pats to be fined or be forced to forfeit draft picks. Or both. What a day. And it's gonna get longer.