clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Spygate Report: Roger Goodell provided huge cover-up for Patriots

A new ESPN report delves into how deep Spygate was, and shows that it's a lot bigger than what was originally reported.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

If you have always thought there was more to the New England Patriots' spygate scandal than what was openly made available to the public, you may want to cue up a Dennis Green clip and say the words along with him: "They are who we thought they were!"

report from Don Vatta Jr. and Seth Wichkersham of ESPN delves deep into how many shady dealings and unreported factors of spygate were involved.

The report's details are vast and it's a great read, but here's an outline of the major points that are pulled from its text:

  • "Inside a room accessible only to Belichick and a few others, they found a library of scouting material containing videotapes of opponents' signals, with detailed notes matching signals to plays for many teams going back seven seasons. Among them were handwritten diagrams of the defensive signals of the Pittsburgh Steelers, including the notes used in the January 2002 AFC Championship Game won by the Patriots 24-17. Yet almost as quickly as the tapes and notes were found, they were destroyed, on Goodell's orders: League executives stomped the tapes into pieces and shredded the papers inside a Gillette Stadium conference room.
  • "Some of the Steelers' defensive coaches remain convinced that a deep touchdown pass from Brady to Deion Branch in the January 2005 AFC Championship Game, which was won by the Patriots 41-27, came from stolen signals because Pittsburgh hadn't changed it's signals all year, sources say, and the two teams had played a game in the regular season that Walsh told investigators he believes was taped. "They knew the signals, so they knew when it went in what the coverage was and how to attack it," says a former Steelers coach. "I've had a couple of guys on my teams from New England, and they've told me those things."
  • During United States Senator Arlen Specter's investigation into Spygate and how involved the scandal was, he came across several inconsistencies in what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had provided. In a press conference, Goodell had alleged that there were only six tapes from the Patriots' filming operation and they could only be linked to the 2006 regular season and the 2007 preseason. In Specter's interview with Goodell however, the NFL Commissioner provided that the Patriots' filming operation went back as early as the 2000 NFL season, including several games of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a bulk of tapes linking to AFC East opponents over the years and that along with the destroyed tapes were destroyed notes of the schemes such as the Steelers.
  • Former coaches and employees of the Patriots assert that the actual filming was the least of the Patriots' scandals.
  • During pre-game warm-ups, low-level Patriots' employees would sneak into their opponent's locker room and steal play sheets detailing the first 20-40 plays scripted by the opposing team. Patriots employees would also sneak through the team's hotel to find playbooks and anything that could aid the Patriots in predicting what their opponent might do. In fact, the Patriots became notorious enough for this that opposing teams would leave out fake play sheets for them to steal.
  • NFL destroyed practice tape that showed the Patriots illegally using a player on injured reserve.
  • "At Gillette Stadium, the scrambling and jamming of the opponents' coach-to-quarterback radio line -- "small s---" that many teams do, according to a former Pats assistant coach -- occurred so often that one team asked a league official to sit in the coaches' box during the game and wait for it to happen. Sure enough, on a key third down, the headset went out."
  • NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson to sent a letter to all 32 team owners, general managers and head coaches on Sept. 6, 2006, reminding them that "videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited from the sidelines." Despite this, Patriots continued to cheat via taping. In November 2006, Green Bay Packers security officials caught Matt Estrella shooting unauthorized footage at Lambeau Field. When asked what he was doing, according to notes from the Senate investigation of Spygate that had not previously been disclosed, Estrella said he was with Kraft Productions and was taping panoramic shots of the stadium. He was removed by Packers security.
  • "That same year, according to former Colts GM Bill Polian, who served for years on the competition committee and is now an analyst for ESPN, several teams complained that the Patriots had videotaped signals of their coaches. And so the Patriots -- and the rest of the NFL -- were warned again, in writing, before the 2007 season, sources say."
  • Several former Patriots coaches insist that without spygate they would have lost a lot more games to AFC East opponents.
  • Some coaches regret not tampering with their own signals in order to confuse Belichick and the Patriots' staffers who taped signals, but it was former Patriots' coach, Eric Mangini, that knew exactly what to expect and how to catch them red-handed: "Mangini knew the Patriots did it, so he would have three Jets coaches signal in plays: One coach's signal would alert the players to which coach was actually signaling in the play. Still, Mangini saw it as a sign of disrespect that Belichick taped their signals -- "He's pissing in my face," he told a confidant -- and wanted it to end. Before the 2007 opener, sources say, he warned various Patriots staffers, "We know you do this. Don't do it in our house." Tannenbaum, who declined comment, told team security to remove any unauthorized cameramen on the field.
  • During the first half, Jets security monitored Estrella, who held a camera and wore a polo shirt with a taped-over Patriots logo under a red media vest that said: NFL PHOTOGRAPHER 138. With the backing of Jets owner Woody Johnson and Tannenbaum, Jets security alerted NFL security, a step Mangini acknowledged publicly later that he never wanted. Shortly before halftime, security encircled and then confronted Estrella. He said he was with "Kraft Productions." They took him into a small room off the stadium's tunnel, confiscated his camera and tape, and made him wait. He was sweating. Someone gave Estrella water, and he was shaking so severely that he spilled it. "He was shitting a brick," a source says.
  • On Monday morning, Estrella's camera and the spy tape were at NFL headquarters on Park Avenue.
  • NFL employees classified that the Patriots were borderline "non-compliant" when turning over very little of their tapes and notes to the NFL, and that mysteriously the NFL accepted what the Patriots had given them as the end of their investigation, much to the disappointment of NFL coaches.
  • The report cites NFL players, including Hines Ward who could not at the time explain how the Patriots knew what to expect from their opponents at the time, and how it all makes sense now. "Oh, they knew," Ward, now an NBC analyst who didn't return messages for this story, said after Spygate broke. "They were calling our stuff out. They knew a lot of our calls. There's no question some of their players were calling out some of our stuff."
  • Mike Martz, former head coach to the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams, provided that Goodell asked him to not complain about the issues from Spygate to help it die down. "He told me, 'The league doesn't need this. We're asking you to come out with a couple lines exonerating us and saying we did our due diligence,'" says Martz, now 64-years old and out of coaching, during a July interview at his summer cabin in the Idaho mountains.
There is a lot more to this report that you should very much read as this is just a breakdown of its content, because there is a lot of other details of significance in this report.

For years, Patriots' fans and the NFL have tried to play down and negate the extensive impact which spygate had on the outcome of football games and the indeterminable lengths which the Patriots' organization would go to secure, protect and cover-up the information they gathered.

This report provides a lot of insight to the lengths which Roger Goodell went to in order to down-play the impact of spygate and the preserve the integrity of the NFL. Goodell has taken some heat over the years by the many questionable parts to his investigation of the Patriots in this issue, but he toed the line that kept this extreme haul of information from being made available to the mainstream public. He bit the bullet and accepted any and all criticism of his conduct in this investigation which yielded a punishment of the New England Patriots that, on the information provided at the time, seemed to fall short of fitting the bill for what the Patriots had done to many NFL fans, players and coaches.

This entire offseason has been one which Goodell, whom has taken a lot of heat recently regarding the resuls of 'bountygate' and the Ray Rice original suspension length, needed Kraft, Brady, Belichick and the Patriots to bite the bullett in return for what he had done in the past. The Patriots have done everything except that; despite accepting a punishment that fined Kraft and removed two draft picks, Kraft has been very public with how much he disagrees with the punishment. The result of their unwillingness to have Goodell's back on this situation has made him a bigger mockery for everyone to point to this offseason and the overruling of Goodell's suspension was arguably Goodell's biggest loss in his time as commissioner.

Now in return, it seems that the NFL might not be so willing to protect the information of how deep spygate went and how much it might have helped the Patriots on their way to winning their first three Super Bowls, let alone making it through the playoffs in each of those seasons.