“One fact still remains: They haven’t won a Super Bowl since they got caught. They are cheaters.” Cary Williams of the Philadelphia Eagles in August 2014
“[The Patriots are] the most arrogant pricks in the world, starting with [Bill] Belichick on down ... That’s funny, ever since Spygate they haven’t been able to win.” - Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens in January of 2013
"Beli-cheat?" - Miami Dolphins and Hall of Fame coach Don Shula when asked about Bill Belichick last week.
Call it "Spy Gate," "Spygate," or "Spy-Gate."
It has become the NFL equivalent of the Original Sin for Patriots Haters everywhere.
No matter what the Patriots and their coach accomplish in terms of championships, they will always carry a gold-embossed Scarlet Letter "S" on their Lombardi Trophies.
That is a religious belief of media types, professional detractors, opposing fans, some well-meaning do-gooders, and many opponents, past and present.
The omnipresent Spy Gate mushroom cloud will never drift away from One Patriot Place. That's true with or without a fourth Super Bowl ring this year.
The Patriots once employed a tight end who is now facing three counts of murder. The team's history is replete with failure, folly, embarrassment, the Snow Plow Game, and two near-death experiences when it came to leaving the Bay State since 1993.
Yet is it Spy Gate that will forever define the Patriots competitive history and success for far too many.
That fact became crystal clear when former Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula celebrated his 85th birthday on Saturday.
We added that part about Shula's time with the Colts because we're going to briefly visit Bill Belichick's time with the Cleveland Browns, just before that franchise dissolved, moved to the Baltimore, and became the Ravens.
First, Shula. Speaking to South Florida Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde, Shula was asked about today's successful NFL coaches.
Eventually in their conversation, Hyde wrote, the name of Belichick came up.
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?'' Shula says.
This is Don Shula. The guy who has his own named stadium at John Carroll University and his own expressway west of Miami. The guy with 374 wins and some pretty sweet steakhouses. Mr. 17-0. Two Super Bowl rings and a record six Super Bowl appearances as a head coach. Sitting in his living room during a long and reflective interview with his family celebrating nearby.
Belichick, once and for all a cheater. And nothing else.
Does anyone think that attitude held by Shula, Suggs, Williams, the New York Post's sports staff, and thousands, if not millions of others, is going to change if/when the Patriots win their fourth Super Bowl on Feb. 1?
Puh-leeze. The Spy Gate Truthers cannot admit these Patriots carry any legitimacy. For one, it's all too easy to say they cheated [officially only once since since the practice of taping signals was not banned by the NFL until 2006]. Therefore, nothing else matters.
Trying to actually analyze whether or no the practices that encompassed Spy Gate actually mattered on the field is too much work.
Plus, Brady sucks, is no longer elite, and should have been replaced by Jimmy G. after Week Four. Trying to rationally discuss the reality of Spy Gate makes one a homer. They/We are not sophisticated nor edgy enough to believe the post-Pete Carroll Patriots are frauds, or that Pedro Martinez cheated his way into Cooperstown.
If I'm a homer, then John Henry might want to sell the Red Sox. There will be about 14 fans in attendance when the Red Sox play the Rangers on the third Tuesday night in May if what I've written about the 2015 team comes to pass.
The dilemma about whether or not New England has to validate itself with a post-Spy Gate era Super Bowl ring assumes two things. One, that its past three rings were illegitimate, and two, that somehow winning a fourth is going to change the perspective of anyone who believes the first assumption.
Haters gonna hate.
And Spy Gate Truthers must believe. They will never be convinced that the Patriots are worth a damn. To the Spy Gate Truthers, the past 14 years never happened. The Patriots are Penn State, without the nightmarish childhood sexual abuse.
Who could extrapolate video taping the Jets defensive signals into negating Adam Vinatieri's three Super Bowl-winning kicks [remember they won 24-21 in Jacksonville], the Tuck Rule Game victory, Brady's game-winning drive in Super Bowl XXXVI after John Madden told the Free World he should take a knee, the play of Rodney Harrison and Deion Branch in Super Bowl XXXIX, or all those AFC East titles and AFC championships before and since?
It takes a unique and inquisitive mindset to make that journey.
Five Super Bowl rings, counting the pair Belichick won as an assistant with the New York Giants, isn't enough to sway Shula into believing that the longest current tenured coach in the NFL accomplished anything on the level.
Or is worthy of his place on the pantheon of NFL coaching greats.
Winning one more Super Bowl in 2015 won't change a damn thing.
The "Beli-cheat" defense was the stand-by ready-made excuse and inoculation had the Patriots eclipsed the perfect 17-0 season created by Shula's Dolphins in 1972. To be technical about it, the Patriots did go 18-0. And that's where I still stop the DVD. Therapy has done wonders in erasing any memory of February 2008.
The Patriots aren't the only NFL dynasty to benefit from a crappy AFC East, as well. Six of Miami's 17 wins in 1972 came against the woeful Jets, Patriots, and Bills. That would be 42.8 percent of their 14 regular season victories. Those other AFC East teams went a combined 19-36-1.
17-0 shall never be questioned. It's the NFL's Gold Standard, at least before the price of gold fell about 33 percent in the past 40 months.
Belichick and Tom Brady eclipsed the long-standing record held by Shula and Dan Marino when it came the most QB-coach tandem victories. No doubt, in the mind of Shula and many others, that came about only because the Patriots illegally video taped sideline defensive signals from New York Jets coaches during the teams’ opening week matchup in 2007. Shula's probably still steamed over the infamous 3-0 Snow Plow Patriots win back in 1982.
Those who like to deal in facts and reality have long wondered what real advantage, if any, the Patriots and Belichick gained from Spy Gate. You can check out this statistical breakdown from the "Five Thirty Eight" column if you'd like.
It's not too crazy to think Belichick and the Patriots engaged in some form of this activity going back to 2000, simply because he could. One more advantage, real or imagined, over his opponents.
Enter, for the moment, the mind of the Spy Gate Truther. If Belichick did this in New England, how do we know he did not engage in this same practice when he coached the Cleveland Browns to a playoff win over the Patriots after the 1994 season? That supposition never comes up when the SGTs take to social media or get in front of a TV camera.
Imagine that, the Patriots potentially victimized by the Father of Spy Gate. Or even better, the team that eventually became the Baltimore Ravens potentially benefited from Belichick somehow video taping the Patriots 20 years ago?
It may be time for Bryan O'Leary to write another book.
After Art Modell moved his Cleveland franchise to Baltimore, the NFL eventually gave the "new" Cleveland Browns the historic record and legacy of the "old" Cleveland Browns. This is despite the fact they are two different and distinct franchises.
Belichick's final season in Cleveland began with a 3-1 record, but once news broke that Modell was moving his team to Baltimore, the would-be Ravens collapsed and finished 5-11. Modell had vowed in November 1995 that: "Bill Belichick will be my head coach in 1996."
Belichick was fired a couple of months later.
Baltimore's loss. Eventually, New England's gain.
When it comes to Spy Gate, the Patriots are doomed. They'll never escape the scorn and bile of the Spy Gate Truthers. The historic record is there for all to see and interpret. But so are those aforementioned championship DVDs, the endless stats on the internet, the rings, the banners, the victories, and, soon, Brady's bust in Canton.
No doubt it will be the most handsome bust since Apollo looked down on the Temple of Zeus.
Even if the words "Courtesy of Spy Gate" are chiseled across his forehead.
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Bill has reported for ESPN, CBSSports.Com, and was a sports/deputy sports editor at the Orlando Sentinel, Denver Post, and several other newspapers. Reach Bill on the OBF Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
OBF email Address. Thanks always for reading.
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