Roger Goodell met with former Patriots employee Matt Walsh and his attorney today, and (as expected) nothing new was added to the story. What we do have are eight tapes that prove the Patriots cheated for nearly a decade:
Spygate fatigue long ago set in among fans. Thursday’s revelations may only confirm what Pats coach Bill Belichick previously admitted to Goodell about recording defensive signals – news that didn’t become public until after the season – and what most fans have suspected.
But Thursday’s news still was a smoking gun, one that eliminates both the Patriots’ plausible deniability and the ability to confuse that owner Robert Kraft clung to at this February’s Super Bowl.
The truth is the Patriots enjoyed a strategic, if stolen, advantage as they built an improbable dynasty, and their once-fired coach was reinvented as a football genius. Belichick and his players, unquestionably, were great. But would they have been that great without the video?
Good questions. Obviously we don't know the answers. What we do know is the Patriots and Bill Belichick were fined $750,000 and docked a first round draft pick because they admitted to cheating for seven years. As one Stampede Blue contributor said in another thread, if I could win three Super Bowls by cheating, and my punishment was just one first round pick and $750K, where do I sign up!
The NY Times agrees this penalty, enforced by the league back in September of last year, does not fit the crime:
Augmented by logic, the facts suggest Belichick has been cheating for almost a decade. And since replacing Paul Tagliabue, Goodell has fashioned himself the zero-tolerance commissioner, cracking down hard on those — players, that is — who would compromise the runaway popularity of the league with antisocial acts. Shouldn’t that policy be applied even more stringently to those in control?
“They need to send a message here,” Stoll said.
One year out. Then let’s see Belichick dare spy again in 2009.
However, in his press conference today following the Walsh meeting, Roger Goodell made it clear that no future punishment would be leveed against the Patriots or Bill Belichick. By not saying this, Goodell proves he is nothing more than a hypocritical tool of the owners (in particular Bob Kraft), and his words about "fairness" and "everyone playing under the same rules" ring hollow.
It's important to note that this now has little to do with the Patriots anymore. As Dan Wetzel of Yahoo says:
Forget exoneration. Historically, Thursday will be looked on as the day the nails slammed into the Patriots’ public perception coffin, fairly or not, leaving all three Super Bowl victories under a cloud of doubt.
Their legacy is tainted, their coach disgraced, and their owner made a fool. Even their three Super Bowl wins are suspect. This all is much bigger than the Patriots.
The problem is now a league problem. A marquis team deliberately and blatantly cheated for nearly 10 years, and the penalty was little more than a slap on the wrist when you consider the crime. The NFL, and Goodell especially, royally screwed this whole thing up, and they will likely take a hit for it. For them, perception is now reality: The NFL is a league of double standards, and Roger Goodell is not the zero tolerance commissioner he paints himself as.
So, does this mean Spygate is over? No, it doesn't.
Spygate will linger for years, decade even. We now know one of the eight tapes Walsh handed over was a tape of the Nov. 11, 2001, regular season contest against St. Louis. The Patriots lost that game, only to win the Super Bowl against the Rams later in the season. We know Matt Walsh did not record the Rams walk through prior to the Super Bowl, but he saw it and reported his findings to a Patriots assistant coach. We know that Walsh was told by Patriots staff not to get caught taping, essentially torpedoing Belichick asinine statement that he "misunderstood" the rules when he instructed his staff to do the taping. We know Ernie Adams, the sketchy Patriots assistant was involved.
We know the Patriots conducted themselves in an improper manner that blatantly violated NFL rules for years, got caught, and basically got away with murder by paying a parking ticket.
Spygate will linger, and linger, and linger. And, sadly, it deserves to.