The long running rivalry between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots blossomed during Peyton Manning’s tenure in Indy. During that time there were numerous hard fought games that included incidents that stick squarely in the memories of the Colts fan base. Throughout that history, Patriots fans have played the part of apologists because winning has long superseded integrity for one of the most decorated sports cities in America.
Much to the surprise of fans and media alike in the Boston sports market bubble, Indianapolis is itself a very proud sports city. In fact, professional sports franchises have been ingrained in the fabric of the city’s rebirth and restoration projects for more than 20 years. The city plays host to the NFL Combine, numerous Big Ten championship and tournament events, the NCAA tournament regional games, the Indy 500, has hosted the Super Bowl, is the NCAA headquarters and home of the NCAA Museum, and the list goes on. Sports fans in Indianapolis and fans of the Indianapolis Colts from around the world have a great deal of respect for the game of football, or basketball, or the passion and sport of racing.
This is the same kind of fabric that leads Colts owner Jim Irsay to pay for the funerals of both Edwin Jackson and Jeffrey Monroe. It is the same kind of fabric that led to #ChuckStrong where an entire city and fan base rallied around Chuck Pagano as he went through his fight with Leukemia. It is the same kind of fabric that caused an entire city to rally around young Brody Stephens as he fought cancer. I personally watched friends and acquaintances on the east side of Indianapolis in tears for the young man who inspired so many and was loved by all who read his story.
The New England Patriots, on the other hand, have taken every opportunity to skirt, bend, or break rules in order to secure a win.
In 2003, Peyton Manning ran the fastest paced offense in the NFL and would not allow opposing defenses the opportunity to make substitutions or catch their breath. At numerous points throughout the game, including at a crucial point when the Colts were deep in Patriots territory in a chance to potentially win the game, Willie McGinest fell to the ground and on camera it was blatant that he did so spontaneously. Officials blew the whistle for a stoppage in play and McGinest returned a play later to make the crucial stop on the goal line. The league later had to change rules about injuries and how they are handled in games in an effort to discourage this practice.
In 2004, Patriots defensive backs were so physical with receivers that the NFL voted to place an emphasis on defensive holding and pass interference moving forward.
In 2007, the Patriots were caught taping opponent signals. Many have tried to sweep the significance of the efforts to cheat to win football games over time but the gravity of the franchise’s efforts to cheat are astonishing. For a more detailed account read Scott Davis’ story from Business Insider.
The report details Spygate as we’ve never heard it, painting a picture of systematic cheating that went way further and looks way worse for the Patriots than people previously realized.
First, the Patriots had a detailed, efficient system for finding out opponents’ plays. ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham describe a scene in Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s office before a season-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
”[A backup quarterback named John] Friesz was told that the Patriots had a tape of the Bucs’ signals. He was instructed to memorize them, and during the game, to watch Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and tell [offensive coordinator Charlie] Weis the defensive play, which Weis would relay over the radio headset system to quarterback Drew Bledsoe.”
Van Natta and Wickersham report that although the Patriots lost that game, they realized a “schematic” edge over other teams. They “streamlined the system,” finding a more efficient way to note the plays and relay the information, cutting out the quarterbacks, with only a few people, including Belichick.
Soon, advanced scouts would be sent to the games of upcoming Patriots’ opponents to film the play signals. The scouts would go undercover as media members, with media credentials listed under “Patriots TV” or “Kraft Productions” and were prepared with excuses of what to say they were filming if security asked.
According to Van Natta and Wickersham, “Each video sequence would usually include three shots: the down and distance, the signal, and, as an in-house joke, a tight shot of a cheerleader’s top or skirt.”
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.
In 2015, the Patriots abused traditional numbering rules by lining up offensive linemen on the outside of the formation as a “decoy” receivers who were actually ineligible. This made it very difficult for defenses, particularly defensive backs, who didn’t know how to line up or who to cover due to the trickery. While this was not “illegal” and the NFL actually changed the rule to stop it, it reeks of lacking integrity. It’s rare for the NFL to suddenly change a rule to stop someone from abusing the game.
Also in 2015, the Patriots were caught with footballs that were under-inflated. The NFL conducted a very thorough investigation into what occurred and whether these under-inflated balls could simply be due to physics/natural occurrences. The exhaustive tests concluded that it was more probable than not that the game balls were improperly deflated prior to the game and also concluded that Tom Brady was aware this was happening.
The big argument that occurs by the apologists is that this had nothing to do with the outcome of the game. I’ll grant that it is unlikely this had a profound impact on the game but to act like this was done for any reason other than to unfairly gain a competitive advantage is ludicrous.
Even Josh McDaniels, who was the presumed head coach for the Colts in 2018, was caught and fined for filming a San Francisco 49ers practice in London in 2010.
“We certainly did not view or do anything with the footage, and he was made aware that it was something we didn’t condone in our organization,” McDaniels said Saturday. “I failed to follow through and report it to the proper individuals in our organization and with the league.”
Asked why he failed to report the incident immediately, McDaniels said: “I made a mistake. I made a mistake and I should have done that right away. We felt we handled it the right way by not doing anything with that but I did not follow through with it.”
McDaniels also worked for New England, but NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash said there was no evidence he was involved with the videotaping there.
The Broncos didn’t report this latest incident to the NFL for nearly two weeks, and Scarnecchia remained employed by the team until mid-November. Two hours before the league announced the results of its investigation Saturday, the team said Scarnecchia was on a leave of absence. Later, it said he’d been fired.
In spite of all of that, the Colts fan base was willing to give Josh McDaniels another chance to prove that he had learned from previous mistakes. Former Colts coach and Hall of Famer Tony Dungy spoke at length with McDaniels following his shortcomings in Denver and declared him a new man. His actions today make it clear that he is not.
His decision today flew in the face of the entire city of Indianapolis and Colts fans around the world. His decision stabbed his future coaching staff in the back.
Spoke with several members of what was supposed to be McDaniels’ Indy coaching staff. They have not heard from Josh McDaniels regarding the change of heart. Just as blindsided as the rest of us. #Colts— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) February 7, 2018
His decision left an entire NFL franchise “out to dry” after dragging the process out for weeks. To make matters worse, he lacks integrity because he agreed to the terms of the Colts contract offer only to back out when the entire city and franchise welcome him.
This is not the kind of man fans in Indianapolis want representing their team or their city. It is best that the team moves on to find someone else who will lead with the kind of ethical compass and integrity that reflects the fabric of the city of Indianapolis and is compatible with the blue blood that runs through the entire Colts fan base.
All eyes on are West 56th Street and Chris Ballard who we can only hope has that man on the phone right now.