New England Patriots
History and League Success
The Patriots (also called the Pats) were a 1960 charter franchise of the American Football League, and were then known as the Boston Patriots, taking their current name in 1971 to represent the larger New England region (the only one of Boston's four major sports franchises to do so).
During its AFL years the team made only one playoff appearance (1963) and after the merger only had four playoff appearances prior to 2001 when the team's dynasty began; though they made the Super Bowl in two of those four appearances (1985 and 1993), they lost both times.
Because of the lack of on-field success the team was rumored to be a candidate for relocation, and may well have moved were it not for the actions of Robert Kraft, a local businessman and long time season ticket owner. Through a series of moves, Kraft was ultimately able to buy the team outright:
- First, Kraft purchased an option on Foxboro Raceway, a horse-racing track; his ownership prevented the Patriots from operating non-team events at Schafer Stadium (located adjacent to the track) when races where being held (the team owned the stadium, but not the land).
- Second, Kraft purchased Schaefer Stadium for $22 million out of bankruptcy court when the Patriots owner experienced financial trouble (the prior owner was a major sponsor of the Jackson Five 1984 Victory tour, a financial disaster which also led to the Jacksons having family quarrels which were never resolved). Though Kraft attempted to purchase the Patriots at the same time he bought the stadium, he was unsuccessful (and again would be unsuccessful in a second attempt); but by holding the lease he was able to stop two attempted relocations of the franchise.
- Finally, after he refused a $75 million offer to break the lease (and allow the team to relocate) he counter-offered a then-record $172 million for outright ownership of the team which was accepted. (The then-owner had actually received an offer in excess of $200 million from a competing owner, but would have then had to pay the costs to relocate the team, making Kraft's offer the better deal.)
Kraft's ownership (he admits he "violated every single one of his financial rules" to get the team) led the team to the success it has had since then.
In total the Patriots have gone to 11 Super Bowls (the most of any team) and have won six (tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most by any team). (The five losses, often overlooked, are tied with the Denver Broncos as the most by any franchise, more than the Buffalo Bills or the Minnesota Vikings, both of whom have the most losses by any team that has not won a Super Bowl.)
Since becoming one of the league's powerhouse teams, the Patriots have been plagued with controversy surrounding their on-field play. It has resulted in league action on two separate instances.
In the Patriots 2007 regular season opener vs the New York Jets, a Patriots employee, video assistant Matt Estrella, was caught video taping New York Jets defensive signals during the first quarter of the game. NFL security officials at the game confiscated Estrella's video camera and the video tape and sent it to the leagues headquarters to determine whether the Patriots were violating the NFL's videotaping policy. Days after the incident, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick apologized for the episode stating "I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players."
After a review of the video tape by the NFL's competition committee and commissioner Roger Goodell, Bill Belichick was fined 500,000 dollars and the Patriots organization 250,000 dollars. The leagues verdict also stated the Patriots would forfeit their 2008 NFL Draft first round pick if they made the playoffs in 2007, and if they failed to make the playoffs, their 2008 second and third round choices.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in his ruling, "This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field. I specifically considered whether to impose a suspension on Coach Belichick. I have determined not to do so, largely because I believe that the discipline I am imposing of a maximum fine and forfeiture of a first-round draft choice, or multiple draft choices, is in fact more significant and long-lasting, and therefore more effective, than a suspension."
Belichick responded to the leagues verdict in a written statement that he accepted full responsibility for the incident and that he had been incorrect in his interpretation of the NFL's rules regarding sideline video taping.
After the incident became public, some NFL players and coaches stated that they believed that the Patriots may have used the same type of taping methods vs their teams. The only confirmed time that it actually happened however was on November 19, 2006, in a game between the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. The Packers claimed that during the game they had caught the same Patriots video assistant as in the Jets game, Matt Estrella, video taping the Packers coaches making defensive signals from the Patriots sideline. Packers security staff removed Estrella and his camera from the sideline but did not did not file a complaint over the taping because according to a Green Bay official, "everyone does it".
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Hines Ward, stated that he believed that the Patriots may have used the NFL violating taping methods against the Steelers in the 2002 and 2004 AFC Championship games. Ward said regarding the 2002 Championship game, "They knew a lot of our calls. There’s no question some of their players were calling out some of our stuff."
New York Giants defensive end, Michael Strahan said that the incident had tainted the Patriots three Super Bowl victory's while Indianapolis Colts head coach, Tony Dungy compared the Patriots spying to Barry Bonds alleged use of steroids.
Another controversial incident involved the purported direction of quarterback Tom Brady to have his footballs inflated below the league minimum standard. The incident came to light during the 2015 AFC Championship Game. The official rules of the National Football League require footballs to be inflated to a gauge pressure between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (psi) or 86 to 93 kPa, when measured by the game officials.
However, the rules do not specify where or at what temperature such measurement is to be made. Per the pressure-temperature law (also known as Charles's Law), there is a positive correlation between the temperature and pressure of a gas with a fixed volume and mass. Thus, if a football was inflated to the minimum pressure of 12.5 psi indoors (where temperatures are relatively warm), while the outdoor ambient temperature was cold and decreasing (the game was played in Foxboro at night, with starting game-time temperatures at 51 °F and rain) the pressure would drop below the minimum as the gases inside cooled to a colder ambient temperature on the playing field.
The team was fined $1M and deprived of two draft picks for its scam and its quarterback, Tom Brady, was suspended for four games. The entire controversy has sparked debate from both sides, some claiming that the actions were meant to punish owner Kraft, who is a Republican supporter and Jewish.
In 2013, Tim Tebow, one of the greatest conservative sports stars, was victimized by the team with a phony tryout probably to deflect attention from how one of its players (Aaron Hernandez) had just been arrested (and later convicted) of committing murder. (Hernandez would later commit suicide while in custody, and an autopsy revealed that he had signs of CTE, which has plagued the league in recent years.)
AFC East Rivals
- ESPN, Chris Mortensen, September 11, 2007, "Sources: Camera confiscated after claims of Pats spying on Jets"
- Boston Globe, Mike Reiss, September 11, 2007, "Rules in focus"
- Boston Globe, Mike Reiss, September 13, 2007, "A Sorry State, Belichick apologizes as probe continues"
- NFL.com, September 13, 2007, "NFL fines Belichick, strips Patriots of draft pick"
- Boston Globe, Mike Reiss, September 13, 2007, "Final Ruling"
- Boston Globe, Mike Reiss, September 13, 2007, "Belichick statement"
- ESPN, Chris Mortensen, September 10, 2007, "Sources: Camera confiscated after claims of Pats spying on Jets"
- Boston Herald, John Tomase, September 13, 2007, "Foes questioning Pats’ past"
- Associated Press, September 12, 2007, "Steelers' Ward suspected Patriots spying"
- Boston Herald, John Tomase, September 13, 2007, "Foes questioning Pats’ past"
- Boston Globe, Cliff Brunt, Associated Press Sports Writer, September 14, 2007, "Dungy compares Belichick spy scandal to Bonds steroid accusations"
- Official Playing Rules of the National Football League – Rule 2-1. NFL Enterprises, LLC (October 25, 2013).
Patriots News Websites