Are the Patriots cheaters? At least one former Eagles coach thinks so.
Steve Spagnuolo, who was the linebackers coach for the Eagles in 2005 when the team faced off against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, told 97.5 The Fanatic’s Anthony Gargano and Bob Cooney on Monday that he now believes late Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was right about New England cheating during the game.
“The biggest thing we learned was make sure you have two signal callers, not one signal caller, because they may have all your signals,” Spagnuolo said, referring to the “SpyGate” scandal, in which coaching assistants under the direction of head coach Bill Belichick were caught videotaping play-calling signals from an unauthorized location during a September 9, 2007 game. ESPN pushed the controversy forward by reporting, among other things, that the Patriots also recorded signals during opponents’ games and stole play sheets from the visiting locker room during pregame warm-ups.
“I remember through the course of the game Jim [Johnson] saying, ‘They’re getting our signals. They know when we’re blitzing … try to hide it.’ I remember distinctly thinking. ‘I don’t think so Jim, just concentrate on calling the game,’ ” Spagnuolo recalled. “In hindsight, he was right. When you go back and look at that tape, it was evident to us. … We believe that Tom [Brady] knew when we were pressuring him because he certainly got the ball out pretty quick.”
Spagnuolo, who became the Giants’ defensive coordinator following the 2007 season, said he used the experience to prepare him ahead of New York’s Super Bowl XLII victory against the Patriots.
“It wasn’t going to happen in the 2008 Super Bowl,” Spagnuolo said.
According to an ESPN investigation of “SpyGate,” the Patriots didn’t stop with stealing play-calling signals. The videotaping drew the attention of the league after a camera was confiscated from a video assistant during a 2007 win against the New York Jets.
At least one former Eagles staffer is quoted in the story, telling ESPN he believed Belichick’s willingness to cheat cost the Birds a fair shot at winning the Super Bowl:
When Spygate broke, some of the Eagles now believed they had an answer for a question that had vexed them since they lost to the Patriots 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX: How did New England seem completely prepared for the rarely used dime defense the Eagles deployed in the second quarter, scoring touchdowns on three of four drives? The Eagles suspected that either practices were filmed or a playbook was stolen. “To this day, some believe that we were robbed by the Patriots not playing by the rules … and knowing our game plan,” a former Eagles football operations staffer says.
As part of the league’s punishment, the Patriots lost their first-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft, and Belichick was fined $500,000. After the league’s investigation, Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly ordered the tapes destroyed, saying at the time, “I think it was the right thing to do.”
“The Patriots are cheaters,” CNN host Jake Tapper, a Philadelphia native and lifelong Eagles fans, said following the team’s win over the Vikings. “The Patriots cheat. This is just a fact as established by investigations. They’re a cheating team… the facts speak for themselves.”
This post was updated to clarify the events that occurred during the “Spygate” scandal.