Back in May the NFL writers and editors at CBSSports.com gathered together to discuss the key figures and moments of every NFL franchise in the Super Bowl era. Before long we were discussing every team's best and worst moments, along with their most-hated players and coaches, as well as some of the more bizarre things each team has been involved in. That spirited discussion produced this series -- the Good, Bad, Ugly and, sometimes, Bizarre moments for every team. We begin with the New England Patriots.
It's almost fitting that we're starting our "Good, Bad and Ugly" series with New England, because no team has been more polarizing since the NFL-AFL merger than the Patriots. There has been enough of good, bad, ugly and bizarre in New England to fill a book, but we don't have time to write a book here, so we've picked one good thing, one bad thing -- which is also bizarre in their case -- and ugly thing that represents Patriots history.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have teamed up to dominate the NFL for 16 years
It's almost fitting that the Patriots' dynasty started on Bill Belichick's birthday. On April 16, 2000, the day Belichick turned 48, the Patriots made a low-risk selection in the NFL Draft: They took a quarterback out of Michigan in the sixth round named Tom Brady.
When Brady's career is over, that draft card should be bronzed and turned into the official state flag of Massachusetts.
Since that fateful day in 2000, the Patriots have basically dominated the NFL.
For Brady, he has won more postseason games than any other quarterback in NFL history (22). The Patriots quarterback is also No. 3 on the all-time regular-season wins list (172) and overall wins (194). In both cases, he trails Brett Favre (186 and 199) and and Peyton Manning (186 and 200) and if the Patriots have a huge year, he could vault to the top of both lists by the end of next season.
The fact that Brady did anything in the NFL is almost a minor miracle considering how ugly he looked at the combine in 2000.
Fortunately for Brady, it only took one coach to have enough faith in him to draft him and that coach turned out to be Belichick. The combo of Brady and Belichick will go down with Miyagi and Daniel-san as one of the most famous teacher-pupil pairings of all-time.
When you sit back and think about what Belichick and Brady have accomplished together, it's almost mind-blowing: Not only have the two been to 10 AFC title games in their 15 years together, but they've also led the Patriots to a division title in 12 of the past 13 years.
The only time they didn't win an AFC East title in that span happened because Brady and Belichick weren't a pair: Brady missed the 2008 season after tearing his ACL in Week 1.
If the Patriots win the division title again this year, they'll break the Rams' NFL record for most division titles in a row. The Rams won the NFC West for seven straight years in 1973-79.
Speaking of long streaks, if the Patriots make the AFC title game again in 2016, that will make six straight appearances for Brady and Belichick, which would break the Raiders' record of five in a row (1973-77).
AFC East titles and AFC Championship Games are for chumps though, let's talk serious stuff: Super Bowls.
Brady and Belichick have been to six Super Bowls together, which is two more than any other coach-quarterback combo in NFL history (the Steelers, Cowboys and Bills all reached four Super Bowls with the same coach-QB combo).
That's about as impressive as it gets.
With one more Super Bowl win, Brady and Belichick would rewrite the record book. Brady would pass Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for most Super Bowl wins (all three are tied at four) while Belichick would pass Chuck Noll for most Super Bowl wins and Don Shula for most Super Bowl appearances.
Don't be surprised if there is another Super Bowl win either. Brady wants to play for at least five more years and if you've read his $200 cookbook, then you know he's on the kind of health kick that will make that possible.
Anyway, it's time to move on from Brady and Belichick to ... Brady and Belichick?
Somehow, both of these guys have their own scandal, even if one of them was a lot easier for the NFL to prove than the other.
All the -gates: Deflategate, Spygate and Snowplowgate
Snowplowgate is actually known as "The Snowplow Game," but we're going to add a -gate to the end of it because that's what everyone does with every scandal that involves the Patriots, and we don't want to be laughed at for being different.
Snowplowgate wasn't as big as Spygate or Deflategate, but it was a pretty huge controversy at the time.
Basically, here's what happened: Massachusetts was hit with some pretty heavy snow in the hours before the Patriots were getting set to host the 4-1 Dolphins for a game in December 1982. The Patriots were 2-3 at the time and really needed a win because there were only four games left in the season (the 1982 season was only nine games long due to a players strike).
Before the game, officials agreed that a John Deere tractor outfitted with a snowplow would be used to clear snow off the field in key places (numbers, sidelines, yard markers). What the snowplow wasn't supposed to do is help either team, but that's what happened late in the fourth quarter of a 0-0 game.
After a Patriots drive stalled in Dolphins territory, New England kicker John Smith came out a for a 33-yard field goal attempt.
The snow plow driver, Mark Henderson, who was on work release from jail, went out to the spot where the holder was going to put the ball down and plowed it clean. Dolphins coach Don Shula went nuts and tried to have the play stopped. The refs didn't listen and Smith knocked the kick through for the only points of the game.
Thanks to the snowplow, the Patriots got their much-needed win and made the playoffs with a 5-4 record. The Dolphins would go on to make it to the Super Bowl that year, but that didn't placate Shula, who's still upset about what went down in the game.
"I think it's the most unfair thing I've ever been associated with in coaching," Shula would later say, via the Los Angeles Times. "It's the most unsportsmanlike act that I've ever been around."
Shula isn't the only coach who has been on the wrong side of a Patriots scandal. Just ask former Jets coach Eric Mangini, who blew open Spygate with a simple accusation in 2007.
After the Jets were crushed by the Patriots 38-14 in the season opener, the Jets accused the Patriots of videotaping New York's coaching staff and stealing defensive signals. The accusations turned into Spygate, which is a dark cloud that still hangs over the head of both Belichick and the NFL.
After a three-day investigation -- seriously, it was only three days long -- the NFL found that Belichick and the Patriots had been stealing defensive signals. Belichick was fined $500,000, while the Patriots were fined $250,000 and docked a first-round draft pick. The NFL said it would continue to investigate but no further punishment was ever handed out.
It's still not clear how many games the Patriots illegally videotaped, so the full extent of Spygate may never be known. An ESPN report from 2015 suggested that the Patriots filmed the defensive signals of opposing teams in at least 40 games between 2000-07.
Former Rams running back Marshall Faulk still believes that his team was "cheated out of a Super Bowl" win in February 2002. There has long been a rumor that the Patriots filmed a Rams walkthrough the day before the game. A Boston Herald story reporting the practice-taping was retracted, the rumor has never been proven and the Patriots have strongly denied it, but Faulk seems pretty convinced that the Patriots were cheating.
Of course, you can't have a Patriots scandal without getting Don Shula's thoughts. If the Patriots had won the Super Bowl in 2007, Shula wanted an asterisk next to their win.
"The Spygate thing has diminished what they've accomplished," Shula said shortly after Spygate. "I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds' home run record."
The good news for Belichick is that after four Super Bowl wins, people probably won't be talking about Spygate when they talk about his legacy 20 years from now. As for the immediate future though, he should probably get used to the nickname "Belicheat" because it doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.
We won't rehash Deflategate here because if you're like me, your head might explode if you have to read (or in my case, write) one more thing about the Patriots' latest controversy. If the Patriots didn't have a history of scandals, the entire Deflategate controversy probably would've blown over in a matter of months. Instead, we're still talking about it a year-and-a-half later because of the Patriots' sordid past.
Former Panthers general manager Marty Hurney, who was calling shots for the Panthers during their Super Bowl season of 2003 that ended with a loss to New England, doesn't think Deflategate is a horrible thing on its own, but he said it's a bad thing for the Patriots because it gives off the impression that there's a "culture of cheating" in the organization.
That's the "bad" part for New England: The Patriots might've won four Super Bowls without illegally filming anyone, but since they didn't, people are always going to point out the fact that they had to cheat to win, even if that's not actually the case.
Super Bowl XX
Thanks to Belichick, Brady and their four Super Bowl titles, most Patriots fans have been able to put the nightmare of Super Bowl XX behind them. That's a good thing, because in the great pantheon of nightmares, this falls somewhere slightly below Freddy Krueger, but above what Jason did to those kids at Camp Crystal Lake.
Going into Super Bowl XX, pretty much everyone expected the Patriots to get pummeled by the Bears, and that's exactly what happened.
The game had disaster written all over it for New England.
For one, the Patriots were a completely average team in 1985, but they somehow managed to pull off upset after upset after upset in the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl. As a matter of fact, they were the first team to win three road playoff games to reach a Super Bowl.
Once they got to the Super Bowl, they met a brick wall known as the '85 Bears defense, and things got ugly quickly.
If football games were like boxing matches, someone would've thrown in the towel for the Patriots after the first quarter.
In the game's first 15 minutes, the Patriots ran 10 plays for minus-19 yards, a total that included an 0-for-5 showing by quarterback Tony Eason, two lost fumbles and nine plays that went for zero yards OR LESS. The Patriots only ran one play for positive yards in the first quarter.
New England's nightmare peaked in the third quarter with an actual nightmare: A 335-pound man shaped like a refrigerator crushed through the Patriots defensive line to score a touchdown and give the Bears a 44-10 lead.
That 335-pound man was William "Refrigerator" Perry and let's be honest, it doesn't get much uglier than watching a defensive lineman score on you in the Super Bowl.
The Bears would also tack on a safety in the fourth quarter to cement their blowout 46-10 win.
The ugliness DOESN'T STOP THERE, EITHER.
The day after the Super Bowl, Patriots coach Raymond Berry did an interview with the Boston Globe, where he casually mentioned that the team had a serious drug problem.
"There are at least five players we know who have a serious problem and five to seven more whom we suspect very strongly," Berry said. "We have a situation that exists here that we feel is intolerable. It has been going on for a year, and I had to weigh the damages of doing something about it immediately by going public."
Maybe it was the drug problem, maybe it was the beatdown from the Bears, but whatever the reason was, the Patriots went into a postseason drought after 1985.
After Super Bowl XX, the Patriots only made the postseason one time -- they won the AFC East in 1986 -- over the next eight years. The team would also go 11 years before winning another playoff game.
Sure it was bizarre, but it was also bad -- and just too scandalous to not include with with Spygate and Deflategate.
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More Good, Bad, Ugly and the Bizarre
Where's your favorite NFL team? Check the schedule below
- June 17: Dallas Cowboys
- 20: New York Giants
- 21: Philadelphia Eagles
- 22: Washington Redskins
- June 23: Denver Broncos
- 24: Oakland Raiders
- 27: Kansas City Chiefs
- 28: San Diego Chargers
- June 29: Chicago Bears
- 30: Detroit Lions
- July 1: Green Bay Packers
- 4: Minnesota Vikings
- July 5: Houston Texans
- 6: Tennessee Titans
- 7: Jacksonville Jaguars
- 8: Indianapolis Colts
- July 11: Carolina Panthers
- 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 13: Atlanta Falcons
- 14: New Orleans Saints
- July 15: Pittsburgh Steelers
- 18: Baltimore Ravens
- 19: Cincinnati Bengals
- 20: Cleveland Browns
- July 21: Arizona Cardinals
- 22: Los Angeles Rams
- 25: Seattle Seahawks
- 26: San Francisco 49ers