What if, during the steroids era in Major League Baseball, instead of players on every team using steroids, only players from one particular team did? How much of an advantage would that grant them?
That's the comparison I keep coming to after reading "Spygate, the Untold Story." Most of us think Spygate was an open-and-shut case, spanning only a few days in September 2007. The New England Patriots were caught videotaping coaching signals from the Jets sidelines. The NFL found out, fined head coach Bill Belichick $500,000, fined the team $250,000, and took away their 2008 first round draft pick.
And the case was closed, hard. And fast. The league destroyed the tapes, then got the NFL's 31 other owners to toe the company line ("What the Patriots did wasn't really a big deal").
The author of "Spygate," Bryan O'Leary, was never convinced, and finally had enough as he sat down to watch the most recent Patriots-Giants Super Bowl.
"I became so irritated in the run up to last year's Super Bowl, when Bob Costas was telling us that Tom Brady's the next Joe Montana, Belichick is an all-time genius, and they're a model franchise," said O'Leary. "A model? And they cheated incessantly for 6 years? That's what started this book."
O'Leary is a commodities trader who lives in Colleyville; he's not a writer. "Spygate" is his first book, and it reads like a first book. It's not polished, and there is a tone of righteous indignation throughout that you wouldn't get from a more traditional writer.
Get past that, and you'll see where his indignation comes from.
"I think the book is written from an angle of, I'm smarter than this, and you, reader, you're smarter than this too," said O'Leary. "That's the tone in the book: I can't believe I've put in this much time, money and energy (into consuming the NFL) and you're just going to lie to my face."
O'Leary spends 244 pages showing how the Patriots cheated long before and well after the Spygate incident in 2007.
One of the major ways the Pats cheated was by using a 2nd (and illegal) frequency, with which they talk to the quarterback. In the NFL, the communication from coach to quarterback is shut off with 15 seconds on the play clock. The assertion in this book is that Brady was listening to a second frequency and being told what the defense will be (and where the open receiver will be) up until the moment he snaps the ball.
What's also interesting -- and suspicious -- is that in several seasons, the Patriots never even bothered to hire an offensive or defensive coordinator, sometimes both (in 2010 they went the whole year without either). And when they have hired coordinators, they have generally been guys no one else wanted. Former Kent State head coach Dean Pees became defensive coordinator in 2006, after Eric Mangini left to become head coach with the Jets. Pees had a 17-51 record at Kent State. Bill O'Brien eventually became the Pats' offensive coordinator in 2011 after a few years in other offensive coaching roles. His last stop before New England? Duke, where he was offensive coordinator for a team that went 1-22 in 2005-06.
The Patriots haven't needed offensive or defensive coordinators, because they have Ernie Adams. Adams is the "guy behind the guy." He's Belichick's closest confidant, but no one else really knows what he does. This link
on the enigmatic Adams is worth a read. O'Leary writes that Adams has a photographic memory and is the one watching the opposing coaches signal in a play, and then, using video from the Spygate tapes, telling the quarterback in his helmet what to do (reducing the role of the offensive coordinator).
After reading the book, I'm convinced this is a HUGE story that got swept under the rug, because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recognized how far-reaching it could be if the whole story was told (legacies tarnished, three super bowl trophies fraudulently won, huge contracts to coaches who can't coach -- Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennell, Josh McDaniels, Eric Mangini -- legacies like Peyton Manning's damaged because he was facing an organization that systematically cheated).
We've heard for years that the Patriots continue to win because they do it "The Patriots Way." This book shows that "The Patriots Way" is cheating.