Deflategate Tarnishes Patriots Legacy Enhances Steelers, 49ers

NFL franchises that win multiple Super Bowls put themselves into elite company. They’ve been 49 Super Bowls won by 20 different NFL teams. Of those 20 different teams, 12 franchise took home multiple Lombardi trophies. Together those 12 teams account for 42 of the 49 championships.

In other words, 12 teams out of the NFL’s 32 account for 85% of the league’s championships. And yet, there’s an even more elite echelon – the best of the best, if you will. There are 3 teams in the Super Bowl era who an rightly lay claim to the mantel of Dynasty:

  • Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Bill Walsh and George Siefert’s San Francisco 49er’s
  • Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots

Each of these 3 teams fielded a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback, was led by an innovative head coach, had a superior scouting and personnel operation and each won 4 Super Bowl Championships.

Steelers, 49ers, Patriots and the Debate to Define the NFL’s Greatest Dynasty

Among the three fan bases debate rages over which team was the best of the best.

chuck noll, terry bradshaw, stare

Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw See Eye-to-Eye. Uncomfortably.

The Steelers Nation’s rallying cry has been “4 Super Bowls in 6 years,” that Steelers contributed more players the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team than any other, and in number of Super Steelers inducted into the Hall of Fame.

49er fans point to the superiority of their quarterback, to the revolutionary changes Bill Walsh brought to the game, and to the still growing cadre of successful disciples that he spawned.

Patriots fans point to their 7 Super Bowl appearances and 4 victories during the age of free agency, when amassing and keeping talent the way the Steelers and 49ers did is simply impossible.

  • Debates about great teams from different eras are as inevitable as they are unanswerable.

Human beings crave clarity by nature. Sports fans therefore demand to know who is history’s true champion. Alas, history denies the mere possibility of a definitive answer. This is true of all sports, but more so in football, because so much changes in the NFL from era to era. Meaningful comparisons simply become impossible.

Had they faced off before the rule that bears his name been instituted, Mel Blount would likely have tamed Jerry Rice. But by the same token, Gerry Mullins, whose mid-season weight often dropped to around 220 pounds, would have been dominated by the 49er’s Michael Clark, who tipped the scales at near 300.

But those debates are fun, and Steelers fans and 49er’s fans have been waging them ever since San Francisco’s Super Bowl XXIV blowout over the Denver Broncos. And those debates will continue for as long as fans from both teams are around to wage them.

  • But the New England Patriots have forever sacrificed their place in those debates.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s New England Patriots have handed football historians the necessary objective criteria to permanently lower themselves a notch below the Steelers of the 70’s and the 49ers of the 80’s.

  • Seven Super Bowls appearances between 2001 and 2014 remains an incredibly impressive accomplishment.

But Belichick and Brady have now bound an important qualifier to each of their Super Bowl victories. There’s now proof that the Patriots were cheating in each of the four seasons that ended in Super Bowl victories. Spygate brought to light the illegal taping of opposing teams signals that the Patriots engaged in from 2000 to 2007, when the team won its first three Super Bowls.

And while Spygate tainted the Patriots record, the fact that they remained competitive after getting caught mitigated their past crimes for some, although as many pointed out, the Patriots lost their 1st two post-Spygate Super Bowls.

  • Deflategate dramatically changes the conversation.

The Wells report thoroughly investigated and documented the footballs that mysteriously deflated during the Patriots playoff rout of the Colts. It is now clear that the act was deliberate, that the balls were deflated by members of the Patriots staff, that the deflation of balls happened outside of NFL procedure and behind the backs of the officials, and that Tom Brady knew about it and quite probably requested it.

  • In other words, Tom Brady, like his boss Bill Belichick has now been caught cheating.

Of course, superior talent and not deflated balls drove the Patriots blowout over the Colts just as mind numbing special teams incompetence and Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie mistakes and not stolen signals doomed the Steelers in their AFC Championship losses.

  • But those facts are irrelevant.

The rules of the game establish a baseline of acceptable practices to ensure a level playing field that does not allow any team or individual to gain unfair advantage. The New England Patriots have now been caught red handed breaking those rules. Twice.

Deflategate Tarnishes Patriots Legacy Enhances Steelers

These are not isolated incidents. Bill Belichick’s illegal signal recording occurred for 8 straight seasons. The Colts knew, in part, to check the pressure of the Patriot’s footballs because they’d been tipped off to it. And as the book The Untold Story of Spygate, reveals, there are any number of other irregularities tied to the Patriots. How much else is going on that we don’t know about?

Chuck Noll, sideline

Chuck Noll Calling Plays in the Heat of Battle

Let the “Who was better” debate between Pittsburgh Steelers fans and San Francisco 49ers fans rage on. Let the 49er fans argue for their team’s supremacy based on how the Bill Walsh coaching tree and West Coast offense has been come the NFL’s gold standard of excellence, as Steelers Nation counters by reminding that Chuck Noll and Mark Malone defeated Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. Twice.

  • And let the New England Patriots suffer as they watch this debate from the sidelines while they sulk.

No one ever accused Chuck Noll, Terry Bradshaw, Bill Walsh or Joe Montana of violating the integrity of the game. They established their dynasties cleanly and won their Super Bowls fair and square.

In contrast Deflategate tarnishes the Patriots legacy and Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will forever carry the stigma and shame of being cheaters.

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2 thoughts on “Deflategate Tarnishes Patriots Legacy Enhances Steelers, 49ers

  1. I have never seen more whining from a fan base than I have seen in Pittsburgh and Indy over the years. When does tanking a season to get a franchise quarterback not hurting the integrity of the game(or pumping in crowd noise and keeping the temperature in the stadium high during an AFC title game in 2006). I’d rather explain to my children that the Patriots may or may not have taken a little air out their footballs than have to explain why the entire 70s Steelers stuck needles in their behinds and their super bowl winning qb in the 2000s allegedly raped a woman in the bathroom and paid her off to not press charges. Good luck with that and maybe get a defense to be competitive this year.

    • Allen,

      Nice attempt.

      As it clearly says in the article, using steroids is wrong. It was wrong for the Steelers of the 70’s to use them just as it was wrong for everyone on the other 28 NFL teams who had players that used them.

      If I had kids, I’d explain to them that the use of steroids in the 70’s is a perfect example of “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.” Steve Courson made no bones about the fact that he regretted his use of steroids and that it almost killed him (for the record, he died saving his dog from a falling tree.) I’d explain to my kids, that things like performance enhancers might be tempting, but that using them even when legal often carries serious consequences, and tell them the stories about Courson and some of the other ex-NFL players who used steroids and lived (or not) to regret it.

      But the fact of the matter is that steroids were neither illegal nor banned by the NFL until well into the 1980’s.

      Taping opposing team’s signals was illegal from 2000-2007, as well as tampering with the air pressure. If you have some evidence that contradicts either of these two facts, please provide it.

      Regarding your comments about Ben Roethlisberger, if you’d bothered to read the commentary on this site from that period, you’d like that Steel Curtain Rising was harshly critical of Ben and fully supported his suspension.

      But let’s face facts.

      This was an allegation of a very serious crime that was investigated by a seasoned prosecutor who was originally from Baltimore. This is rural Georgia — they don’t do “soft on crime” in rural Georgia, particularly not when it involves a born and bred Yankee.

      Yet this same prosecutor didn’t even think he had enough evidence to take the case to a grand jury, even though, as the saying goes, a good prosecutor can get an indictment against a ham sandwich.

      To repeat, this site did not and does not defend or excuse Roethlisberger’s behavior in Midgeville. But the prosecution there didn’t even feel they had enough evidence to attempt to indict him, let alone try him….

      …Contrast that with what happened with Aaron Hernandez….

      The New England Patriots cheated and got caught. Twice. Learn to live with that fact.

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