Not even two cheating scandals could mar the New England Patriots dynasty, which is widely considered the greatest of all time for any sport.
Why are we bringing this up out of the blue?
Well, last week ESPN Seth Wickersham brought attention to Spygate in a story that claimed Donald Trump tinkered with the investigation.
Now, just a week later, one of Bill Belichick’s former longtime rivals has come forward to throw cold water on the polarizing scandal, which ended up costing the Patriots a first-round draft pick and a fine of $500,000 back in 2007.
In celebration of his autobiography “Heart and Steel” hitting stores on Monday, former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher sat down with Ed Bouchette of The Athletic to discuss some of the highs and lows of his coaching career.
Though the autobiography contains no mention of Spygate, it was brought up in their conversation, and Cowher actually came to Belichick’s defense.
Former Steelers HC Bill Cowher defended Bill Belichick over Spygate.
“It’s only cheating if you get caught,” Cowher said. “Like any player, if you’re going to hold him, don’t get caught. If you get caught you’re wrong, if you don’t you’re right. I always thought we never lost the games to New England because of Spygate.
” If [Belichick] got the calls because we didn’t do a very good job of making sure we signaled those in, that’s on us, it’s not on him. Because we’re always looking for competitive edges. I think as any coach whether it’s someone’s stance, someone’s split, someone’s formation [that tips off a play]. You’re looking at someone’s eyes, how are they coming out of a huddle? You’re always looking for those little things that give you a competitive edge and that to me is what that was.”
Cowher coached the Steelers for 15 seasons (1992 to 2006) and had just one Super Bowl (two appearances) to show for it. The Hall of Famer could’ve added more hardware to his trophy case, but came up short to the Patriots in two separate AFC Championship Games.
When you consider the Patriots’ first three rings of the Belichick era were somewhat given an asterisk following Spygate, Cowher could’ve easily defended his reputation and asserted those games were lost as a result of New England’s suspected foul play.
The fact the former champ attributed those career-defining losses to a matter of execution, or lack thereof, is pretty eye-opening, regardless of where you side on the debate.
Whether that’s a matter of sportsmanship or legitimate accountability remains unclear, but something tells us Cowher didn’t hold Spygate as seriously other coaches.
Is it possible Cowher didn’t want to sabotage his relationship with Belichick just as his autobiography was getting released? No doubt, but implying that cheating (in any context) is fair game unless you’re caught is truly a bizarre hill to die on for the Steelers legend.
Cowher made the point that most teams in the NFL try gaining a competitive edge over their opponents and that seemingly fueled his opinion. However, it’s an entirely different conversation when you start normalizing obtaining information about an opponent in illegal fashion.
While we appreciate Cowher coming to defense of his longtime nemesis in Belichick, all his comments did was open more questions about Spygate.