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DeflateGate and SpyGate: ESPN Digs Up a Corpse to Throw Roger Goodell a Bone

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The relationship between the ESPN and the NFL isn't a secret. It's just even more obvious.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took to ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show and acknowledged a willingness to change his role in the appeals process. Goodell botched major decisions at every turn in 2014, exacerbating every issue to the point that owners publicly supported a change in the process.

But you wouldn't know that. This morning, ESPN released a deep look at Goodell's failed investigation into SpyGate and how owners, players, and coaches across the league still hold a deep rooted hatred and jealousy for the Patriots- and those are their words.

This story will dominate the discussion for the next week, which is convenient because the Patriots kick off the 2015 NFL season this Thursday. Big ratings for all.

If you don't care to read the lengthy investigative piece, you haven't missed much. It's a rehash of SpyGate, where the Patriots filmed the play signals of opposing teams. The official league rule didn't say anything about recording signals as being illegal, but the rule that was broken was the fact the filming took place on the sideline instead of the approved video locations.

"This type of reporting over the past seven years has led to additional unfounded, unwarranted and, quite frankly, unbelievable allegations by former players, coaches and executives. None of which have ever been substantiated, but many of which continue to be propagated."

The article follows communication with executives and coaches from the Rams, Panthers, and Colts, as well as notes from Eagles fan and former US Senator Arlen Specter. There are no fewer than eight cases in the article where a statement or claim is asserted, followed by some variation of "there is no proof." It's the same story wrapped with the same comments, from the same people, placed under the same dead tree.

The story tries to tell readers that the "spying" took place to a greater extent that previously known, and that it started when Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, with over 40 games worth of footage.

"This type of reporting over the past seven years has led to additional unfounded, unwarranted and, quite frankly, unbelievable allegations by former players, coaches and executives," Patriots PR man Stacey James wrote. "None of which have ever been substantiated, but many of which continue to be propagated."

The article highlights the role of mystery man Ernie Adams and how he would look over the hand signals of other teams and give Belichick the heads up if the signals occurred on game day. Adams is a key piece of the Patriots Do Your Job documentary, set to show on September 9th (tomorrow!), for having highlighted the Seahawks goal line play that Malcolm Butler practiced and executed to perfection. Coincidence, I'm sure.

The coup de grace of the article is former Rams head coach Mike Martz, who felt he was strong armed into signing off approval on the league's 2007 SpyGate investigation. Martz still feels like the Patriots did something during their Super Bowl match-up.

"On one new play, quarterback Kurt Warner rolled to his right and turned to throw to Faulk in the flat, where three Patriots defenders were waiting," the article writes. "On the sideline, Rams coach Mike Martz was stunned. He was famous for his imaginative, unpredictable plays, and now it was as if the Patriots knew what was coming on plays that had never been run before...

"...Martz's offense, dubbed "The Greatest Show on Turf" in 1999, was never the same, and in 2006, he was fired as the Rams' coach."

Perhaps the offense was more reliant on the talent as opposed to the scheme if Martz was only able to recapture his Greatest Show on Turf magic in one of his remaining nine seasons in the league. Or maybe Belichick realized that Marshall Faulk was the engine of that attack so of course they would send multiple players to cover him.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story was Goodell asking Martz to cover up for the league to prevent a Congressional investigation, and then the NFL "embellished" Martz's sign off to include "some lines [Martz] knows [he] didn't write."

But we already know that won't be the takeaway.

ESPN was tagged to investigate the fallout of DeflateGate, but they chose the wrong story to trace. Whatever was revealed during the investigation of SpyGate wasn't new and doesn't change the narrative. Owners thought the Patriots got off easy with a record penalty during SpyGate. Players and coaches from teams the Patriots had defeated in the playoffs believed the Patriots cheated, but had no proof.

This is the same tired story that has been regurgitated every season since 2007.

ESPN should have looked into the reason behind the false league leaks to Chris Mortensen and Peter King. They should have figured out why the league was so interested in dispersing incorrect information, or preventing the Patriots from correcting it. They should have researched why Roger Goodell literally lied in his verdict of Tom Brady's appeal.

That would have been something new. That would have been worth reading.

Instead, the article will just cover up Goodell admitting that he's in way over his head during the appeals process, and will throw another cloud over the Patriots for no reason other than taking advantage of the story du jour.