On September 9, 2007, the NFL catches the New England Patriots illegally videotaping coaching signals of the New York Jets from an unauthorized location in a Week 1 game in East Rutherford, N.J.—a scandal the media soon dubs “Spygate.”
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Just before halftime of the Patriots’ 38-14 Patriots win, a 26-year-old New England video assistant named Matt Estrella was caught capturing hand signals from New York’s defensive assistants on video. The Jets’ second-year head coach, Eric Mangini, previously was an assistant for New England under head coach Bill Belichick.
“Several teams have suspected the Patriots of stealing signs,” wrote the New York Daily News. “So did the Jets, thanks to Mangini.”
The Patriots admitted wrongdoing later in the week. After an investigation, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fined Belichick $500,000 (the NFL maximum) and the team $250,000. The Patriots also had to forfeit their first-round pick in the 2008 draft.
The NFL destroyed the “Spygate” game tape, a decision that remains controversial.
By the late 2000s, the Patriots had developed into one of the NFL’s flagship franchises, winning three Super Bowls between 2002 and 2005. In 2007, New England became the only team to finish a regular season 16-0.
But that season ended on a sour note for New England. In one of the bigger upsets in professional sports history, the New York Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14, ending their bid for a perfect season.