The New England Patriots are arguably the most popular football team in the NFL's history and undoubtedly one of the more world-renowned and recognized teams in the league. An argument could possibly also be made for the Patriots being the very best NFL franchise in NFL history, if not for the fact that so many of their wins and overall history is tainted with controversy.
The decades upon decades worth of dirt spread across the Pats name is no secret. In fact, some readers are already thinking up some of the team's more controversial moments before they even get to the meat of the article. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has tried his best to cover up some of the Pats' dirt (especially when some of the dirt has his own name on it) and he's tried to let the accomplishments of his team overshadow the more damning allegations and crimes. However, as this list goes to show, some dirt is just too dirty to ignore.
In 2007, long before Deflategate, the Pats were caught illegally videotaping the New York Jets' practice game while on the sidelines. Bill Belichick then received the largest fine that any coach had received in history ($500,000), the team itself was fined another $250,000, and they lost a future first-round draft pick.
19 Bill Belichick is Always Rude at Press Conferences
The media press is only ever there to do their jobs, but Bill Belichick goes out of his way to make their job difficult either by not giving a straight answer, refusing to answer questions or just being rude AF (as the kids say). Like in his infamous 2014 "We're on to Cincinnati" press conference answer.
18 Bill Belichick Coached the New York Jets for One Day
The big reason why the New England Patriots have always had a feud with the New York Jets is that Jets fans look at what Belichick has done for the Patriots in a "that should've been me" mentality. He took the job in early 2000, but to everyone's shock, during the introductory press conference the next day, he resigned in the same breath.
17 Planting Thermometers in the Jets Tunnel
In 2017, a team official told ESPN that they learned Bill Belichick had thermometers planted in the New York Jets tunnels right before their December game against the Pats. The reason being to psych out an opposing team not used to playing in freezing cold temperatures at a time when it was freezing cold.
16 Rob Gronkowski Lied About Dating Bibi Jones
What was a picture taken for free publicity turned into a controversial hail storm. During a media scrum, with a demeanor as if someone gave him a stern talking to, Gronk apologized for taking the picture with the adult entertainer because he "didn't intend to hurt the reputation of anyone on the New England Patriots or on behalf of Robert Kraft."
Jones herself told The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich that she was never intimate with Gronk. He only wanted the pic to get more Twitter followers.
15 When Gronk Disrespected Women at a Charity Event
According to Business Insider, Robert Gronkowski attended a Children's Hospital in Boston for the sake of a charity event, but his behavior while there was reportedly childish. Reportedly, he took his shirt off and poured drinks on women there. From the sounds of it, it's possible to take the frat boy out of college, but you can't take the college frat boy out of Gronk.
14 Illegally Making a Lineman a Receiver at Last Minute
Back in January 2015, the Pats had a game against the Ravens where at the last minute, Belichick decided to make a lineman an eligible receiver. Ravens coach John Harbaugh complained after the game to NFL's official website because "It's not something that anybody has ever done before ... they're an illegal type of thing."
13 Letting Tom Brady Overshadow Drew Bledsoe
Once upon a time ago, Drew Bledsoe held the New York Patriots on his back, but when he went down with a career-threatening injury in 2001, a young nobody named Tom Brady took his place as starting quarterback. The rest was history, and so was Bledsoe. When he returned from injury, the Pats put him on the bench while his replacement remained the starter.
12 Benching Malcolm Butler for a Petty Reason
At Super Bowl LII, Malcolm Butler was unusually benched on the sidelines. In an interview with Jeff Howe, Butler said he never got a reason why and Belichick has since refused to explain why. However, in the same interview, Butler said that he thinks that Belichick might have worried he was not "locked-in" on the game plan after getting sick recently. The decision ended up costing the Pats the game.
11 Why Belichick Doesn't Want to Be in a Madden Game
Gamers out there may have noticed that Bill Belichick is never in the Madden video games. In fact, his role as coach for the Pats is filled by a much younger "Josh Moore" who looks nothing like Belichick. The coach refuses to ever answer questions about why he doesn't want his image used in the games. Weird.
In 2011, wide receiver Wes Welker stirred some controversy during a press conference where he cracked jokes about New York Jets' head coach Rex Ryan's foot fixation. As punishment, during their next Jets game, Belichick benched Welker at the start, which cost the Pats the game. They lost it 28-21.
9 The Whole Aaron Hernandez Case
We all know about the case by now so there's no need to delve too deep into this one, but boy, this is definitely a black mark over the Pats' legacy that the franchise just want to forget ever happened. As far as talented athletes who turned out to be sociopaths is concerned, Hernandez is right up there with OJ Simpson and Chris Benoit.
8 The Tuck Rule
Back in 2001, during an AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Raiders, Tom Brady appeared to fumble the ball in what was, instead, ruled an overturn by refs. It helped the Pats take the game into overtime, where they won and eventually won their first Super Bowl championship. All thanks to the controversy referred to now as The Tuck Rule.
7 Belichick Was Jealous of Brady's Relationship with His Body Trainer
Of course, Bill Belichick would never admit it himself as he's declined to explain why, but there's no other explanation as to why he banned Brady's body trainer Alex Guerrero from private charters and from the sidelines on game days. Belichick must want his star pupil to only have one coach in his life.
6 Making Tom Brady Play Injured for 3 Years
One of the strangest bits of news to come out of the Patriots franchise is that Tom Brady was listed on the Pats injury report for a foot injury between 2005 and 2008. He took no time off and played 152 games straight at that time. Either he played injured, or the Pats muffed up the reports to throw off their opponents. Whatever it was, it inspired the NFL to alter how injury reports are formatted "in part because of the Patriots" according to The Boston Globe.
5 Ignoring Bray's Concussion
During a CBS interview with Charlie Rose, Tom Brady's wife Gisele Bundchen claimed that her husband not only had a concussion when he steered the Pats to a Super Bowl victory in 2016, but "he has concussions pretty much every ... I mean, we don’t talk about it. He does have concussions."
When asked about her comments on ESPN E:60, Brady did not deny his wife's claims, although the NFL themselves have since disputed and denied such allegations.
4 Robert Kraft Got Caught at a Massage Parlor
And not just any massage parlor, either. The kind that's only legal to attend in places like Las Vegas. Catch the hint.
Shortly after the Pats' won Super Bowl LIII, Florida police revealed that Kraft was facing charges for allegedly soliciting special offers at these parlors. As of now, the NFL has not opted to punish Kraft as he currently pleads not guilty, but the case rages on.
3 The Infamous Snowplow Game
Perhaps the Pats' earliest controversy came in 1982 when they took on the Miami Dolphins on a snowy day. Snowplowers were there to clear the snow, but when then Pats coach Ron Meyer ordered the plower to clear a path for the placekicker, it allowed him to hit a game-winning goal. Critics still say it gave the Pats an unfair advantage.
2 Kraft Claimed That Putin Stole His Super Bowl Ring
In 2005, Robert Kraft visited Vladimir Putin in Russia and brought his ring from Super Bowl XXXIX with him. As Kraft recalled to the New York Post, he let Putin try it on, but when he put his hand out to get it back, Putin "put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out."
In one of the biggest controversies in NFL history, the New England Patriots were accused of intentionally using deflated footballs during their 2015 AFC Championship game 2014-15 Playoffs against the Colts. Pats denied this, but following an investigation, they were fined $1 million and lost two of their draft picks.
Sources: larrybrownsports.com, complex.com, businessinsider.com