Former Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson has admitted to paying a bribe to have the footballs tampered with before the 2003 Super Bowl.
Johnson, whose Buccaneers beat the Raiders at Super Bowl XXXVII, said he paid $7,500 to some people he did not identify so that they would scuff the balls set to be used in the Super Bowl, making them easier to grip. According to Johnson, there were 100 footballs set aside for the game, and the people he bribed tampered with all 100, to Johnson’s specifications.
“I paid some guys off to get the balls right,” Johnson told the Tampa Bay Times. “I went and got all 100 footballs, and they took care of all of them.”
That’s a shocking admission — Johnson is confessing that he cheated to help his team win the Super Bowl, and that people who work for the NFL accepted a bribe to help one team cheat in the Super Bowl.
Jon Gruden, who coached the Buccaneers in that Super Bowl, said today on ESPN Radio that he was aware that Johnson was concerned about being able to grip the balls in that game, but Gruden did not say whether he was aware of Johnson breaking the rules to get an advantage.
Johnson’s comments will be big news this week, as the NFL investigates whether the Patriots violated NFL rules by tampering with the footballs in their AFC Championship Game win over the Colts. There is, however, one key difference: Johnson says he had all of the footballs tampered with, meaning that if the balls were easier for the Buccaneers to throw and catch, they were also easier for the Raiders to throw and catch. The Patriots are accused of deflating only the balls that they used on offense, giving them an edge over the Colts.
The NFL is already investigating whether the Patriots cheated. Now the NFL should broaden its investigation, find out who Johnson bribed, and make sure nothing like that ever happens again.