The term “Headsetgate” has just been coined and may not last, but the allegations that the Patriots tamper with visiting teams’ communications at Gillette Stadium are nothing new.
With the Steelers suggesting that something was afoul on Thursday night in New England, there are now at least five teams that have accused the Patriots of tampering with communications:
1. After the Jaguars lost to the Patriots in the playoffs following the 2005 season, then-Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio said the headsets “mysteriously malfunctioned.”
2. In 2006, then-Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz suspected the Patriots of preventing him from communicating with his quarterback. As reported by Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated, Martz had Detroit’s offense off to a good start until he lost the ability to call plays because the communications system went out. According to that report, it happened to the Lions twice, both times in the middle of drives when the Lions were picking up steam.
3. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was quoted by Zimmerman as responding to Martz’s accusation by saying the same thing that happened to the Lions had happened to the Bengals as well: “Yeah, I know,” Lewis said. “Headset went out. It happened to me in Foxboro, too.”
4. Karlos Dansby said in an appearance on PFT Live this year that he suspected the Patriots of wrongdoing in 2008, when Dansby’s Cardinals visited New England and had trouble with their coach-to-helmet communications system.
5. The Steelers now become at least the fifth team making accusations, with the team saying that its coach-to-coach communications repeatedly faced interference from the Patriots’ radio broadcast, and that the interference would stop when a league official came to the sideline to deal with it, only to start up again when the league official walked away.
Unlike Spygate and Deflategate, these cheating accusations have not resulted in NFL discipline. But they’re part of a perception around the league that the Patriots win by skirting the rules.