Tom Brady is a part of a lot of NFL history. Like a lot. Look at any quantifier of quarterbacking success and it’s likely you’ll find a picture of Brady next to it — from passing yards to touchdowns to wins — he’s unquestionably the GOAT.
But there’s a seedy side to that statement, too. Not every record or moment(s) in history is one a person wants to be tied to.
Unfortunately for Brady, despite all the accolades and records, he’s attached to a very unfortunate reality.
Every time a team was docked a first-round pick for on- and off-the-field indiscretions in NFL history, Brady has been involved.
ESPN’s Sarah Spain pointed out the quirky certitude on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, the NFL announced that the Dolphins were stripped two draft picks, including their 2023 first-round selection, after an investigation found the organization guilty of tampering to acquire the services of Brady and coach Sean Payton while they were under contract with other NFL teams.
That’s a no-no around league circles. The sanctions that came down were swift and strict; Ross was fined and suspended through Oct. 17, while Vice Chairman Bruce Beal was banned from the 2022 league meetings.
So, how did Brady end up a part of such ignominious feat? The Sporting News details the three Brady-related controversies that forced the NFL to take first-rounders away.
We start our trek through time with a stop in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Let me set the scene: it was September 9, 2007 — the inaugural day of the 2007 NFL season — and the Patriots were pummeling the absolute daylight out of the Jets.
Moments before the end of the first half, New England video assistant Matt Estrella pointed a camera at the Jets bench and proceeds to capture video of New York’s defensive assistants making hand signals.
Eric Mangini, a longtime assistant under Pats’ head coach Bill Belichick, suspected New England is stealing signs. And following an NFL investigation, the league found that Mangini’s suspicions were warranted. The Pats had, indeed, cheated.
Belichick was fined $500,000, the Pats got slapped with a $250,000 fine of their own and the organization lost out on its 2008 first-rounder.
For many, it was the incident that cemented New England’s status as the NFL’s evil empire. Oh well, at least they can’t cheat again…
Which leads to…
Sensing a trend here? This time, the Pats were in Foxboro, hosting the Colts for the AFC Championship game at their beloved Gillette Stadium.
It was a frigid night, the sort of environment where the field is masked in plumes of cold air emanating from players’ mouths. On the opposite sideline stood a team not too familiar with wintery environments, the Indianapolis Colts.
Temperatures like the ones on hand at Foxboro tend to make it difficult to throw the football. Andrew Luck’s two picks proved as much.
But the Pats’ were able to move the ball fairly smoothly. The reason why? They were using deflated balls, allegedly.
Apparently Brady had requested the team lower the psi of the footballs, as he preferred to grip a softer football.
Many argued the impact was negligible. There’s still plenty of doubt over whether the balls used in the game were even deflated in the first place. Still, hounded by the memories of Spygate seven years prior, the Pats’ paid dearly, forfeiting yet another first round selection.
Dolphins tampering, 2019, 2021-2022
In keeping with tradition, we’ve opted to call this current Dolphins scandal “Dolphin-gate”. Do with that what you will.
This one happened while Brady was nearing the end of his 20-year tenure with the Pats. Brady still had a lot of football left to play. Dolphins ownership wanted him to play that football in South Beach.
Reportedly, Brady and Beal held talks throughout the 2019 season. Beal would then report their discussions back to Ross.
Apparently, the method was so effective — Brady proceeded to sign with the Bucs — that Beal and Ross reimplemented the strategy during the 2021 season. This time, Ross was actively involved, suggesting Brady even join Miami on the business side as a potential executive. He could also play, if he so insisted.
The Dolphins made a similar power play for Sean Payton at the start of the 2022 offseason. There was a simple problem, though? Payton was still employed by the Saints, meaning it was permitted.
Either way, Payton declined the deal, opting instead to go into the booth as an analyst with Fox. He has indicated that he would be interested in returning to the sidelines. At this moment in time, it doesn’t look like that will be with the Dolphins.
Brady’s “involvement” in all three of these scandals is flimsy, to say the least. Although, he is certainly connected.
Perhaps Brady benefited from Spygate, perhaps he didn’t. Either way, it’s hard to pin the blame on Brady for the actions of his coaching staff.
Deflategate has a little more meat to it, but even that is shrouded in mystery. The Patriots blew the doors off the Colts in that year’s AFC Championship, 45-7. Can we really say a 38-point blowout was the result of some balls that may or may not have been deflated slightly?
The Dolphins tampering scandal involved Brady, but only in the sense that Beal and Ross sought out Tom Terrific to get involved in their franchise. For whatever reason, Brady preferred Tampa to Miami. Regardless, Ross and Beal seemingly knew better.
So there you have it, the three Tom Brady-related events that made teams lose their first-round picks. I wonder if he’ll include that in his Hall of Fame speech…