New England Patriots

  • DAVIE, FL - FEBRUARY 04: Stephen Ross Chairman & Owner, Brian Flores Head Coach, Chris Grier General Manager of the Miami Dolphins pose for the media after announcing Brian Flores as their new Head Coach at Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southern University on February 4, 2019 in Davie, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

    DAVIE, FL – FEBRUARY 04: Stephen Ross Chairman & Owner, Brian Flores Head Coach, Chris Grier General Manager of the Miami Dolphins pose for the media after announcing Brian Flores as their new Head Coach at Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southern University on February 4, 2019 in Davie, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

    The NFL has whacked the Miami Dolphins and owner Stephen Ross with one of the harshest penalties ever handed out for a rule violation. And it directly involves the New England Patriots and ex-quarterback Tom Brady.

    As first reported by Adam Schefter Tuesday morning, the Dolphins were stripped of their 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick for “violating the integrity of the game.” In addition, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was fined $1.5 million and suspended through Oct. 17.

    According to a memo from the league, the team was found to have “had impermissible communications” with Tom Brady in 2019-20, starting while he was still under contract with the Patriots. Those talks apparently continued after Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    The Dolphins were also found to have violated the league’s tampering rules with former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, who was still coaching there during the 2021 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that the Dolphins’ tampering violations were “of unprecedented scope and severity,” which is certainly the case when you consider the caliber of player and coach involved.

  • Zolak & Bertrand | Will Tom Brady Be Punished For Dolphins’ Tampering?

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  • The investigation also looked into whether the Dolphins intentionally lost games during the 2019 season, which former head coach Brian Flores alleged took place as part of his lawsuit against the league. The league apparently concluded that the Dolphins never tanked a game in 2019, but did report that Ross “expressed his belief that the Dolphins’ position in the upcoming 2020 draft should take priority over the team’s win-loss record.”

    What about the smoking gun of Flores’ accusation that he was offered $100,000 to lose a game? The league didn’t exactly deny that happened. Instead, they reported this Hall of Fame-level obfuscation:

    One such comment [alluding to tanking] is a claimed offer by Mr. Ross to pay Coach Flores $100,000 to lose games, as to which there are differing recollections about the wording, timing, and context. However phrased, such a comment was not intended or taken to be a serious offer, nor was the subject pursued in any respect by Mr. Ross or anyone else at the club.

    But … he said it, didn’t he? That’s certainly not a denial. He was just joking!

  • The whole thing stinks of a cover-up. Two high draft picks, a $1.5 million fine, and a suspension for the owner over tampering? A series of phone calls to Brady, Don Yee, Sean Payton? It feels too much like the real violation was the tanking part, and the league is simply doing its best to distance itself from it.

    Last thing the league wants is for fans, gamblers, and media alike to think teams are throwing games. Even Patriots fans can live with tampering, even if Brady was plotting his escape from New England while still under contract, and played the 2019 season with one foot out the door.

    Could fans get over the idea of a team losing on purpose? Especially if it cost them money in some form or fashion? That brings us back to the Schefter report. The Dolphins violated the “integrity of the game.” Does tampering really fall under that umbrella? Paying coaches to lose games certainly would.

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on during the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on during the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

  • As usual, the NFL will get away with this. Everyone will fixate on the punishment, which is definitely a hefty one. It’s not the best look for them, Brady, Payton, Yee, anyone else involved. But it’s still not nearly as bad a look as the other thing.

    But will a little tampering sour anyone on the idea of actually watching the games? Probably not. So this was the best course of action for everyone involved. Yeah, it was just a little tampering. Sure. Now stay home for two months, Mr. Ross.

    Hopefully, this deters other teams from considering tanking to such an extent. Because one would imagine that when it comes to tampering, the show will go on.

  • Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.