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Review: “The Dynasty” Episode 4 – Spygate

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FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2007, file photo, New England Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick, left, shakes hands with New York Jets' head coach Eric Mangini after their NFL football game in East Rutherford, N.J. Once close friends, Mangini and Belichick had a falling out, a rift that included Mangini leaving Belichick's staff to coach in New York and the infamous "Spygate" affair when Mangini accused the Patriots of videotaping the Jets' defensive signals during the 2007 season opener. The two will renew their rivalry on Sunday when the Cleveland Browns host the Patriots this weekend. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

The New England Patriots’ incredible run under the trio of Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady is being captured in a docuseries called “The Dynasty” on Apple TV. Patriots Football Now will be reviewing each episode. There will be ‘spoilers’ about the content of the episodes in these reviews, but presumably, anyone reading already knows the outcomes of the actual events.

The fourth episode of “The Dynasty” begins with Patrick Aramini speaking. He is a former New Jersey police officer who was serving as a security official at The Meadowlands, home of the New York Jets, in 2007. Aramini explained how he removed a videographer working for the New England Patriots

Patriots Trade for Randy Moss

Before going back to the “Spygate” investigation, we first find the New England Patriots losing in the 2006 NFL Playoffs to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. New England needs to get more explosive. They need a game-changer. Meet Randy Moss.

Moss tells the story of getting a call from Bill Belichick before the 2007 season. Belichick was calling to tell Moss he’d been traded to New England. Moss hangs up on Belichick. He thought it was a prank. Belichick calls back and Moss finally realizes it’s real. He’s now a New England Patriot.

New England had not had a player like Randy Moss during the Belichick/Brady Era. That is not surprising, considering the NFL had not necessarily had a player like Moss before. He was a superstar.

Randy Moss began his career with the Minnesota Vikings. He won the 1998 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and finished third in MVP voting that year. Moss earned first-team All-Pro three times as a Viking. But as amazing as Randy Moss had been, he was coming off two years with the Raiders that were subpar for him.

There was tremendous excitement in New England about the acquisition of Randy Moss. But it should be noted (and wasn’t) that Moss also had a lot to prove. He was coming off a season in which he had 533 receiving yards and three touchdowns. It had only cost New England a fourth-round pick (No. 110 overall, John Bowie) to obtain him.

Confiscating the Recording

Back to Patrick Aramini for confiscating the recording the Patriots had taken of the Jets coaches on the sideline. He stated “Possession is nine-tenths of the law” and since he had the recording he was keeping it. He would send it to the NFL and let them decide what to do with it.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discusses how he needs to do what is best for the integrity of the game. Patriots executive Robyn Glaser talks about how her first day on the job was the day after the game against the Jets.

Ernie Adams, that elusive behind-the-scenes employee, and confidant of Bill Belichick featured prominently in Episode 2, is referred to by several people as a genius. There is an obvious insinuation Adams was behind the illegal filming. Adams is asked about it. He has no interest in talking about the situation. Adams states there are some things he will take to the grave.

“You’re a Real Schmuck”

Aftermath of the scandal is shown, including Bill Belichick being questioned by Armen Keteyian about the NFL rules it violates. Belichick is even-tempered, stating everyone steals signals in some fashion. Sometimes from the press box, the coaches’ box, or the sideline. Belichick claims he misinterpreted the rule. These denials are not a good look for the coach.

Jackie MacMullan is shown, seemingly taking great joy in Bill Belichick getting in trouble. Bad things happen when people believe they are the smartest person in the room at all times. She does not believe Belichick didn’t understand the rule, which is an understandable conclusion after seeing the previous clip with Keteyian.

Robert Kraft recalls asking Bill Belichick about videotaping the opposing coaches’ signals. Kraft asked Belichick how much of an advantage it gave the Patriots, on a scale of one to 100. Belichick says it was a one.

“Then you’re a real schmuck,” responded Kraft, before transitioning into the present day. “Look, I was pissed with Bill (Belichick). But when you have division from within it can be very disruptive and dangerous. So, I protected Bill.”

Kraft then explains how he tried to protect Bill Belichick’s reputation by talking to the NFL offices. He made sure Belichick was not suspended. Both Belichick and the team were fined and punished (via draft picks being taken away) but there was no suspension.

There is no doubt that this comment from the Patriots owner will come under great scrutiny. Was Bill Belichick protected? Was his reputation not tarnished as badly by not being suspended? The clips shown made it appear there was even more scrutiny (Jackie MacMullan returns) by there not being as severe a punishment as many believed there should have been.

Spygate Aftermath – Off the Field

Michael Holley states that he thought he knew Bill Belichick very well from having covered the team. But after winning three Super Bowls there was “a different Bill.” Holley states Belichick felt rules no longer applied to him and he did not like being called out.

Headlines showed that the word most often used to describe Belichick had changed from “genius” to “arrogant.”

The NFL destroyed the tapes and punished the Patriots, and everyone was looking to move on from the scandal ASAP.

New England gets caught cheating because the head coach of the Jets at the time was former Patriots assistant Eric Mangini. Scott Pioli discussed how Belichick was left with a feeling of betrayal. His reputation had been tarnished by somebody he had mentored and was close to. Pioli explained how Belichick changed following the scandal, distancing himself from even those he had been close to.

Eric Mangini was not interviewed in this episode. It is unclear if he was asked to participate.

Spygate Aftermatch – On the Field

Bill Belichick seemed unhappy about his reputation taking such a hit (despite Robert Kraft’s apparent best efforts) from the Spygate scandal. He took it out on the Patriots opponents in 2007. He had Tom Brady and Randy Moss on his team. And if there was an opportunity to run up the score, Belichick jumped at the chance.

There were highlights of Brady-to-Moss touchdowns and New England piling on Miami and other opponents.

Tedy Bruschi asks his teammates in a postgame locker room celebration, “How do we feel about playing for Coach Belichick?” and everyone screams their approval. Bruschi talks about the variety of emotions the players felt, but ultimately it was about sticking together and supporting their coach.

New England finished the regular season 16-0. They advanced to the Super Bowl to play the New York Giants.

That season Tom Brady won the NFL MVP and set the record for most touchdown passes in a season. Randy Moss set the record for most touchdown receptions in a season. But most of these incredible accomplishments were glossed over. The 2007 season leading up to Super Bowl 42 was just a montage of touchdowns and other highlights meshed into one middle finger to the rest of the NFL.

Super Bowl 42

This episode culminates in the undefeated New England Patriots playing the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42. Spoiler alert: the Patriots lost 17-14.

A controversy involving Tom Brady being injured gets attention leading up to the game. The paparazzi hounded Brady in New York City, where he was dating supermodel, and the future Mrs. Brady, Giselle Bundchen. They photograph Brady wearing a protective boot. This is said to be a precaution from an injury in the AFC Championship and Brady will be ready to play in the Super Bowl. Just the same, it becomes a story leading up to the Super Bowl. And pre-Super Bowl stories are distractions.

The Patriots are now villains. This is a stark contrast to “American’s team” from Super Bowl 36. They are cheating bullies. Tom Brady is described as their “pretty boy” quarterback. David has become Goliath.

Two plays garner the focus of the Super Bowl. One is the infamous (or famous) “helmet catch” by New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree. The other is the last pass of the game, which falls incomplete, intended for Randy Moss.

Tyree’s catch lives on forever. It is now part of Super Bowl legend. The incomplete pass to Moss was huge because it was the final play of the game for New England’s offense, though it was not one many seem to remember. Two huge plays that received far less focus (i.e. none) were Belichick’s decision to pass up a field goal attempt for Stephen Gostkowski in the third quarter, and a potential interception dropped by Asante Samuel.

Episode 4 Review: 6/10

This Dynasty devotes Episode 4 strictly to the Spygate sage and the 2007 New England Patriots season. That team, without a doubt, is the greatest in NFL history not to win a Super Bowl. After multiple episodes chronicling the Patritots’ rise to become Super Bowl champions, and then a dynasty, it all comes crashing down in Episode 4.

A key ingredient absent here is joy. From the New England Patriots perspective, there was tremendous enjoyment that season before the final game. New England finished the regular season with the first 16-0 record in league history. They dominated. The Patriots had nine All-Pros, five first-team and four second-team. Those nine (Tom Bradhy, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Vince Wilfork, Mike Vrabel, and Asante Samuel) all had special seasons. The episode captures very little of that excellence.

The docuseries reduced the 2007 season to the New England Patriots trading for Randy Moss, Eric Mangini becoming a rat, Bill Belichick turning into a villain (despite Robert Kraft’s supposed support), New England bullying the rest of the NFL, Tom Brady dating Giselle, and ultimately a David in the form of the New York Giants knocking off Goliath in Super Bowl 42 on David Tyree’s “helmet catch.”.

Having lived through all of this, and following it closely, the New England Patriots 2007 season was so much more that Episode 4 makes it appear.

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