The old and famous sports saying that brings with it some truth and some humor says that “if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying.” In reality, the majority of professional sports franchises that find success more likely than not bend the rules from time to time either during games or behind the scenes when fans are not paying attention. This includes National Football League teams that are under the microscope twelve months out of the year in this world of social media and 24-hour news coverage that has eliminated the word “offseason” from the minds of those who follow the NFL.
It is one thing to make a throwaway comment about how this or that NFL team cheats. The Your Team Cheats website went one step further, working to offer proof of which clubs in the NFL have been the biggest cheaters over the past several years. Those who have, in the past, hit out at the New England Patriots for a wide variety of reasons – “Deflatgate” being just one of them – would probably expect to see the Patriots at the top of the list. Not only is that not the case. The Pats are not, according to Your Team Cheats, even in the top 20 of the biggest cheaters in all of the NFL.
10. Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts got a shout-out from the Your Team Cheats website because of how the team “sucked for Luck” back in 2011. Indianapolis was about to allow future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, who had season-ending neck surgery that was thought, at the time, to be career-threatening, to enter free agency, and quarterback Andrew Luck was going to be the first overall pick of the subsequent NFL Draft. The Colts would, of course, never admit to tanking an entire season just to obtain another franchise QB. Sure thing, Indy. Whatever you say.
9. Miami Dolphins
If Your Team Cheats is right and the Miami Dolphins are among some of the biggest cheaters in all of the NFL, then the Dolphins are apparently not cheating correctly. Miami has not, since Tom Brady took over as the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots, been able to leapfrog New England atop the AFC East standings, and the Dolphins are still waiting for QB Ryan Tannehill to take that next step toward greatness. Signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who has had a reputation for being a dirty player, in free agency could result in the Dolphins rising in such lists over the next couple of years.
8. Baltimore Ravens
Remember that whole matter with the Baltimore Ravens, most notably linebacker Ray Lewis, using deer-antler spray to recover from injuries? That spray apparently has something in it that is on the list of substances banned by the NFL, and thus it is a no-no for all league players. Lewis was known for a far more controversial incident that occurred earlier in his career, one that is rarely discussed on television programs that air on SportsCenter and the NFL Network. One would have to imagine that Lewis now serving as a NFL analyst for ESPN is at least one reason for why we don’t hear about that case anymore.
7. Washington Redskins
Is having a racist team nickname and a racist logo cheating? Apparently not according to Your Team Cheats, but the Redskins still managed to check in as the seventh-biggest cheaters in the NFL. The first offense that is mentioned by YTC involves the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys improperly structuring player contracts, an infraction that cost both teams salary cap space. While neither the Redskins nor Cowboys have come all that close to sniffing a Super Bowl championship in recent memory, division rivals the New York Giants have twice won it all since February 2008. You’ll see Big Blue later in this list.
6. Oakland Raiders
Your Team Cheats makes it seem as if casual football fans may be a little harsh on the way that we look at and refer to the Oakland Raiders. The perception many have is that the Raiders have been the “bad boys” of the NFL since the day before forever, and yet there are, according to YTC, five bigger cheaters than the Raiders in the league. Oakland has had a fair share of players suspended for one reason or another over the past decade. The team has also been known for losing for the majority of that time. One thing you can say about quarterback Derek Carr: He probably won’t be known for cheating during his career.
5. New York Giants
It is a bit unfair to the New York Giants for Your Team Cheats to mention the way that the club acquired Eli Manning in the 2004 NFL Draft. Manning made it clear that he did not want to play for the San Diego Chargers before the draft, San Diego selected him anyway, and the Chargers then acquired QB Philip Rivers and picks that were used to select linebacker Shawne Merriman and placekicker Nick Kaeding by trading Manning to the Giants. The Giants should not be blamed for the fact that Rivers has not yet won two Super Bowl championships or led offenses on two title-winning drives.
4. San Francisco 49ers
It has become one of the most well-known stories of cheating in the NFL. Jerry Rice, widely perceived by analysts and fans as the greatest wide receiver to ever play the position, used Stickum on his gloves to help him reel in passes during his career. Rice played at a time when the use of that substance was not uncommon among players. Using it was also against the rules, and thus one could correctly label Rice as a cheater despite his physical gifts that made him so great. Would Rice still be in the Hall of Fame had he never used Stickum? Yeah, yeah he probably would.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
You don’t get to six Super Bowl victories without learning how to get around certain rules, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have done well to prove just that. Your Team Cheats reminds fans in its post of the time when Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin – accidentally or purposely – got in the way of Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones as Jones was seemingly making his way to the end zone on a kick return. Tomlin was fined for his actions, and the Steelers ultimately lost the game to the team’s hated division rivals. Coach would probably go back and do it again if given the chance.
2. New York Jets
Did the New York Jets cheat and break NFL rules by “tampering” en route to bringing all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis back to the club following the 2014 NFL regular season? Yeah, probably, but Revis would have returned to the Jets anyway because he is a smart businessman who cashed in on the best financial deal he was going to receive. Besides, the Jets have not won a Super Bowl since “Broadway” Joe Namath made that famous guarantee leading into the 1969 championship game. Gang Green needs to find ways to cheat better. I’ve heard that throwing an entire season into the garbage in order to draft a franchise quarterback can do wonders for a franchise.
1. Denver Broncos
What exactly landed the Denver Broncos of all teams at the top of the Your Team Cheats list for the biggest cheaters among NFL teams? YTC found that the Broncos have been the league-leaders in players suspended for the (alleged) use of performance enhancing drugs over the past decade. That is quite a lot of cheating that does not, as pointed out by YTC, get a lot of play on sports talk radio and among football journalists. One has to wonder why it is that we in the football community have not been harsher on the Broncos for this factoid.