No professional sports league or organization is immune from wild conspiracy theories that may or may not be valid, and that is true as it pertains to the National Football League. There have, over the decades, been all kinds of theories and stories floated out there by fans and analysts claiming that teams found ways to obtain unfair advantages in draft classes and versus opponents, and also that the NFL has favored teams over others in certain situations. There is, in fact, even one website dedicated to the notion that games and other circumstances associated with the biggest sports league in North America are all pre-determined by powerful individuals working behind the scenes. Maybe, for all we know, the NFL is just one big reality television program.
The majority of the NFL conspiracy theories that might actually be true spotlighted in this post are, for the most part, lighthearted and deal only with the outcomes of football games that are relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things. However, the idea that the NFL purposely attempted to hide information about player safety from athletes and the public is a serious accusation, and it's one that gets more and more believable with each year and every new investigative story about the matter. Knowing all that we have learned about that topic over the past ten years, one has to wonder what else NFL executives have allegedly covered up about league happenings. Maybe it isn't all that hard to believe a billion-dollar coporation would not leave things up to chance.
15 Cleveland Browns Tanked
We start with a pair of conspiracies from the 2016 NFL regular season, one of which involved the worst team in the league that year. The Cleveland Browns built a lackluster roster before September 2016, and that squad lost 15 straight games en route to finishing the year with a 1-15 record. Despite the franchise's worst ever season, those running the Browns decided to retain the coaching staff and the team's front office. The idea behind this conspiracy theory is that the Browns went all-in on losing and tanked an entire season in order to acquire the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, a selection the Browns spent on defensive end and top-tier prospect Myles Garrett.
Too bad fans who spent money on the '16 Browns haven't been offered money back for paying for such a poor product.
14 Tom Brady Concussions
Here's s an NFL conspiracy theory we didn't expect back on the first day of May 2017. During a CBS Morning Show interview that occurred on May 17th, Tom Brady's wife, Gisele Bundchen, claimed Brady has a history of concussions and also that Brady suffered a concussion during the 2016 season.
The Patriots never posted any Brady concussion on official injury lists during the campaign, which has raised eyes among observers and those who feel the Patriots have violated other NFL rules over the years. In fact, Brady has never been listed as having a concussion throughout his pro career. Have the Patriots and Brady managed to cover these up, or was Bundchen merely speaking as a concerned wife who didn't have all the information at the time of the interview? You decide.
The 2007 videotaping controversy regarding the New England Patriots allegedly recording defensive coaches of the New York Jets may, in fact, have been worse than we originally knew. According to an ESPN report released in 2015, the Patriots may have recorded more than one team, and it was also claimed that the Patriots sent undercover advanced scouts to obtain information on upcoming opponents.
Maybe the strangest part about the story is that Peyton Manning, who spent time with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos during her career, reportedly wondered if the opposing locker room at Foxboro was somehow compromised. Assuming at least portions of that ESPN report are, in fact, accurate, it's possible that would explain why the NFL went after Tom Brady and the Patriots for the Deflategate scandal.
12 Giants Spygate?
It appears the New England Patriots aren't the only team to allegedly record opponents during the first two decades of the current century. A sports reporter working for the Toronto Mail and Globe suggested that the New York Giants somehow managed to intercept radio transmissions from opposing sides during the 2001 NFL Playoffs. That, per the piece, helped the Giants notch postseason victories over the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings.
It was a little odd, if not suspicious, the Giants managed to destroy Minnesota 41-0 en route to earning a berth in the Super Bowl, and such allegations looked even worse when the Giants lost Super Bowl XXXV 34-7 to the Baltimore Ravens. Big Blue obviously didn't intercept any messages in front of a worldwide audience on that fateful night.
11 Super Bowl III
Maybe what remains one of the biggest upsets in the history of pro football was no upset at all. On paper, the New York Jets had little chance to defeat the Baltimore Colts, and it was somewhat laughable when New York quarterback Joe Namath famously guaranteed the Jets would win the big game. That's exactly what happened, as the Jets earned a surprise 16-7 victory.
Why would this game have been fixed in favor of the Jets? Former NFL player Bubba Smith once suggested the outcome of the game had been rigged because the league wanted a New York team to win the high-profile game to raise interest in pro football, and also that the league wanted a former AFL team to finally win the biggest contest of a season after AFL sides had been dominated in the first two Super Bowl showdowns.
One of the strangest football stories in recent memory involved none other than the New England Patriots. The conspiracy theory regarding the 2015 AFC Championship Game is that New England quarterback Tom Brady knowingly played with under-inflated footballs, breaking a league rule in the process, to gain an unfair advantage over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Patriots routed the Colts 45-7, making it seem as if Brady could've used beach balls and still easily won the contest. Nevertheless, the NFL pursued punishments for Brady and the Patriots for over a year, and Brady served a four-game suspension at the start of the 2016 season. It's thought by some the NFL wanted to nail Brady and the Patriots this time around, in part, because the league didn't do enough about the Spygate allegations.
9 Indianapolis Colts Tanked
In 2011, Andrew Luck was the hottest to-be rookie quarterback prospect the NFL had seen since Peyton Manning, who, ironically, was seemingly near the end of his career after neck surgery cost him the entire 2011 campaign while with the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts completely fell apart with Manning sidelined, and Indianapolis went 2-14 and earned the right to pick Luck with the top selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The perception, at the time, was that the Colts adopted a “Suck for Luck” mantra of tanking the 2011 season in order to acquire yet another franchise QB. What's ironic about this is that Manning proved he had plenty left in the tank, as he set records and also won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos.
8 Super Bowl XL Fixed
Even though Peyton Manning had been sidelined and played like a shell of his former self throughout the 2015 season, he and the Denver Broncos secured a berth to play NFL Most Valuable Player Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at Super Bowl XL. Newton and the Panthers looked downright unbeatable for much of the season, but Denver's defense dominated the day and guided the Broncos to an impressive 24-10 victory.
The thought had by some conspiracy theorists, not to mention pockets of unhappy Carolina fans, is that the outcome of the game was fixed so that Manning, one of the league's most beloved player, could retire as a champion. Not long after the Super Bowl, it was reported the wife of a replay assistant for that contest attended the game as a Denver fan. Coincidence?
7 Jimmy Hoffa
Depending on how you view things, this may be more of an urban legend than a conspiracy theory. Jimmy Hoffa, the famous (alleged) mobster, disappeared in the summer of 1975, and it was suggested, for decades, that Hoffa's remains were buried underneath the west end of Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
This was never officially confirmed or denied, but it would help to explain why the New York Giants and New York Jets decided to build the new MetLife Stadium right next to the old complex. There's nothing special about that location, and getting to and from the stadium can be a pain for fans if they're driving or using public transportation. Is it possible certain people had something to hide about what's in the ground around those parts?
6 Super Bowl XLVII
The Baltimore Ravens jumped out to a 28-6 lead over the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, probably leading some viewers to seek out other programming before the lights at the Superdome went out. The power outage interrupted play for over a half-hour, and it gave the Niners and opportunity to regroup. San Francisco embarked on a rally that came up just short, but the Ravens winning 34-31 couldn't quiet some conspiracy theories that claimed the plug had been pulled in an effort to keep fans tuned-in and to stall Baltimore's momentum.
Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis even stated that he thought it was a bit strange that a “zillion-dollar company” would experience such a technical failure on that organization's biggest night of the year. He's not wrong.
5 End Of Super Bowl XLIX
It's years after the fact, and it still makes zero sense the Seattle Seahawks elected to pass the ball from the one-yard line late in their Super Bowl 49 contest versus the New England Patriots. The Patriots secured a victory after quarterback Russell Wilson threw an interception in the end zone, and multiple conspiracy theories were born.
One theory involves Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, who could've been an MVP candidate had he scored the game-winning TD from the goal-line. Lynch had a history for giving non-answers during interviews, particularly during the team's media day leading up to Super Bowl 49, and the theory is that the NFL wanted Wilson to throw a TD so he would be more of a “media darling” in the eyes of some, and not Lynch would win MVP.
4 Super Bowl 51 Rigged
Let's get one more conspiracy theory about Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in before the bell rings. The Patriots trailed the Atlanta Falcons by as many as 25 points in the second half, and yet Brady and company rallied from behind and forced overtime before winning the game in the extra period of play. Why would any game be rigged in favor of Brady and the Patriots considering New England and the NFL haven't been on the best of terms as of late?
It's no secret Brady was a supporter of President Donald Trump throughout Trump's campaign, and Brady was even seen keeping a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker. If anybody could, at the very least, affect aspects of a sporting event, it could be the country's most powerful individual who also happens to know launch codes. We're just saying.
3 NFL Hides Certain PED Tests
This conspiracy theory is not just for the NFL, as fans and observers had held suspicions about how all top-flight sports organizations, including World Wrestling Entertainment, handle tests and punishments for rules concerning the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
In short, the idea is that leagues happily publicize suspensions and other punishments for certain athletes who fail tests while at the same time sweeping it underneath a figurative rug if a major superstar gets popped for violating a drug policy. It is, after all, a little weird an all-time popular athlete almost never gets caught cheating in such a manner during the prime of his career. We guess we all have to believe they're all just that virtuous and that there is no funny business going on that we don't know about during drug testing.
2 NFL Hid Information About Concussions
We may be at the point where we have to stop mentioning this as a conspiracy theory and just call it a fact. It's now public knowledge NFL officials worked to hide information about concussions and other head injuries former players suffered during their careers from the public, and it's also assumed the NFL wanted to work to erase anything linking playing football to CTE.
The perception is that the NFL didn't want to lose fans who no longer wanted to watch such a dangerous sport and also that concerned parents would, upon learning such information, prevent children play a game that could, ultimately, prove to be fatal years down the road. “Would you let your kids play football” is now a hard question to answer for many parents who think differently about the game than they did even five years ago.
1 The Fix Is In?
Go big or go home, teaches the old adage, so we're ending with the top NFL conspiracy theory we could find. The website “The Fix is In” is run by Brian Tuohy, an author who has, over the years, claimed sports leagues such as the NFL can fix the outcomes of just about every game.
In short, Tuohy has suggested parts of every week of an NFL season are controlled by individuals who aren't playing in the games, and he has offered explanations for his theories on his site, in books and during media appearances. Is the NFL truly no different than any prime-time drama you watch during any given TV season? Are the outcomes of major NFL games as scripted as WWE matches? The truth is out there somewhere.