Deflategate harkens memories of 49ers penalties

Tom Brady grew up in the Bay Area as a fan of the San Francisco 49ers in general, of Joe Montana in particular.

So there were the natural comparisons when Brady and his New England Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl this past season, equaling the four Lombardi trophies won by Montana.

But when Deflategate broke and Brady was suspended for four games, pending appeal, and the Patriots were fined $1 million (that total should also sound familiar to Niners fans) as well as docked two draft picks, many of the Niner Faithful had a field day.

Surely, Brady’s legacy had been tarnished and there is no way he is even worthy to carry Montana’s helmet and shoulder pads off the practice field now, right?

Well, take a look at what the player who teamed up with Montana for “The Catch” to launch the 49ers dynasty of the 1980s had to say on Twitter.

Harsh? Perhaps, especially when you consider the Niners have been anything but gleaming in their recent history when it comes to skirting the NFL’s rules ... and, like the Patriots, getting caught.

Because while the $1 million fine levied by the NFL against the Patriots this week was huge, it only matched the one doled out to then-49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. in 1999. DeBartolo was also suspended for the 1999 season by the league and later forced to give up the team after pleading guilty to a felony in a gambling scandal in Louisiana.

But that was not all. ESPN Stats & Info put together a list of notable fines throughout the league and the 49ers were among the most egregious violators in the late 1990s, along with the Denver Broncos, when it came to violating the salary cap.

To wit:

  • 49ers President Carmen Policy fined $400,000

  • 49ers VP Dwight Clark fined $200,000

  • 49ers fined $300,000

  • Forfeiture of 2001 fifth-round pick, 2002 third-round pick

Yes, the same Clark who took to Twitter this week.

The Niners, though, do still lead the Patriots in one category -- Lombardi trophies, with five, even if they have not won one since before getting popped for salary-cap chicanery. The Patriots’ entire legacy, though, is now in question, thanks to not just one cheating scandal, but two with Spygate in 2007.