Archive for Saturday, September 29, 2007

Commentary: Spying can take a team only so far

September 29, 2007


Anyone notice that the New England Patriots continue to win big, even though they had the video camera removed? This was the video camera that signaled the end of Western civilization, the one that would tear up the Magna Carta.

Make no mistake: The Patriots should not have been videotaping the opposing coach's signals like they did.

Especially after they were told by the league not to do it. They got caught and paid a hefty penalty.

But acting like the Patriots had stolen their way to previous titles was a lot ridiculous.

There are 32 coaches in the league and probably 31 would welcome any small advantage he can find.

Consider a scenario: A team's scout noticed that an opposing quarterback's foot was lined up one way for a run, another way for a pass. The team wasn't certain, so it filmed it more closely and discovered that indeed, the toes were pointed out for pass and in for a run.

Would anyone expect any coach in the league would go to said quarterback and tell him not to do it, that he was tipping his plays?


Every team searches for an edge on every play, whether it's a coach talking about how a player lines up or a lineman sneaking in a hold or a linebacker digging through the bottom of a pile to grab an opposing player in the wrong spot to give him an advantage in recovering a fumble (it's happened).

Former Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson admitted on Fox that he had interns go through the trash in the opposing team's press box to see what documentation they might have left about their plays.

The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos were caught fudging on the salary cap. Every team in the league makes not-so-discreet contact with free agents before the day they're supposed to be in touch. The league at one time had suspicions that the Browns were pumping extra crowd noise throughout the stadium. A defense would steal a coach's signal in a heartbeat.

Is it noble?

Of course not.

Is it cheap?

In some cases.

Do you want to teach your kids to act this way?

Of course not, but you also don't want them to be victims of cheaters.

In the NFL - and probably all of sports - it's best to assume that if someone can do something, he will. So the smart thing is not to let him.

It's a different sport, but Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge recognized that fact when he discussed the Patriots and how subterfuge affects baseball.

"I can feel about 10 eyes on me when I'm giving signs," Wedge said. "Everybody's paying attention. I don't think it's a big thing."

In baseball, some hitters don't want to be tipped off to the pitch that's coming.

But every team in the majors will try to see whether a pitcher is tipping his pitches.

"If it's our guy tipping pitches, it's our responsibility to figure that out," Wedge said. "You try to be as prepared as you possibly can be. It's no different from a guy leading off first base trying to pick up the pitcher's move. That's baseball. You want to try to figure that."

Anyone who watched the videotape of the Patriots "spying" had to wonder what in the world they were watching. Three New York Jets coaches gave signals. One looked to have ants in his pants, the other was doing the hokey-pokey, the third, a sideline version of the bunny hop (and it wasn't even a wedding).

Apparently, the Jets knew they had to be careful.


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