Naive! Cowboys and Broncos Stole Signals Too

by Lloyd Braun

The NFL never would outlaw stealing signals.

It's not against the rules, so dwelling on that shows a misunderstanding on your part.

The violation was using a video camera on the sideline. That's it. Stealing signs wasn't the issue.

I don't know if you know, but teams still videotape.

Goodell has softened his language because it's clear he blew it earlier by making the issue more than it was. A smaller fine and later pick would have sent the same message with all the hysteria.

Note SI 2002, "Our guy keeps a pair of binoculars on their signal-callers every game," says Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. "With any luck, we have their defensive signals figured out by halftime. Sometimes, by the end of the first quarter."

Is that cheating?

Jimmy Johnson, "When I came into the NFL, back in '89, I talked to a Kansas City scout and he said, 'Here's what we do, we videotape the opposing team's signals and then we synch it up with the game film.' So I did it."

Do you want the Cowboys SBs taken away?

Editor's Note: Lloyd, thanks for the comment. You help to document that this is, indeed, a wider problem than just Belichick and the Patriots. Apparently this taping of signals has been somewhat common in the NFL. So, there are really two choices.

One, the NFL could simply make it legal. Or,

Two, the NFL should clearly state that taping opponents signals is illegal. Period. Any time, any place. And, then enforce the rule with vigor -- meaning, ban a violater from the NFL for life.

I do disagree with the tone of your comment which seems to indicate that you don't think this is a big deal. It is.

The reason is that it makes the playing field uneven. It introduces something into the game that doesn't belong.

When betters bet on games (perfectly legal in many cases) -- they are basing their bets on information available to them like talent, injuries, weather, home field, etc.

Same things with fans cheering on their teams -- which team has the best spy operation has not, until now, been part of the discussion.

To allow this sort of surveillance introduces a new element into the game. If allowed, an increasingly important factor to consider will be which team has the best spying capabilities. In view of the money at stake, this would quickly get out of control. You would have all sorts of surveillance going on.

So, that's the issue that the Belichick Spygate Scandal has brought to a head. And, with ever-increasing technological capabilities, the NFL needs to nip this in the bud.

Actually, I think they clumsily tried to do that with the rules in place now. But, obviously, they need to, at least, make it clear that use of technology to spy on your opponents is prohibited.

I have no problem with humans using their natural senses (sight, hearing, whatever) to observe the opponents signals and try to figure them out. Naturally that's part of every sport and always has been. That's fine.

But, the use of technology to do it is wrong and dangerous.

I think that's painfully clear now.

Of course, some may disagree. There's probably people out there who think the free market should reign and whatever any team can do to win -- so be it.

That's a different perspective than mine.



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Feb 25, 2008
No, Not a Big Deal
by: Lloyd Braun


No I don't think the CameraGate is a big deal.

The playing field would be only uneven if teams allow their signals to be figured out.

As Goodell said, teams should change their signals. Sure, taping would make it easier to figure them out over time instead of watching and taking notes. But it would be mute if the signals changed.

I don't see how the use of a camera to something that is not against any rule is a ride on the fast lane to "cheating." I think that's silly.

But a rule or memo wasn't followed.

Consider if the following is more spying or creating a more uneven playing field.

"More recently, the San Diego Chargers increased their security several years ago at a hill overlooking the practice field at the team facility during weeks when they played the Denver Broncos. Why? It turns out Broncos coach Mike Shanahan had been hiring spies to videotape the Chargers practices. The NFL had been aware of it for several years (at least one NFL official had seen one of the tapes), but didn't step in because it was considered a team issue."
NFL Cheating History.

Now, this isn't an attempt at "everybody does it" but an attempt to put CameraGate in context.

Notice that the above was considered a team issue. Hmmm, no self-rightous letters and repimands from the NFL office? A team matter?

Which is really spying? The Broncos' activities or a camera out in the open on a sideline in front of everyone?

Editor's Note

Thanks Lloyd. You bring up good points. My point is simple -- fine, let's talk about what's spying and what isn't; what is fair and what isn't; what should be allowed and what shouldn't. If the NFL wants to legalize it all -- fine, but we (the fans) should be in on it. We should know what the rules are. Betters should know whether spying is allowed so they can factor that into their bets. Obviously, had they known what the Pats have been up to the past few years, they would have adjusted their bets accordingly.

However, I also think that technology has changed things. It used to be kind of a friendly rivalry kind of thing. People would chuckle about George Allen closing practices during "Cowboys Week" and "spies" lurking about, etc.

Things are different now that technology really could allow you to listen to everything and know everything. That's why I think the NFL should step in and make use of technology to spy illegal. Period. It should be a banable offense.

But, the main point of the entire discussion on this site is simply that we want to know the facts. We want to know what the Pats did and what kind of advantage it gave them. Only after we know that can we rationally determine whether any sanctions are appropriate and whether any rules should be changed.


That's it!


Mar 02, 2008
No Secret
by: Lloyd Braun

Mo, I don't understand what do you want to know.

1) Belichick told Goodell he had been taping since he started with the Patriots. I think Goodell already knew that because people in the League KNEW IT.

2) The practice wasn't a secret you make it out to be. You are wrong when you imply that Mangini was the only one to know (and that this was the basis of the rift between Mangini and Belichick).

3) You act shocked and outraged because YOU didn't know about it. People in the NFL already did and didn't think it was a big deal or a disadvantage to them.

For example:

Herm Edwards

Sources told the Daily News that early in a game against the Patriots four years ago, Edwards, in his fourth season as Jets coach, and Henderson, in his first year as the defensive coordinator, noticed a Patriots camera from the opposite sideline aimed at them to tape the defensive signals.

Edwards had made the proper adjustments before the game to avoid Belichick stealing the defensive signals. They went into the game knowing this was a practice Belichick employed and when they saw the camera, they put on a show.

That story has been making the rounds in the league the last few days.

Edwards apparently didn't think much was to be gained by the Patriots spying because he never turned in New England to the league office. The Patriots beat the Jets twice in 2004 - 13-7 in Foxborough and 23-7 at Giants Stadium.

The Daily News reported in September that the Jets were aware of Belichick's passion for videospying long before former Patriots assistant Eric Mangini switched sides in the Border War and became the Jets' coach.

"At times, we would wave at the guy that was filming over there," a member of that Jets staff said in September. "We just gave false signals and waved at the camera. I don't know if they picked up our signals or not. We didn't really worry about it too much."

At the Super Bowl, Goodell told the NFL Network, "One of the coaches was actually waving at the camera, so it's clear that teams, to me, recognize that taking signals from another team is something that they do, so they have very complex systems to make sure that they don't allow their plays to be intercepted."

The Jets compensated for Belichick's attempts to steal the signals by using a second coach, in addition to Henderson, to signal in the plays, with one of them relaying the real play and the other sending in a dummy signal. They also sent in plays by using the messenger system. And they occasionally called defensive formations using a number on a wristband worn by the middle linebacker. The wristband was changed every quarter.

Mar 03, 2008
I want to know why Pats won
by: Mo Johnson

Lloyd -- Thanks for the comment.

Maybe you are right that people in the NFL knew more. Although, several coaches/former coaches have said they did not do these sorts of things and many coaches and players have said they know nothing about it.

What I really still want to know is the full extent of what Belichick and the Pats have been doing all these years and how they benefited from it. I want to know if they won the games by playing better than the other teams (as we all assumed) or because they had superior information about the other team.

Finally, with technological advancements, this issue will only get increasignly serious. so, it needs to be dealt with now.

First, we need to know all the facts.

Mar 19, 2008
JJ quote is questionable
by: Anonymous

I would like to see that Jimmy Johnson quote sourced.

Mar 22, 2008
Here You Go
by: Senior Google

Ok, Anonymous. The point of the following requested quotes is to remind the innocent to "Don't Panic." If only Goodell thought that in Sept of 07. He must now think, "I kind of made a big deal out of of that, when I shouldn't have. Now, I've got everyone going crazy."

To your request.

Jimmy Johnson:

"I always assumed I was being spied on, or taped, from somebody in the press box."

"Oh please. I’ve said it on our show. Eighteen years ago a scout for the Chiefs told me what they did, and he said what you need to do is just take your camera and you go and zoom in on the signal caller and that way you can sync it up. The problem is that if they’re not on the press box side you can’t do it from the press box, you have to do it from the sideline. This was 18 years ago."

"Oh yeah, I did it with video and so did a lot of other teams in the league. Just to make sure that you could study it and take your time, because you’re going to play the other team the second time around. But a lot of coaches did it, this was commonplace."

Nov 21, 2010
To Mo
by: Anonymous

Mo- you said, "What I really still want to know is the full extent of what Belichick and the Pats have been doing all these years and how they benefited from it. I want to know if they won the games by playing better than the other teams (as we all assumed) or because they had superior information about the other team."

No, what you really want is for the Patriots organization to be disbanded, or try to substantiate other rediculous claims with no fruiton.

Did the pats get caught videotaping? Yes
Did they pay dearly for it? Yes
Did it make an ounce of a difference? No

Dec 13, 2013
by: Anonymous

Since it is a proven fact that others have stolen opposing team signals before Spygate. I think that all fines and draft picks should be returned. Either that or punish the Broncos and Cowboys the same as the Patriots.
It is further a proven fact that the practice is on going. Why would defensive and offensive coaches cover their mouth with play sheets and clip boards while calling in signals in even today.

This is nothing more then a bunch of fired employees trying to through mud on a former employer.

I'm sick of this entire issue, everyone steals signals, it always was and will always be, so legalize it and stop the bullshit.

Nov 11, 2014
To Mo
by: Anonymous too

Mo, I am afraid that I agree with Anonomous above. You sound disingenuous when you say you only want some clarity about the rules. You sound as if you want to thoroughly discredit the Pats and strip them of all accomplishments. You are feeding a vast conspiracy theory that is simply not helping anyone while congratulating yourself that you are participating in a balanced and open forum. Please.

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