The Truth About Spygate: Punishing Success and Promoting Parity

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The Truth About Spygate: Punishing Success and Promoting Parity
(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

"Lately, in our society, it seems that we have sympathy only for the losers and misfits. Let us also cheer for the doers and the winners. The zeal to be first in everything has always been American, to win and to win and to win. Not everyone can be a winner all the time but everyone can make that effort, that commitment to excellence.

 

"And if we fall a little short of our goals, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing we tried. As President Theodore Roosevelt said: “It is not the critic that counts...The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...who strives valiantly, who errs and often comes up short again and again...who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”  

 

From Vince Lombardi on Football, pg. 16, Ed. George L. Flynn, New YorkGraphic Society and Wallynn, Inc.1973

 

Excellence isn’t against NFL rules—at least not yet.

 

But, the league punishes success anyway.

 

They punish success to achieve parity among the teams. In theory, when more teams have a chance to win it all, the ratings are higher. That means more advertising dollars for the networks and bigger TV contracts for the league.

 

Twelve games into the season and your team has four wins and eight losses?

 

Keep watching.

 

They still have a chance, just like the 2008 Chargers.

 

Current rules allow scenarios where nine win teams make the playoffs and go to Super Bowls, while 11 win teams miss the playoffs.  

 

Parity.

 

It’s what the league wants.

 

They don’t want dominant teams. They want mediocrity. They don’t want dynasties.

 

They want to spread the wealth.

 

So, the league punishes successful teams, hoping to weaken them, and rewards bad teams, hoping to strengthen them.

 

Start with the draft.

 

Barring trades, the Super Bowl winner picks last in each round. The worst team picks first.

 

Why not have an even playing field?

 

Why not have a rotating system where a different team gets the first choice each year?

 

Each team could pick first once every 32 years. The year after a team got the top pick, it would get the 32nd pick, and each year thereafter, it would move up one pick. The NFL doesn’t do it this way because they want to weaken stronger teams and strengthen weaker teams to achieve parity.

 

They punish success.

 

0-16?

 

You’re first in line.

 

Super Bowl Champs?

 

You go last.

 

Of course, the goal isn’t to destroy the successful team. That wouldn’t achieve parity either. The goal is just to bring the team back into the pack. The league wants the successful team’s fans to remain interested too, believing they still have a chance just like everyone else.

 

This relates to the Spygate scandal involving the New England Patriots

 

By the end of the 2006 season, New England had already established a case for being the decades’ best team. They’d won three Super Bowls in four years. During that span, they posted consecutive 17-2 seasons.

 

However, following their 2006 AFC Championship loss and just when they appeared to be fading away like past dynasties, New England rebooted. They stocked their roster with a series of terrific offseason moves that brought players like Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Adalius Thomas on board.

 

A team that just barely missed the Super Bowl the previous year now looked like a juggernaut destined to breeze to a Super Bowl title. They defied the league’s cherished principles of parity and mediocrity.

 

Then, in the 2007 season opener against the New York Jets, something happened which threatened to derail the Patriots before they even started. Some in the media even tried to use the incident to justify stripping the Patriots of their past accomplishments.         

 

Eric Mangini, the Jets coach from 2006-2008, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick have been linked since 1994. Mangini’s NFL career began with the Cleveland Browns when Belichick coached them. At age 23, Mangini started as a ball boy, but Belichick gave him a vital job preparing game film.  Breaking down film is one of the first things Belichick’s father taught him about the game.

 

In 2000, New England hired Belichick after he refused to coach the Jets. He gave Mangini another opportunity. Mangini served as a position coach until 2005, when Belichick promoted him to defensive coordinator, the same job in which Belichick built his reputation while winning Super Bowls with the New York Giants.

 

In one season, as coordinator, Mangini got the Jets’ attention and they hired him, hoping he could bring Belichick’s methods to New York. At the time, Mangini was the youngest head coach in the league.

 

Unlike the gracious parting between Belichick and other former assistants like Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis, there was some tension. Rumors circulated that Mangini attempted to raid New England’s staff and roster even as the team returned from a playoff loss.

 

Allegedly, the team retaliated by locking Mangini out of his office. Later in the year, New England claimed the Jets violated NFL rules by tampering with New England’s former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch. Branch refused to honor the rest of his contract.

 

The Patriots’ options were to let Branch go, weakening their offense, or to compromise the cap management principles which kept the team competitive. New England traded Branch for an extra first round draft choice.

 

Then there was the Patriots/ Jets camera incident.

 

The first one.

 

When the Jets got caught.

 

In a playoff game, Patriots' security prevented a Jets camera crew from filming. The crew was there in addition to the cameramen already recording game film from end zone and sideline angles. New England security didn’t confiscate the footage and turn it over to the NFL.

 

At a press conference, Mangini said the extra camera was there because he wanted game footage from both end zones. After the Spygate scandal broke, a former Patriots video assistant involved with filming coaches, Matt Walsh, said that was the standard excuse for his filming.

 

(After all, even if the team acted within the rules and some opponents knew what the team was doing, why alert those opponents who didn’t know? Of course, telling the media would alert everyone.)

 

Earlier that season, at Lambeau field, Matt Estrella, another Patriots’ video assistant, faced a similar problem. Packers’ security confronted him for not having the right credentials. The Packers' reaction was like the Patriots’ reaction to the Jets cameramen in the playoff game. The Packers didn’t turn Estrella over to the NFL or take his recording.

 

They just made him stop.     

 

On September 9, 2007, the Patriots and Jets met for the first time following the playoff camera incident. During the first quarter, Jets and NFL security personal detained Estrella, but this went beyond a proportional response to the harassment of their own camera crew.

 

The league confiscated Estrella’s camera and footage. Along with Jets’ cheerleaders performing their routines, Estrella recorded other material which caused controversy. He panned from the scoreboard to Jets’ defensive coaches calling plays via hand signals.

 

It’s standard practice for NFL teams to film their games. (These days, “Film” and “tape” can be misnomers because teams often use digitized footage.) NFL rules govern videotaping and film exchanges which allow teams to study future opponents. Unlike television coverage, game film lets viewers watch all 22 players on the field.

 

(Although Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck enhances his film study with television footage.)

 

Players and coaches can zoom out to study teams working together or zoom in on individual players. Section E of the Miscellaneous rules in the NFL’s Policy Manual for Member Clubs Volume II 2007 Edition reads that “club videographers have to shoot the scoreboard prior to each play,” just as Estrella did.

 

This establishes each play’s situation—the down, distance, and time remaining. Using film, coaches and players can study the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and their opponents. Film also allows teams to study tendencies, plays, tactics, and strategies.

 

Computers enhance film study of tendencies. Teams upload video to computers which reveals what opponents usually do in certain situations. Teams aren’t allowed to watch the video or use the computers during games, but they can study them between games.

 

There's a youtube video showing how one college team makes game film. Film study is often supplemented by signing and questioning players cut by upcoming opponents.

 

In “Spreading the Word Is No Secret In the NFL” (The New York Times, October 26, 2008, it’s revealed that such players sometimes reveal the meaning of their former teams’ signals and audibles to their new teams.

 

The Patriots sparked outrage by filming Jets’ coaching signals rather than just their players. (Yet, somehow it’s perfectly fine if one of that team’s former players simply tells you what all the signals mean.)

 

Teams have long studied signals and tried to decipher them. NFL rules allow this practice. In turn, teams take countermeasures to protect signals. They can change the meaning of their signals. They can have people screening their signalers from eyes on the opposing sideline.

 

Often, they have multiple coaches signaling at the same time with their own players knowing which coach to watch, or they can hope their opponent doesn’t decipher them.

 

Starting in 1994, calling offensive plays became simpler. New rules allowed coaches to call plays through a radio in the quarterback’s helmet. This method makes hand signals unnecessary although teams still have them in case of an emergency. Coaches simply hold laminated sheets in front of their mouths to guard against lip readers.

 

In football’s early days, players often called their own plays, leaving no coaching signals for opponents to decode. In the 1920s, some players, like George Halas and Curly Lambeau served as player/coaches and played three ways: on offense, defense, and special teams.

 

Is it safe to assume they called plays on the field?

 

As late as the 1960s and 70s, many quarterbacks still called their own plays. By this time, however, some coaches called plays from the sideline. For instance, the Packers’ Vince Lombardi had quarterback Bart Starr call most of the offensive plays, but the Packers called defensive plays from the sideline.

 

(See, “Dinner Conversation with Vince Lombardi” from The Vince Lombardi Scrapbook by George Flynn, Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1976, pgs. 17-18.).

 

Paul Brown coached the Browns from 1946-1963 and introduced many innovations to the game. Brown preferred calling plays from the sideline. He experimented with radio helmets for quarterbacks, but the league banned them until 1994. (Starting in 2008, the league allowed defensive players to wear similar helmets.)

 

In one game before the ban, Tom Landry—a Giants assistant who later became a Hall of Fame coach for the Cowboys—tuned into the Browns’ radio frequency, allowing him to call the right defensive plays.

 

The Giants won.

 

(See “Sacks, Lies and Videotape” by Mark Bowden, The New York Times, Sunday May 18, 2008.)

 

Brown also sent plays in with substitute players, “shuttle guards.” This also bypassed hand signs. By the mid to late 1980s, it was rare for quarterbacks to call their own plays. Coaches called them from the sideline often using hand signals which opponents could also see.

 

In a 1990's article about football terminology, Pro Football Weekly discussed hand signals.

 

Electronic and other kinds of subterfuge likewise have a long NFL history. The NFC Championship trophy is named after George Halas. For 63 years, Halas owned the Chicago Bears. For 40 of those years, he coached them, winning 324 games (still the second most in NFL history) and six NFL Championships.

 

During his ownership, the team won a total of eight NFL titles. An innovator who pioneered the use of game film, Halas also had a reputation for espionage. Rivals and reporters claimed that he bugged locker rooms, coaches’ boxes, and teams’ phone systems. They said he had spies watch practices. 

 

In fact, Fido Murphy, a Bears’ scout who also worked for the Steelers, once admitted to having a kid watch a Rams’ practice. The kid hid under the scoreboard, studying the defense. Murphy passed the information to Bears’ coaches and advised them on countering the defense.

 

After George Allen, a Halas assistant and father of former Senator George Allen, left Halas’s staff, he gained a reputation for “paranoia” about other teams spying, especially Halas’s Bears. Allen worried about electronic bugs in offices and locker rooms and about spies watching practices.

 

He even hired a detective, Ed Boyton, for counter-surveillance. The NFL now bans many surveillance methods like bugging field phones.

 

It’s not known when someone first filmed coaching signals. It goes back at least to 1990 when Marty Schottenheimer coached Kansas City. Both on a Fox pregame show and on WFAN, a New York radio station, Jimmy Johnson, who coached the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl Championships, said he also had staffers tape opposing coaches.

 

Johnson said teams could tape signals from the press box, but sometimes the press box was on the wrong side of the field. In that case, the cameraman filmed from the sidelines. Johnson, who also had interns search other teams’ trash for discarded notes and game plans, said taping coaches wasn’t worth the effort and abandoned it.

 

Johnson learned the procedure in 1990 from Mark Hatley, a Kansas Cityscout, who taught him how Marty Schottenheimer’s Chiefs did it. Johnson praised one Schottenheimer assistant, Howard Mudd, as “the best in the entire league at stealing signals.”  During much of the current decade, including their Super Bowl year, Mudd worked for the Indianapolis Colts.

 

One of Belichick’s fiercest Spygate critics and Mudd’s boss from 2002-2008 with the Colts, Tony Dungy, also served on Schottenheimer’s Kansas City staff. Other notable Schottenheimer assistants in Kansas City include Herm Edwards, who later served as the Jets' head coach before returning to the Chiefs in that capacity.

 

Edwards was so familiar with taping tactics that he waved to the Patriots' camera recording him. Long time Steelers' coach Bill Cowher also worked for Schottenheimer in Kansas City. During his career,Schottenheimer also coached the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, and San Diego Chargers.

 

During Schottenheimer’s first few seasons in Kansas City, offenses still used hand signals too, meaning his defense also benefited from deciphering signals.

 

The media reports as if filming opposing coaches is a violation of NFL rules. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shares this belief and apparently based his punishment on it.

 

A September 6, 2006 memo from Ray Anderson, the NFL head of game operations, adds to this. However, the rules don’t support this belief. Anderson’s memo reads, “Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent’s offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches’ booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game.”

 

Unfortunately, the memo misquotes the rules, and Anderson can’t change the rules. Rule changes must be proposed to and voted on by the teams. The NFL cited the misquoted rules against the Patriots from pages A105-A106 of the league’s Policy Manual for Member Clubs Volume II: Game Operations 2007 edition.

 

Miscellaneous Rules and Regulations, Section A. reads, “No video recording devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches’ booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game.”

 

The league also cited a portion of section D against the Patriots. Section D reads, “To ensure the protection of equipment and employees of the teams’ video departments, please follow the guidelines listed for the video shooting booths at your stadium.”

 

The league quoted the first guideline against the Patriots, “All video shooting locations must be enclosed on all sides with a roof overhead.” The rules never prohibit filming coaches. The sections used against the Patriots only concern camera locations.

 

Anderson’s memo adds an emphasis on signals, which isn’t in the rules. Also, Anderson says that videotaping is prohibited from “any other locations accessible to club staff members.”

 

This isn’t in the rules either.

 

The rule mentions only three spots where teams can’t use video equipment during games—the coaches’ booth, the locker room, and the field. No rule bars teams from recording signals as long as they locate their cameras properly.

 

Despite this, Goodell and especially the media continue to portray signal taping as the problem when the only real issue is camera location.

 

Even the location technicality isn’t open and shut. Again, consider the differences between Anderson’s memo and the rules. We’ve already seen that Anderson’s any “location accessible to club staff members” isn’t in the rules.

 

(And if it were, how would staff film games as required?)

 

Of the three locations the rules actually mention, Anderson substitutes “sidelines” for “field.”

 

That’s important.

 

NFL rules seem to define “the field” as the area between the sidelines and the endlines. By that definition, a camera man standing out of bounds isn’t on the “field,” although the rule would stop teams from using helmet cameras like those which the networks sometimes use.

 

Also, using the Section D guideline about enclosed locations against the Patriots is disputable. The manual says the locations “ensure the protection of equipment and employees.” It doesn’t require teams to shoot from those locations. It only asks that teams provide them.

 

Defending himself, Bill Belichick said he interpreted the rules based on Article IX of The NFL Constitution and By-laws. Among other things, Article IX concerns videotaping. It reads, “Any use by any club at any time, from the start to the finish of any game in which such club is a participant, of any communications or information-gathering equipment, other than Polaroid-type cameras or field telephones, shall be prohibited, including without limitation videotape machines, telephone tapping, or bugging devices, or any other form of electronic devices that might aid a team during the playing of a game.”

 

This seems to ban all taping, but, as we’ve seen, the league has two pages of rules requiring teams to tape and exchange the recordings.

 

Isn’t that contradictory?

 

The NFL reconciles it by interpreting Article IX to mean that teams can film during games, but they can only use the recordings between games, not during them. Belichick applied this interpretation to ground level taping too.

 

Goodell disagreed.

 

Goodell’s ruling means he applies the Article IX interpretation to Sections B, C, E, and most of D in the Miscellaneous Rules, but to not Section A and the first guideline in Section D.

 

In contrast, Belichick applied it consistently.

 

Goodell, a former Jets employee, fined Belichick $500,000, the maximum allowed by The NFL Constitution and By-laws. He fined the team an additional $250,000 and stripped it of a draft pick conditional on where the team placed.

 

If the team made the playoffs, they lost a first round pick. If they didn’t, they lost second and third rounders. Interestingly, Goodell based his punishment on how well the team did without the camera. The better they did without it, the worse the punishment got.

 

If something is wrong, it’s wrong, is it not?

 

The punishment should be the same regardless of how well the team did without the camera. Besides, wouldn’t a strong performance without the camera prove the camera was less important than detractors thought, while a poor performance would have proved the filming was a big help?

 

So, why increase the punishment based on a good performance without the camera?

 

Rather than merely punishing the Patriots for the camera, it seems more like an extracurricular attempt to enforce parity, using a trumped up technicality as an excuse to seize a draft choice to balance additions like Moss and Welker, and to distract and demoralize a team primed to dominate.

 

Despite the controversy and distractions, the Patriots made the playoffs and lost their first rounder. It was higher than the picks stripped from the San Francisco 49ers or the Denver Broncos when they broke salary cap rules.

 

In this decade, New England selected several of their key players in the first round. They include starters Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Jerod Mayo, Logan Mankins, Ben Watson, Laurence Maroney, Brandon Meriweather, and the now departed Daniel Graham.

 

As a group, these players account for numerous individual honors including Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. It’s true that New England got another first rounder in 2008, but that pick ultimately came from the loss of a Super Bowl MVP. When New England traded Deion Branch after his refusal to play and possible Jets’ tampering, they got a first round pick from Seattle in 2007 and traded their own pick for San Francisco’s 2008 pick.

 

So, Goodell’s punishment means that New England lost their compensation for Branch. They lost a pick that could have helped the team either as trade material or a player.

 

Roger Goodell’s handling of New England’s tapes worsened the controversy. Goodell originally intended to secure the tapes.

 

However, someone leaked them to Jay Glazer of Fox, and Fox showed portions on a pregame show. Goodell believed that if he secured the tapes and new copies emerged, it would prove that New England hadn’t turned over all their copies, paving the way for further punishment.

 

Also, despite believing the tapes provided little advantage, Goodell wanted to prevent New England and other teams from using them. So, when securing the tapes proved futile, Goodell destroyed them instead. Goodell’s arbitrary and pointless decision showed no appreciation for the tapes’ historical importance and a failure to foresee a predictable public reaction.

 

It didn’t even provide the security Goodell sought or aid any “cover-up” feared by fans because copies of the tapes survived Goodell’s decision. Jay Glazer of Fox still has his copies.

 

Maybe making the footage public would help restore public confidence. The league and Glazer could even put the footage on the NFL’s website under an arrangement where they’d both make money. Much of the hue and cry comes from claims that the evidence was destroyed and no one will ever see what was on the tapes.

 

But copies still exist. Let the public see the evidence!

 

On November 15, 2007, before the Patriots played the Philadelphia Eagles, Senator Arlen Specter, an Eagles fan, wrote to Goodell about the Spygate investigation. Goodell didn’t respond, so Specter wrote again on December 19, 2007.

 

Specter pressed Goodell about his previous questions and expressed new concerns, especially about the tapes’ destruction.

 

(See how making the copies public can help?)

 

Goodell still didn’t respond. Shortly before the Super Bowl, with New England trying for an undefeated season, Specter went public. Combined with another major accusation made in the Boston Herald, this created a last minute firestorm around the Patriots as they tried to focus on the biggest game in team history and one of the biggest in NFL history—a game they then lost.

 

On January 31, 2008, Goodell finally replied, claiming he’d only seen Senator’s Specter’s letter for the first time that day, and that he took steps to ensure faster future communications with Specter.

 

Goodell’s response showed poor command of detail. Speaking of the Eagles and Patriots he said that other than the Super Bowl, “The two teams had only played one other game against each other in the current decade, a preseason game in the summer of 2003.”

 

Goodell might not remember every game between the league’s 32 teams in the previous eight years, but that would be all the more reason to research the details before making a statement like that.

 

Goodell was wrong.

 

Counting the preseason, the teams met four times in two and-a-half years before the Super Bowl. The Commissioner’s inattention to detail here echoes his problems with the videotaping rules. Goodell’s misfire on publicly available, easily searchable facts raises questions about mistakes regarding less publicized information.

 

Specter wasn’t the only one making a Spygate splash just before Super Bowl XLII. The day before the game, a Boston Herald story claimed the Patriots taped a St. Louis Rams walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI.

 

(A walkthrough is a light, low intensity practice.)

 

Also, former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh came forward, claiming he had relevant information and that the league hadn’t contacted him during its investigation. The media implied that Walsh had a Rams tape.

 

Also, the media apparently never bothered to find out if there even are rules against filming practices. In May 2008, after months of negotiations, Walsh finally met with Goodell. He only had tapes from 2000-2002, which he’d stolen from the team and which contained signals. He had no walkthrough tape and admitted he never made one.

 

Super Bowl practice areas bristle with cameras and swarm with media. Before a Super Bowl between the Buffalo Bills and the Cowboys, Dallas’s Jimmy Johnson saw the Bills practice a play designed to attack a Cowboy defensive tendency. Forewarned, Johnson’s assistants adjusted for it.

 

How did Johnson see it?

 

Because ESPN cameras kept rolling a few minutes after the Bills’ practice started and ESPN broadcasted it.

 

(See: “Patriots Spygate Story May Have More Episodes” by Mark Gaughan, The Buffalo News, February 10, 2008. Note that the article contains erroneous information about the Patriots admitting to taping only since 2006, and the NFL punishing them for taping only during that time frame.

 

In fact, the Patriots had admitted to taping since 2000, and Goodell punished them for that whole period. Gaughan got the Bills/Cowboys information from former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. A USA Today article cites Johnson’s version. )

 

Walsh said he was present during the Rams’ walkthrough, setting up cameras as the league allows. The NFL investigation confirmed the camera didn’t have a battery pack, so Walsh couldn’t have recorded. Walsh denied he was behind the rumors about the tape.

 

The Boston Herald apologized and blamed improper sourcing. Combined with what happened to the Bills, the fear that teams could film practices should prompt preemptive measures.

 

Why not allow teams to conduct pre-Super Bowl practices in media free facilities with no cameras or other recording devices set up except by the practicing team?

 

The league has shown no interest in such safeguards and neither has the media. Concern about such taping suddenly shot up when it made a great pregame distraction, and vanished when Walsh didn’t have a smoking gun.   

 

In the end, Spygate seems like those stories where the headline screams, “Starlet Goes Out in the Buff,” but the story is actually about her not wearing makeup.

 

Her face was naked, get it?

 

In other words, the media and the league took a camera placement technicality and blew it out of proportion. It’s legal for NFL teams to scout opponents’ signals, and no rule actually says teams can’t film them. Coaches started videotaping opponents’ signals before Bill Belichick even got his first head coaching job. There’s no blow against the game’s integrity here.

 

At worst, the Patriots might have violated a camera location technicality, and even that’s disputable. The real problem is not what the Patriots shot, but where they shot from.

 

Just because fans spurred by media demagogues weren’t sated, it doesn’t make Goodell’s punishment less Draconian. Also, it was sensible to assume, as Belichick did, that the Article IX interpretation uniformly applied to all of the videotaping rules.

 

New England’s possession of the 49ers’ first round pick might appear to offset the loss of their own pick, however they gained that pick through a chain of events resulting from the loss of Deion Branch.

 

Thus in losing a first round pick, the Patriots in effect lost a Super Bowl MVP still under contract to them without compensation. Belichick’s fine, the fine of the team, and worst of all, the highest draft pick ever docked amounts to a substantial punishment.

 

While Patriot haters wanted it to be worse, the punishment was far too harsh.

 

The league could have resolved the situation at an earlier date by simply speaking with New England about their concerns. Instead, the league played a game of “gotcha.”

 

Belichick’s actions are consistent with someone who believed he was following rules, making no attempt to conceal his use of a videotaping procedure used elsewhere before he even got his first head coaching job.

 

Belichick didn’t send Estrella out with an easily obtainable hidden camera. For seven years, he had cameramen stand in plain sight of other teams, thousands of fans, and television cameras. Critics voice dismay that the NFL didn’t follow a legal investigation’s standards.

 

These same critics often forget two of the most hallowed fundamentals of our democratic judicial system. One is protection from double jeopardy. Belichick and the Patriots have already been punished. Another is the prohibition against ex post facto laws.

 

In fact, this is worse than ex post facto. This is worse than punishing someone for taping before there was a rule against taping. The NFL still hasn’t added a rule against taping signals.

 

The NFL can improve the situation going forward. The league claims large portions of the rules are proprietary information. The playing rules are available to the public, but The NFL Constitution and By-Laws and The National Football League Policy Manual for Member Clubs aren’t.

 

The Spygate episode centers on rules from those two documents. The NFL should make them available. Post them online. Greater access to what the rules really say would have allowed for fairer discussion.

 

Also, why didn’t the league hold public hearings and allow an offseason appeal when the Patriots weren’t in the midst of preparing for games?

 

Goodell should never have destroyed the Patriots’ copies of the tapes. Fortunately, copies still exist. Make them available to the public. If the league wants integrity, the whole process should be clear and open to the public.

 

Did the league question Jimmy Johnson about videotaping?

 

Why not question Marty Schottenheimer and his former assistants including Bill Cowher, Herm Edwards, and Tony Dungy about the Chiefs’ videotaping practices and whether they did anything similar in other jobs?

 

The goal here is to get the truth, so they should have immunity from punishment in exchange for their answers. Since the practice didn’t originate with him, it would be interesting to know where Belichick learned it from.

 

The league should revise Article IX to reflect the interpretation which allows teams to make game film. Even with new rules allowing defenders to wear helmets with communication systems, if the league still doesn’t want teams filming opposing coaches, the league should write it into the rules and screen all material from teams' film.

 

Better yet, why not ban teams from all camera use and require NFL Films to make all game film?

 

Will the league ever take such steps?

 

Probably not.

 

In the end, all that matters is that success got punished,and parity reigned.

 

9-7 teams in the Super Bowl anyone?   

 

 

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