Though we may be in the off-season for football, the rumor mill took a turn for the worst if you are a Saints fan. ESPN’s Outside the Lines is reporting that from 2002-2004, New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis was rumored to be listening in on opponents play calls when they were playing at the Superdome, home of the Saints.
According to the report, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was notified on Friday by a source about the listening device installed in Loomis’s suite above the playing field. At this point, these are just rumors, as an investigation will soon be launched and I expect the NFL to come down heavily. The source claimed that prior to Loomis, Saints GM Randy Mueller had the device installed to listen to Saints play calls, both offensive and defensively, but not opponents.
For those of you that have forgot so quickly, the New England Patriots were fined heavily by the league in 2007 for having taped opposing coaches hand signals in a game against the New York Jets on September 7th, 2007. Commissioner Roger Goodell came down hard on the Patriots, fining the organization $500,000, head coach Bill Belicheck $250,000, and stripping the team’s first round pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
This, however, goes much further. It is one thing to note hand signals from opposing coaches. Many teams switch their hand signals from game to game and year to year. For example, the Oregon Ducks change board signs every week for offensive play calls. Other teams use different snap counts, etc. Some teams, however, elect to not change calls, like the New York Giants, who Cris Collinsworth called out during a game.
Even if Loomis did not share the information with the team’s defensive coordinator at the time, Rick Venturi, the question of this is legality. According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, it is illegal (and a federal offense) for an individual to intercept any oral or electronic communication by using a device, such as that Loomis is said to had.
The NFL Constitution clearly state in Article 9, Section C, Point 14 that any employee shall refrain from
“Use at any time, from the start to the finish of any game in which a club is a participant any communications or information gathering equipment, other than Polaroid-type cameras or field telephones, including without limitation videotape machines, telephone tapping or bugging devices, or any other form of electronic device that might aid a team during the playing of a game”
That certainly is not good news for the Saints. This offense is much worse than Spygate. The Patriots were penalized initially based upon a single game, and video during the game was never used. This, however, was in game action between the Saints and their opponents. My colleague Mike Terrill comments about that here.
The Saints, if this is true, are going to be given a serious penalty. If Bounty Gate had not happened, I could see Goodell being a little less harsh, but two major violations of league rules in such a short time is going to bring some serious repercussions.
I expect Goodell to take at least one first round picks and at least one more, perhaps a second rounder, while fining Loomis and the Saints the maximum amount possible under league rules, if these allegations are true. I would’t even be surprised if Goodell would limit roster sizes, salary cap limits, or something along the sorts much like the NCAA does with recruiting violations in terms of scholarships.
The Saints could be in even worse trouble than they thought after their Bounty schemes while causing irreparable damage to their franchise.
Follow Paul Troupe on Twitter @gamin4HIM