Saints’ Bugging Allegations Worse Than Patriots’ Spygate Scandal From Competitive Balance Perspective


April 23, 2012

Saints' Bugging Allegations Worse Than Patriots' Spygate Scandal From Competitive Balance PerspectiveIf proven true, the newest allegations against the Saints should be considered a much harsher crime than the Patriots' Spygate scandal.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis is being investigated for allegedly using an electronic device to listen to opposing coaches during games from 2002 to 2004, according to ESPN. The Saints have vehemently denied the claims, but the report is filled with so many details that it's going to drum up enough controversy to stay in the news for quite some time.

Loomis is also set to serve an eight-game suspension in 2012 for his role in the Saints' bounty system, which drew some historically severe punishments. But the bugging allegations could prove to be a knockout blow for both Loomis and the Saints.

By listening to coaches' conversations, Loomis would be able to hear play calls, strategy discussions, injury information, personnel groupings and scouting reports against his own team. Since self-scouting is such an important aspect — and often saved for reflection after the game — it could be vital for a team's success to know if it's tipping plays or has an area of weakness that an opponent is working to exploit.

The merits of the Patriots' Spygate scandal have been debated to death. Maybe it was immediately advantageous to videotape an opponent's play calls. Maybe it was more for a long-term effect.

But understanding a team's actual strategy on the fly is a whole different dynamic. Despite the misinformation given publicly, teams always know right away if their player suffered an injury that's serious enough to keep them out of the remainder of a game. If the opponent knows that, they could adjust an entire portion of their game plan.

And if the coaches discuss how to set up a trick play — or even something as simple as play-action passes, misdirections or zone blitzes — over the course of a series or three, the opponent could save itself from a momentum-swinging mistake.

The Saints' bounty system earned them a much steeper set of penalties than the Patriots' Spygate scandal, but those two weren't perfectly comparable in terms of competitive balance. From that standpoint, the Saints' latest allegations are easily worse than those by the Patriots, and if proven true, the punishment will be reflective of that.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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