Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
The Riddler

Cheating In The NFL

Rate this topic

2 posts in this topic

Great Article in the New York Times about Cheating from 2001. Who would of thought a few Superbowl's won by a nobody team and a whiny now out of the NFL coach (mangini) was the breaking point to finally see action taken by the NFL.


PRO FOOTBALL: INSIDE THE N.F.L.; Some Coaches Reading Lips to Steal Plays


Published: October 28, 2001


Sign In to E-Mail



There have been numerous tales of espionage in the National Football League, but the latest attempts by teams to steal another's plays may be the most ingenious, yet strange, of them all: it involves reading lips.


Lip reading is a tactic some coaches and scouts are increasingly employing to capture another team's signals, and in turn, anticipate what play is coming, some N.F.L. coaches said. To prevent lip reading, more coaches and assistants -- when sending in plays to the quarterback or the defense using the radio system that pipes plays into the players' helmet -- are shielding their mouths when giving the call.


''Stealing signals is an old art form in the N.F.L.,'' Lovie Smith, the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator, said recently. ''But this newest thing is pretty unusual and more teams are trying it.''


Giants Coach Jim Fassel said: ''There have been rumors that has been happening. But if someone can pull it off, more power to them, because it seems extremely hard to do.''


''It may be happening,'' Fassel added, ''but I don't buy it is happening a lot. It's too difficult.''


But if lip-reading thievery is rare, then why are so many who call plays from the sideline shielding their mouths when sending in the plays?


Some old-school forms of spying used simpler techniques. The Giants once claimed that opposing teams stuck assistant coaches in a hotel along Route 3 in New Jersey that overlooked their practice field so they could see the plays the Giants practiced.


Now, lip reading takes spying to an entirely new level of sophistication.


There are two ways this type of spying works. The first method actually happens during the game but is less reliable. Say, for example, the Giants' offensive coordinator, Sean Payton, as he normally does, stands on the sideline and sends in the play to quarterback Kerry Collins, using a radio device that sends Payton's voice into the player's helmet.


As Payton is sending in the play, an opposing coach or scout, high up in the coaches' box and using high-powered binoculars, reads Payton's lips. The play is usually read slowly by Payton so the quarterback can understand it, allowing the spy a legitimate chance to understand what is being said.


The spy makes note of the play call, writes it down and waits for the play to come again. It is not uncommon for a coach to use the same play call several times in a game and many more in a season. When he sees the same play called, the spy in the sky radios down to coaches on the sideline, who then tell players what is coming.


Obviously, if a defense knows what an offense is going to do that is a huge tactical advantage.


There is one problem, however, with this particular lip-reading system, as Fassel pointed out. ''There's too much chaos during a game to pull something like that off on a continuing basis,'' he said. ''Maybe a play or two gets stolen that way. Maybe. Because by the time an opposing coach reads lips, tells the coaches on the field what he thinks the other team is going to do, and that coach instructs the players, too much time has gone by.''


But it has happened, coaches insist, and sometimes very successfully.


Another scenario, coaches say, involves television and makes lip reading much easier. Networks often show extreme close-ups of coaches as they call plays. Opponents videotape the games and later read the lips of the few coaches who do not shield their mouths.

There have also been instances when scouts have videotaped opposing coaches while standing on the opposing sideline or sitting in an upper deck box. They later review the tape, slowing it down to make it easier to understand the target's words, coaches said.


The spy will then match the play called to what the defense does on the field and -- presto -- they have stolen a call. If the teams play again the heisted information might be useful.


One National Football Conference assistant coach said he has stolen several dozen plays from a total of five or six teams using all of these methods. ''Cover your mouth,'' said the coach, who asked not to be identified, ''and your plays are safe, but get careless and you're fair game.''


Stealing plays from an offense this way is much more difficult than taking them from a defense, however. That is because most offensive plays have a lot more words.


''I think defensive coaches like myself worry about this more than offenses,'' Smith said. ''That's because of the verbiage. An offensive play might be 'Z right 20 Bingo, blah, blah, blah' and go on for 10 or more words. It's hard to steal that play by reading lips because it's so long. It happens but it's hard.''


''But most defensive calls are short,'' Smith added. '' 'Three-over' or something like that. That can be stolen kind of easy.''


Smith said Rams coaches do not steal signals using the lip-reading method because ''you want to get every edge but really in the end how well does it work?''


''In the end you're still guessing to a degree and we don't want our players to guess, we want them to know,'' he said.


But Smith thinks that other teams have stolen signals this way. Fassel said a microphone extending from his headset protects him from potential thievery since it covers his mouth. When the Giants played Philadelphia last Monday night, Payton, while reading from his play sheet and making the call on his headset to Collins, would sometimes use the sheet as a shield, hiding his mouth.


Eagles Coach Andy Reid, on almost every call he made in that game, shielded his face. Other coaches say they cup their hands around their mouths, not to shield them from spies, but to block out as much crowd noise as possible when calling in the play.


There are some coaches who worry about the new form of play stealing but Fassel is not one of them. ''If someone is that smart to pull this off they should be curing cancer,'' he said, joking, ''not coaching football.''


Bettis Is Consistent


Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis is not quite there yet, but his career is beginning to approach Hall of Fame status.


In a nine-year career that has seen him physically pounded like few backs in football history -- some hits he takes, some he gives -- Bettis has missed just three games because of injury. He is No. 13 on the career rushing list with 10,354 yards, last week becoming only the 14th player to pass the 10,000-yard barrier.


If Bettis plays another one or two seasons he would be in the top 10 in rushing yards. If he can produce 1,000 yards a season for five years -- not probable but possible -- Bettis could end up in the top five or three on the career list.


Coming into this season, Bettis had tied Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson and Ricky Watters for third place with seven seasons of 1,000 or more yards rushing. Since Bettis has 550 yards rushing after just five games this year, barring injury Bettis will have another 1,000-yard season, tying him at eight with Franco Harris, Tony Dorsett and Thurman Thomas.


The record is 10 by Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith, another reachable mark for Bettis.


Moss Less a Deep Threat


Why is Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss suddenly not as big a deep threat this season? One reason is nagging injuries but another more significant one is schemes defenses are using. Cornerbacks and safeties are playing far off Moss, giving him the underneath routes, but taking away his explosive, deep touchdown passes.


The result is that Moss is averaging about 5 fewer yards a catch this year than his career average, even though he is still averaging 13.6 yards a catch and has a team-high 29 receptions.


Photo: The Steelers' Jerome Bettis is No. 13 on the N.F.L.'s career rushing list with 10,354 yards. He has 550 rushing yards after just 5 games this year. (Eliot Schechter/Allsport)




Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting that the two coordinators interviewed or mentioned, Lovie and Sean Payton, went on to become HC's in the Super Bowl. I wonder if Moss and Bettis will ever turn it around and get to a Super Bowl. wink.gif

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to register here in order to participate.

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.