First we had Bountygate, and while that was fun for a while, it’s since faded. There was outrage, Gregg Williams sounding like a frothy yet very hungry dog, and Sean Payton was stripped of his job for a year.
Great times were had by all, but it wasn’t good enough for the Saints, and specifically Mickey Loomis. The Saints’ general manager was already suspended for the first eight games of the upcoming season for his role in the Bounty mess, but now it appears as though he had a little too much time on his hands to play with microphones around the Superdome.
Here’s your hammer, ESPN’s Outside The Lines. Please continue to smash the already shattered remains of New Orleans’ football soul.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana was told Friday that New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had an electronic device in his Superdome suite that had been secretly re-wired to enable him to eavesdrop on visiting coaching staffs for nearly three NFL seasons, “Outside the Lines” has learned.
Loomis’ alleged activity began in the 2002 season–his first in New Orleans–and lasted throughout the 2003 and 2004 seasons, although OTL could report only that Loomis had an electronic listening device in his possession, and could not confirm whether or not he specifically used it for eavesdropping. They confirmed that the device was indeed re-wired and capable of eavesdropping on the conversations of opposing coaches, and it came complete with a toggle switch for offense and defense. That’s still a hole in any potential legal process, but the journalists will leave that for the Feds. Louisiana’s district attorney is aware of Loomis’ alleged conduct, and has briefed the FBI on the matter.
So now we have a sort of twisted Spygate-ish James Bond operation inside the Superdome in addition to Bountygate, only this is arguably worse than Spygate because whereas Bill Belichick was recording images, Loomis may have taped conversations about game plans.
If these allegations are true, good luck cleaning the stench of lying and cheating from your formerly pristine and respected football outpost, New Orleans. The Saints immediately denied any eavesdropping, while league spokesperson Greg Aiello said the NFL wasn’t aware of any illegal conduct involving a listening device.
But right now it’s a little unclear as to exactly how pungent that cheating odor may be. As numerous sources have eagerly pointed out in just the hour or so since the latest OTL report that isn’t citing unnamed men in white shirts, Loomis can obtain strategic information and play calls until his ears begin to ooze with a red fluid of some kind, but he doesn’t have the football intelligence to translate what he’s hearing quickly and relay it to the sidelines.
Here’s a hypothetical example. It’s Week 16 of this past season, and the Saints are at home to play a crucial divisional game against the Falcons. In the second quarter just before Matt Ryan takes a snap, Loomis taps into his little HAM radio set to hear this: Hippopotamus XY wiggle, downslope 3 Z.
I just made that up, or did I? Loomis wouldn’t know, and would only assume that “hippopotamus” is a surprise appearance and run by Billy Bob from Varsity Blues. In that specific situation in which Loomis could hear the opposition’s verbiage, he would have to translate it, and then have an intricate system to relay that message down to the field in seconds so a defense could do something meaningful with the information. Due to both logistics and Loomis’ lack of X’s and O’s knowledge, that simply wouldn’t happen, and it showed in New Orleans’ record between 2002 and 2004. During the time when Loomis may have been tuning in, the Saints were 12-12 at home.
However, the record is irrelevant when the integrity of the game is threatened. There’s far more than just play calls discussed by the coaches upstairs. Strategy is bounced around as the minds in the room debate ideas, and maybe talk about a minor injury that was hidden from the Saints. Those chunks of audio would actually be far more important than any play call because offensive verbiage can always be altered.
Since nearly the moment Bountygate began we heard the standard defenses, and the topic quickly became polarizing. Hell, just this morning we featured another Bountygate defense by a recently retired player who said that every NFL contract is in effect a bounty. As grimy and disgusting as the Saints’ pay for performance scheme was, a debate still existed, and it spawned an intelligent conversation that’s still going. The main argument for Bountygate defenders was essentially that we were being shown the sausage making apparatus that’s inside every NFL locker room.
That won’t happen here, since there is no conversation. There can’t be, because wiretapping any room anywhere isn’t just against NFL regulations, it’s against the law. But that’s where some fog begins to descend again. Sparing you the elongated legal jargon, just know this: if it can be proven that the Saints were still trying to cover up their electronic espionage as of 2007, then under the five-year statute of limitations the franchise or individuals (i.e: Loomis) can be sued.
While the pursuit of justice in an actual court on this matter may still be a little murky, the court of public opinion will be very clear, very quickly, and the ruling will linger for years, and possibly decades. Spygate occured in 2007, and yet despite losing only 16 regular-season games in the four years since and being on the losing end of this year’s Super Bowl by only four points, those who wear tin foil hats and believe in grassy knolls still refer to Spygate when the Pats lose an important game.
Denials are already flying, but telling the truth isn’t high on the priority list in New Orleans after they brazenly continued a bounty scheme for three years.
Now we play the waiting game for more information to emerge from ESPN, but the damage has already been done, and between Bountygate and Wiregate (yep, we’re tossing that painful name on there already), the Saints may not earn respect again for another decade.