Deion Sanders, on NFL Network talking with LaDainian Tomlinson, bristled at the idea that the Patriots would have an asterisk by their titles because of cheating scandals, and then accused the Indianapolis Colts (with Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy) of doing the same. Via Pro Football Talk:
“Those same critics, did they say anything about the wins that the Indianapolis Colts had? You want to talk about that too? Because they were getting everybody’s signals,” Sanders said. “Come on, you don’t walk up to the line and look over here and the man on the sideline giving you the defense that they’ve stolen the plays of. We all knew. L.T. knew. Everybody in the NFL knew. We just didn’t let the fans know. That was real and that was happening in Indy.”
Tony Dungy (who works with NBC and Mike Florio on the SNF broadcast) appeared on Pro Football Talk Live to discuss the allegations made by Sanders on NFL Network. Dungy basically said that trying to steal signals is not cheating and every team in the NFL has tried to do it since the beginning of the game. He went through the history of the league, with guards rotating and running plays in so teams couldn’t see sideline signals, with wristbands and using multiple people to signal to hide the true one, and lots of other details. He even included this story:
I’ll give you the opposite side of the coin. We’re playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m the coach of the Indianapolis Colts on a Monday night. Peyton Manning came to me before the game and said, ‘Bruce Arians used to be with us, is now coaching there, I know he’s told them our hand signals. I’m going to get them because I’m going to give a fake run signal and I know they’re going to bite because Bruce has told them our signals.’ And on the first play of the game, he gave a signal to Marvin Harrison, Ike Taylor, Pittsburgh’s corner, thought it was a run play, and it was an 82-yard touchdown.
“That’s all part of the game, but doing it legally and illegally, that’s the difference. I hope Deion is not saying we did something illegally. Of course we got signals when we had an opportunity to do that, and so did Deion.”
The reason that the Patriots got in trouble for Spygate is that the league had explicitly told teams not to videotape sidelines (so they could be reviewed later), and they continued to do it. Dungy’s right, here. Heck, in youth baseball, we had a team where we suspected a coach was calling out in code the pitch type, and my son and the catcher reversed all the signs and struck out the side against them, like Dungy’s Ike Taylor story. Within the confines of sports, it’s going against the explicit rules that get you in trouble.