Monday, May 19, 2008

Spy vs. Spy

It's hard to get away from Spygate these days, but given my lack of predilection for New England Patriots news, I've been pretty successful thus far.

That is, until today, when the Trib's Brian Hamilton brought it up. He doesn't accuse Weis of wrong-doing, but wonders why he's been so silent on the subject. He was on the Patriots' coaching staff during that time, wasn't he? Why isn't he explaining himself, and why aren't the fans pressing for an explanation? What does all that say about Notre Dame's integrity?

Well, allow me to answer on behalf of the queried: It doesn't say a damn thing. In no particular order of importance, here are my reasons as a Notre Dame alumnus and fan why I really don't care about Spygate:

It's not a Notre Dame matter. I realize that phrase is giving some pundits a facial tic, but that's the crux of it. Much as it might run better if we did, Notre Dame alumni don't rule the world. I can't control what people do in external positions, and as long as what they do doesn't affect ND, I don't have room in my brain to care.

I've talked in the past about ND accountability in the media. I'm not looking for a snowjob. If there's wrong-doing in South Bend, let me know, because I want it rooted out at all costs. And with this, there was no wrong-doing in South Bend. This was something that happened years ago in New England. I don't see the relevance.

No one is perfect. While I expect coaches to come as close as possible to that standard when they're employed by ND, the before and after really aren't worthy of my attention. Granted, I don't want someone like Kelvin Sampson or Dennis Erickson getting a job on campus, and we likely dodged an ethical bullet with Meyer, but those represent the extremes of thought. As George Carlin once said, somewhere between "Live Free or Die" and "Famous Potatoes", the truth lies.

Next, Weis is not a Patriots employee anymore. This one may not seem intuitive, so I'll explain.

There's nothing I hate more than when a former Notre Dame coach pontificates about the state of the various programs. Yes, they have a unique perspective on the position, and there's a value to that perspective when discussing how things are going. But by the same token, the state of both Notre Dame and the various sports it fields changes over time, and things like scholarship limits and scheduling concerns and scholastic standards may not be the same as they were when the coach in question is under the Dome. They didn't like being second-guessed during their tenure, so why put the shoe on the other hand now?

I can handle it when someone like Lou or Ara or Tom Pagna or Digger does it, because those men contributed a lot to Notre Dame in their lives and Notre Dame had great success as a result. So if they want to share their thoughts, I'm willing to listen to them. But when nitwits like Bob Davie or (even worse) Tyrone Willingham go off the reservation, I need to break out the calamine lotion. Gerry Faust gets a five-minute window per year to prairie-dog his philosophies, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

So I can understand why Weis wants to stay out of it. He's not part of that organization anymore. The Patriots are dealing with the situation as they see fit, and for a former employee to suddenly start chiming in is disrespectful. If I were a Pats fan, I would give less than a damn about what he thought about Spygate, particularly since....

Weis wasn't the head coach at the time. If the entire thing was Weis' brainchild or he put together the initiative, I'd probably be more concerned. But the responsibility for wrong-doing, such as it was, has been laid by the NFL at the feet of Pats' management in general and Bill Belichick in particular. The buck stops with him. I find it odd that Weis gets singled out here, yet as far as I know, Romeo Crennel -- who is still in the NFL and has had a much poorer performance as a coach since leaving the Pats than Weis has -- has not been pursued in this manner. Considering offensive signals were taped as well as defensive, I'm guessing that means the NFL sees Crennel as a soldier who was doing what he was told, much as Weis would be were he still there.

This is why the analogy of George "By God, It's" O'Leary breaks down. O'Leary wrote his own resume, and had ample time over the years to fix it. By submitting that resume to Notre Dame, he directly lied to the people who hired him. I don't know what Weis has been asked about Spygate, but knowing Notre Dame as I do, I'm pretty confident questions have been asked and I'd imagine whatever answers were received were to Kevin White's, Fr. Jenkins', and John Affleck-Graves' satisfaction. If it comes out later that Weis was not truthful in that case, I'm sure that will be evaluated just as O'Leary's situation was, and if that ever happens, wake me and let me know because I won't be interested until then.

And finally, I don't see what the big deal is. The contests they taped were part of public record. It's not like they were sneaking into practices. Had the allegation they had taped a walk-through been proven correct, that'd be a horse of a different color. But now we have a major metropolitan newspaper apologizing for suggesting it happened.

Sign-stealing happens in every team sport that uses them. Catchers change them up when there's a man on second, and no one bats an eye. Sure, it's on the unseemly side, and my preference would be that it not happen. But I'm not that naive.

Besides, how much did it really help? You're asking someone on the sidelines to read the opponents' signals, get them to the applicable coach, who then has to call a play quickly and relay that to the captain before the play clock runs out. I think it's interesting that the game so much of being made of was a Patriots loss. If you only score 16 points and you allegedly know the plays your opponents' D is running, the guys from the Jewish house are telling you all the answers you had were wrong.

I think obsession with Weis on this is more than a little goofy. Are we so desperate these days to keep salacious commentary in the news that we continue to beat Eight Belles long after the fact? Notre Dame's integrity is rooted in the fact it follows the rules of college sports and holds its people accountable on the field, in the classroom, and everywhere else, not the degree to which an assistant coach participated in a resolved matter from the NFL five years ago. Those Haughian nit-picks tend to skew gratuitous.

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Blogger Wooderson said...

With regards to stealing signals on the football field, its something that everyone on a football field is trying to do at all times.

I speak from experience. As a defensive lineman in high school, I'd listen to the guys opposite me on the OL calling their blocking signals out before the snap. I would try to remember which signals corresponded to which blocking scheme (i.e., "Scoop, scoop!" "Eagle, eagle!"). Why? because I didn't want to get my rear planted in the turf, and I wanted to have a reasonable shot at tackling the RB, or at least clogging up the hole so the LBs could make the play.

This happened in JV and in varsity games, and I would have to imgagine that it's in every players best interests to try and do so in the college and professional levels as well.

Stealing signals is part of the game, it was part of it long before Spygate and I doubt that anything Arlen specter does is going to keep future JV linemen from trying to anticipate where the ball is going to next. If people see fit to drag ND through the mud for something that the NFL commisioner has already declared a closed case and meted out punishments for, then those people have issues they need to sort out on their own time.

5/19/2008 06:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article.

While acknowledging that the nature of the violations are entirely different, would the same logic (i.e. "It's not a ND matter" and "Weis doesn't work for the Pats anymore") work for Rich Rod re WVU?

5/19/2008 07:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's not an ND matter." "The before and the after don't concern me." I sometimes wonder what Notre Dame community you're apart of. Those of us with pride in the notion that "We are ND" say that to mean we are proud of the who we are and what the university helped us become, not just who we were for the brief period when we resided in South Bend.

Extracurricular matters of character can not conveniently be relevant. I don't think we as a community of fans accept that "the before and after" doesn't matter when we ridicule (and rightfully so) teams that recruit thuggery or whose legacy alumni are a pattern of criminal behavior.

I like your blog, along with the other NDNation blogs, but they need to accept that ND isn't perfect, nor is Charlie Weis. No one wants him to be, season records excepted. As a Notre Dame man, I want to know that the man responsible, in part along with all the other faculty and staff at ND, for building young men of character and social responsibility takes responsibility for his own actions, IF HE SHOULD RIGHTFULLY DO SO - and I make no judgement one way or the other about Weis' involvement. Were he materially invovled though, a real, proud ND fan would want to know and want an explanation. No Excuses - Play Like A Champion.

C Hoffman'03

5/19/2008 07:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stealing signs on the field or by observation is one thing (allowable by the NFL), but recording them is another (not allowable by the NFL).

Charlie got this job in part because of his playcalling abilities. If his calls were assisted by ill-gotten insights into the defenses, then it does become a Notre Dame matter. It was based at least in part on his ability to dissect and exploit defensive weaknesses. If he was aware of defensive signals by means the league didn't allow, he should own up to it. More than anything else, this would end the speculation and leave the media nowhere else to go.

5/19/2008 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never heard this discussed, but is taping signals allowed at the college level?

If yes, and if it's so dang helpful - I sure hope we're doing it.

Is accepting a turnover (when you know it wasn't actually a fumble) cheating? How about shooting foul shots when you know you weren't hit? Not mowing the grass when you're facing a run-and-shoot team?

It's coincidental that we're discussing this on an ND board. Only reason this is such a big story is becuase the Pats (due to their success and profile) have become a lightning rod. They're the NFL ND right now. If this story was about Herm Edwards and Kansas City, then 1) the penalty would have been way, way lighter; and 2) the attention would have been over in about 3 days.

Is it against the rules? Yes. Should it have been done? No. is this now so far out of proportion to be beabsurd? Absolutely. That's why Charlie is not talking about it -- to talk about it would give it even more life that it doesn't deserve.

5/19/2008 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stealing signs has always been an important part of the game. And if steeling signs wins championships I wish we would get better at it.

Does anybody remember the 2000 Fiesta bowl against Oregon State? Now those guys could steal signs. They exploited everything we did on either side of the ball; they knew what we were doing before our own players knew.

I recall a Larry Bird interview when he was asked what he did during game timeouts. He replied that he watched the opposing teams huddle to see what they were up to (Paraphrasing) but you get the point.

Good scouting includes knowing team and player tendencies, if you can correlate tendencies with a hand signal this makes your job easier, but you should be ware that a good coach will change his signs up.

If a coach is not smart enough to figure out that his signs have been compromised and thus gets plummeted 41-9 then he becomes a color commentator.

Charlie and Co need to do a better job of stealing signs. Though it would be interesting to hear Charlie color commentate a game, an R-rated version on a paid channel with coach Tenuta do play by play, but for now I really enjoy them on the sidelines. But at ND the commentating booth is always just one blow out away.

Go Irish!

Leo T

5/19/2008 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What did Charlie know, and when did he know it.

These questions must be answered.

5/19/2008 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any suggestion that Weis knew something or needs to say something is utter crap, and it is an insult to ND fans worldwide that one would waste their breath on it.

What did he know and how did he know it? He got his job becuase of his playcalling abilities? Frankly previous commenter Anonymous, you don't have any idea why he was hired, that is your speculation. Likewise, nobody needs to know anything with regards to this.

We are Notre Dame, not the God-damn New England Patriots. The NFL has closed this investigation. All of the Senator Specter-wannabes need to get a hobby.

5/19/2008 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous TednICT said...

Anon, we don't need to know what CW knew unless it becomes a known fact that he was the main game player in this whole matter. Bill B. and Patriot Management are the ones who must answer to the NFL.

Geetar, great post. Now we need to move on to other sports issues that are of greater importance. Bush and Mayo two relevant possibilities. Where are sports writers in the regional papers on those issues?

5/19/2008 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just must not 'get it'. Every one who uses signals uses multiple signals and several people to issue signals. Of course, they switch these around. Maybe in the first quarter, the 4th signal given is the call. But the 4th signal given by whom? Even if you know all the signals how do you know whihc one of the several is the right one. If a team is worried that the team they play next week will know the signal, it's fairly simple to change it up a bit. This whole discussion seems a big waste of time. Gutsmo

5/19/2008 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why do o and d coordinators in the nfl cover their mouths with clipboards? so the guy in the booth with binocs trying to red his lips doesn't steal his call. been going on forever.

5/20/2008 01:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you get your head any deeper into the sand ?

5/21/2008 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

How much slack would Charlie get if he had won just 2 rings? Or just 1? Or even none? How much did the signal stealing help? Home field advantage in the playoffs, a better seed...we just don't know, but it concerns me and I'm sure others who like doing things the right way, even if failure is an option. Obviously, if the Patriots were stealing defensive signals, then Charlie knew about it and used it. If it wasn't helpful, then they wouldn't have kept taping games. It IS completely relevant whether he built up his offensive genius persona under false pretenses, and I disagree with this article (which is pretty rare).

I DO find similarities between this and O'Leary. If you are an employer, how could you not care about the means to the ends that show up on a resume. O'Leary's "accomplishments" were a complete lie. Charlie's accomplishments very well could be a lie of sorts. Let's say I hire a scientist with a past history of great experimental results, but later find out that he was tampering with procedure or the results. His means to an end matter because his successes are now invalidated. We can rerun an experiment, but we can't replay NFL games. The similarity is in the principle of it all, principles which Notre Dame aspires to have: Integrity and honesty.

Further, cheating within the context of the playing field is fine if it cannot be penalized. It is impossible to penalize someone for remembering signals within the course of the current game. It becomes part of the game. What the Patriots did was premeditated, outside the boundary of play and explicitly against written rules (Rules which Goodell said he doesn't buy the Patriots not knowing). So let's call it what it is, which is blatant cheating. Charlie's success based off that blatant cheating is relevant, especially to a man who is going to earn over 30 million dollars. If I owned a company and gave someone that much money, I'd be a little disturbed to know his accomplishments are questionable...

'07 Domer

5/21/2008 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue isn't learning signs during the game and adapting. That's not against NFL rules.

It is against the rules to record opposing team signals. That's the point, and that's why there is scrutiny here.

To the Anonymous who wrote, "Frankly previous commenter Anonymous, you don't have any idea why he was hired, that is your speculation," I would point out to you Kevin White's comments at the hiring conference, as well as the commentaries written on NDN and other fan sites that subsantiate that CW was hired because of his skills as OC, particularly in gameplanning and playcalling to exploit competitive weaknesses. Knowing their signs based on illegal collection of information would assist his gameplanning and his playcalling.

You also wrote, "Likewise, nobody needs to know anything with regards to this." I respectfully beg to differ. If Charlie cheated to gain an unfair advantage, then he is better-served coming clean on this matter and putting it behind. Leave the media nowhere else to go on this.

5/21/2008 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks "spygate" is not a University matter has their head buried in the sand. If he knew the defense before he called the plays and then marketed himself to ND as some Offensive Genius it is nothing more than fraud in the inducement. Red flags are everywhere to put it plainly, he hasn't won anything since he signed on with a program that doesnt cheat. If he doesnt win THIS year they ought to get rid of him no matter what it costs. I don't care who he signed as a recruit. They too may have believed he won those Super Bowls honestly.

5/22/2008 08:32:00 AM  

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