NFL Nation: 2010 broncos taping scandal

The news that Denver’s video director, Steve Scarnecchia, filmed a San Francisco walkthough practice in London before the 49ers beat Denver on Oct. 31 will stain Denver's reputation for a long time.

But the NFL acted swiftly to allow the team and coach Josh McDaniels to move forward. It’s now up to him to straighten out his team, a program that is on the brink of being in disarray in his second season.

The team and McDaniels were fined a combined $100,000 and Scarnecchia was fired. McDaniels was fined because he didn’t immediately report the infraction. The league ruled that Scarnecchia acted alone and that McDaniels wasn’t part of the plan to film San Francisco’s workout.

The league has left the possibility for further discipline if new evidence comes to light. Rest assured, the league will be on alert. This incident shows that Spygate still lives, and I’m sure commissioner Roger Goodell is steaming mad that it does. The league thought it moved on from that form of high-level cheating.

But for now, the matter is closed. Denver will not lose any draft picks. New England was fined $750,000 and lost a first-round pick for its “SpyGate”escapade in 2007. McDaniels was part of New England’s staff at the time.

And that’s what will linger in Denver. This was not McDaniels' doing, but it came on his watch and it falls on him. People in Denver have started becoming skeptical of McDaniels' abilities because of some of his personnel decisions and for numerous issues with players. He has also lost 15 of his past 20 games and the Broncos are 3-7 heading into Sunday's home game against St. Louis.

For McDaniels to have to meet the media a day before a game about a matter like this puts the entire organization in a poor light. This is a new black eye.

But clearly, the Broncos are still behind McDaniels. Asked Saturday if there was cause for termination, Denver CEO Joe Ellis said this: “It is not, no. The discipline has been handed down appropriately in our mind and in the mind of the owner. We've gone through it with the league, with the coach himself. He's admitted his mistake. He's paying for his mistake. He needs to move on and finish the season. Hopefully we have some success on the field.”

McDaniels apparently has a clean slate. He has to do everything he can to keep it as clean as possible or the Broncos will eventually have no choice but look for a new direction in leadership.

49ers, Rams have right to feel cheated

November, 27, 2010
So, the San Francisco 49ers were unwitting victims of a Spygate-style taping scheme before their recent London game against the Denver Broncos.

My thoughts:
  • Steve Scarnecchia, the person responsible for the illicit taping earlier this month, worked for New England when the Patriots allegedly taped St. Louis Rams practices before Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. As a result, I'm more comfortable removing the word "allegedly" from the previous sentence. The Patriots employed cheaters. Scarnecchia's father, Dante, still works for the Patriots.
  • The fact that a former Patriots employee would confess to spearheading similar efforts for the Broncos even after the massive Spygate fallout reveals a level of arrogance bordering on unfathomable. The NCAA phrase "lack of institutional control" comes to mind. Why would the Broncos hire Steve Scarnecchia in the first place if another Spygate-style scandal were even remotely possible?
  • Josh McDaniels' run as Broncos coach was already unfortunate on numerous fronts even though Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall weren't blameless in their handling of events leading to their departures. I mean, what would the team's McDaniels-led leadership do differently if their primary job were to embarrass team owner Pat Bowlen? This videotaping fiasco leaves Bowlen with even more egg on his face.
  • I realize NFC West teams can be intimidating -- wink, wink -- but what's so special about their walk-through practices? I'm sure a sharp coach could pick up some helpful information, but at what cost? Again, the level of arrogance astounds.
  • McDaniels said he never watched the illicitly taped walk-through practice. We should not automatically trust him. The 49ers won the game, so the competitive-advantage angle isn't relevant. The Broncos are fortunate on that front. Any concerns the Rams might have had stemming from Spygate seem more credible following this repeat performance.

Niners coach Mike Singletary declined to discuss the incident when speaking with reporters following practice Saturday. He said he learned of the situation only Saturday and had not yet heard from McDaniels. The team issued a statement declining comment.

Ex-Patriots land in another video mess

November, 27, 2010
The Denver Broncos and head coach Josh McDaniels were fined $100,000 combined for violating the NFL's policy on improperly videotaping an opponent.

Broncos video operation director Steve Scarnecchia filmed a San Francisco 49ers walkthrough before their Week 8 game in London. McDaniels claimed he refused to watch the tape, but he and the Broncos were punished for failing to disclose the violation. The Broncos fired Scarnecchia.

The New England Patriots weren't directly involved in this particular case. But the incident picks at the most noticeable wart on the Patriots' recent legacy.

I've repeatedly dismissed the impact the Patriots' video violations had on their dominance, but that's not going to stop the renewed criticisms from a scandal that engulfed them in 2007 and 2008.

You need only read the comment sections on this blog to see how much rival fans love to play the cheater card. The fact that McDaniels and Scarnecchia cut their NFL teeth under Patriots head coach Bill Belichick won't go unnoticed.

The NFL stripped the Patriots of their 2008 first-round draft pick, fined Belichick $500,000 and fined the team $250,000 for illicitly videotaping defensive hand signals.

At the time, McDaniels was the Patriots' offensive coordinator.

Scarnecchia, the only son of Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, was on the Patriots' staff from 2001 through 2004, when some of the violations were committed. But Steve Scarnecchia had moved to the New York Jets with Eric Mangini when the NFL handed down its sanctions.

McDaniels, Bowlen react to taping incident

November, 27, 2010
Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels released the following statement Saturday on the taping incident for which he was fined $50,000 and the team was fined $50,000 by the NFL:

“I apologize for not promptly reporting the improper conduct of our video director before our game against the 49ers in London. The actions of this individual are in no way representative of the values and integrity held by myself, our players and coaches, and the entire Denver Broncos organization.

“I understand the punishment from the National Football League and support its commitment to the integrity of the game. We have addressed the situation internally to assure that nothing like this happens again.”

Broncos president and CEO Pat Bowlen also released a statement about the incident:

“I received notice today that the National Football League has completed its investigation of an incident involving our club’s violation of the League’s Integrity of the Game Policy, specifically a videotaping of a portion of the San Francisco 49ers’ “walkthrough” practice on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, at Wembley Stadium in London.

“Upon learning of this incident, the Denver Broncos promptly began an investigation into this matter and reported this violation to the League office, which then started its investigation.

“The Denver Broncos fully cooperated with every aspect of the League investigation.

Upon completion, the investigation revealed the following facts:

The person who videotaped a portion of the “walkthrough” practice did so on his own and was not directed to do so by anyone within the organization, including Head Coach Josh McDaniels.

Upon learning that the “walkthrough” had been videotaped, the Head Coach informed the person who did the taping that this was not acceptable, that this is not how the Denver Broncos organization conducts business and that he would not view the videotape.

The videotape was subsequently deleted from the computer where it resided by the employee who performed the taping. No one from the organization viewed the videotape prior to Sunday’s game against the 49ers.

The videotaping of this “walkthrough” practice was a one-time occurrence, erroneously performed by one employee who used extremely poor judgment.

Head Coach Josh McDaniels was right to inform the employee that he had no interest in viewing the tape and that it was not how he or the Denver Broncos conducts business. However, under League Policy he is obligated to promptly notify the League of this matter and his failure to do so has resulted in discipline imposed by the Commissioner.

“The Denver Broncos and I, as the Owner, believe in the integrity of the National Football League and fair competition and do not, in any way, condone this type of behavior. The fact that an employee of the Denver Broncos would take such action is personally disappointing to me. I apologize to all affected by this incident. This employee is no longer with the organization.

“This incident cuts into the trust and respect our fans, our ticket holders, our community and our fellow competitors have for our organization. That is why the Denver Broncos, upon learning of this violation, immediately investigated this matter and reported the incident to the League.

“The Denver Broncos and I accept the discipline imposed by the NFL. We will take all steps to ensure that an incident like this never occurs again. We will always strive to uphold the integrity of our organization and the National Football League.”
This is an "are you kidding me?" moment.

The NFL has fined the Denver Broncos and coach Josh McDaniels a combined $100,000 because the team's video operations director, Steve Scarnecchia, videotaped a San Francisco 49ers' walkthrough in London before the Broncos’ loss to the 49ers on Oct.31.

Are you kidding me?

The Broncos say Scarnecchia acted alone and McDaniels declined to watch the film. But the NFL fined McDaniels for not reporting it in a timely manner. Scarnecchia was fired.

This might eventually be McDaniels’ ticket out of Denver.

This happened on McDaniels’ watch and ultimately it’s his responsibility, especially given the history of the infamous Spygate case.

Scarnecchia, the only son of Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, was on the Patriots' staff from 2001-04. McDaniels, who worked in New England from 2001-09, hired him in Denver shortly after he became Broncos head coach. In the Spygate case that caused many to believe the Patriots' dynasty was tainted, New England was punished by the NFL for taping the New York Jets in 2007. The Patriots lost a first-round pick in 2008 and the NFL fined the team ($250,000) and head coach Bill Belichick ($500,000). There were eyebrows raised when McDaniels brought a member of the New England video team with him when he was hired as Denver’s coach in January 2009.

This is really bad, folks. The heat is already on McDaniels in Denver because the Broncos are 3-7 this season and 5-15 since he started 6-0 last season. McDaniels is a reviled figure in the eyes of many Denver fans.

The Broncos have stood firmly behind McDaniels, but this changes the landscape. There will be increased pressure for the team to fire McDaniels if the losing continues, and the team could have just cause to do so, meaning Denver ownership could get out of McDaniels’ contract.

There could be little reason to keep a struggling coach who helped put a major blemish on the organization. Denver will be lucky if it doesn’t receive the same punishment as New England -- the loss of a first-round pick. The Broncos could be on pace for a top-five pick.

The Broncos say they are moving on and McDaniels is expected to address the situation later today.