NFL Nation: Loomis scandal

The San Francisco 49ers twice lost close games against New Orleans in the Superdome when the Saints were allegedly eavesdropping on visiting coaches from 2002-2004.

Coincidence? Evidence of malfeasance?

"There’s something missing here," said Bill Polian, the ESPN analyst and former longtime NFL executive. "I don’t know what kind of competitive advantage you can get."

The report by "Outside the Lines" cites people familiar with the Saints' game-day operations as saying Mickey Loomis, the Saints' general manager, had the ability to monitor opposing coaches from his private box during home games.

NFC West teams played three games at the Superdome during the period in question.

The 49ers suffered a 35-27 defeat at New Orleans in 2002 after the Saints outscored them 22-3 in the fourth quarter. They also suffered a 30-27 defeat there in 2004 after Aaron Brooks found Donte Stallworth for a 16-yard touchdown with 1:01 remaining. Also in 2004, the Seattle Seahawks claimed a 21-7 victory at New Orleans.

The NFL has already suspended Loomis, a former longtime Seahawks executive, for the first eight games of the 2012 season as punishment for his handling of the Saints' bounty situation.

The allegations against Loomis are damaging whether or not the Saints realized any in-game advantages.

"Mickey would have to know the verbiage of every other opposing team in order to translate it, and then he would have to do it instantly and find some way to communicate with his coaching staff and get it down to the field in time for it to be useful," Polian said. "That would be very difficult to do, in my opinion."

The Saints have strongly denied the allegations.

Steve Mariucci (2002) and Dennis Erickson (2004) were the 49ers' head coaches for the NFC West defeats in question. Erickson and Loomis worked together in Seattle years earlier.

Another NFC West alum, Jim Haslett, was the Saints' head coach at the time.

NFL32: Digesting latest Saints scandal

April, 23, 2012

The 32 crew examines the latest Saints scandal, Hugh Douglas remembers his playing days with Brian Dawkins, and Mel and Todd on which quarterback would be a slam dunk in Cleveland.
The latest scandal involving the New Orleans Saints might have affected two AFC North teams, especially the Pittsburgh Steelers. ESPN's Outside the Lines is reporting that Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had the ability to eavesdrop on opposing coaches during games at the Superdome for most of the 2002 season, as well as all of the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

On Oct. 6, 2002, the Steelers lost in New Orleans, 32-29. Pittsburgh cut the margin to three points with 1:26 left, but the Saints recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock. The Steelers allowed the Saints to score on seven of their first eight drives, and quarterback Tommy Maddox was sacked three times.

The Cleveland Browns didn't have the same trouble when they won in New Orleans, 24-15, on Nov. 24, 2002. The Saints struggled on offense because running back Deuce McAllister was out the entire game with a sprained right ankle. The Browns improved to 6-5 in their last playoff season on the strength of William Green's 114 yards rushing and one touchdown.

The Browns were one of four teams to beat the Saints at the Superdome during the 2002 season.

The AFC North played the Saints and the rest of the NFC South in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 seasons.
Former NFL executive Bill Polian said he doesn’t understand how New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis got any competitive advantage from allegedly having the ability to listen to opposing coaches communicate during games.

“There’s something missing here,’’ said Polian, who is now an ESPN analyst. “I don’t know what kind of competitive advantage you can get. Mickey would have to know the verbiage of every other opposing team in order to translate it, and then he would have to do it instantly and find some way to communicate with his coaching staff and get it down to the field in time for it to be useful. That would be very difficult to do in my opinion.’’

That all makes a lot of sense. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Loomis to tip off his coaching staff to what opposing coaching staffs were saying seconds before the snap. It also would have been pretty much impossible for those coaches to let players know quickly enough what play was coming.

It also is extremely important to note that Loomis had the alleged ability to listen to other coaches only from a span from 2002 through 2004. That’s when Jim Haslett was coaching the team. Hurricane Katrina hit before the 2005 season, and the Saints had to play their home games in other locations that season. The report says the listening device was destroyed by the hurricane, and there are no indications it was put back into place. Haslett was fired after the 2005 season, and if Loomis was listening to play calls by opposing coaches, Haslett's record doesn't suggest it provided much of advantage.

Sean Payton was hired to replace Haslett in 2006. So you can’t tie Payton to this issue. But I still don’t see how this can mean anything positive for the Saints.

The NFL already has suspended Payton for a full season for a bounty program the league says lasted three years. Loomis also will be suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season for not stopping the bounty program.

The NFL reportedly was not aware of Loomis allegedly having had a listening device until the report came Monday afternoon. Loomis might not have gained any competitive advantage from allegedly having a listening device, and the allegations are from long ago when a different coaching staff was in place.

But these allegations sound a lot like Spygate, which also was something that happened in the past. The NFL -- particularly commissioner Roger Goodell -- didn’t take that situation lightly, and fined the New England Patriots $750,000. If this had come out a few years back, the Saints might be in line for a punishment similar to New England’s, if the NFL had found them guilty of the allegations.

But that was just one situation. This is different. This is coming on top of the whole bounty program.

Competitive advantage or not, this could convince Goodell to throw the book at the Saints -- even more than he already has.

Report: More trouble for Saints?

April, 23, 2012
In an offseason that has been filled with controversy for the New Orleans Saints, we now have even more.

This one doesn’t relate to the bounty program, but it could have major implications.

[+] EnlargeMickey Loomis
AP Photo/Bill HaberSaints' GM Mickey Loomis, already suspended for eight games next season, could be facing more punishment from the league.
ESPN's "Outside The Lines" just reported that New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis allegedly 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 seasons, from 2002-04. That allegedly took place before coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees arrived in 2006. Sources told "Outside The Lines" that the listening system was disabled when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 and not restored. (Greg Bensel, Saints vice president of communications, said Monday on behalf of the Saints and Loomis: "This is 1,000 percent false. This is 1,000 percent inaccurate.")

This is significant on several levels. First, the report suggests that state and federal law might have been violated, and the situation has been reported to the U.S. Attorney in New Orleans. There is no indication yet if any charges will be filed. We’ll wait for law enforcement and the lawyers to figure that out. I won't even speculate about what civil liabilities Loomis and the Saints could be exposed to.

But there are huge potential implications elsewhere. Loomis is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 season for his role in not stopping the Saints’ bounty program. This latest news isn’t going to persuade commissioner Roger Goodell to shorten Loomis’ suspension.

In fact, this has the potential to lead to a longer suspension, or even more punishment for Loomis and the Saints. Although this incident allegedly took place quite a long time ago, it won't sit well with Goodell. He fined the New England Patriots $750,000 and forced them to forfeit a first-round draft pick for Spygate. You can make a case that listening to opposing coaches during a game is worse than videotaping signals on the sidelines and using that information.

Throw in the whole situation surrounding the bounty system, and I don’t see how this can lead to anything positive for Loomis or the Saints.

Saints owner Tom Benson has stood by Loomis and Payton, who is suspended for the entire 2012 season. But you must wonder if news of more alleged wrongdoing by Loomis might prompt Benson to fire his general manager.

I know Benson has other things going on. He recently purchased the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets. Brees hasn’t been able to work out a long-term contract with the Saints, and that’s not a positive for Brees, Benson or the Saints. The team is waiting to see if players will be suspended for their roles in the bounty program. Benson also reportedly has put his granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, on unofficial administrative leave. LeBlanc had been viewed as the heir apparent to Benson, but it doesn’t sound as if the owner is anywhere near ready to step aside.

That might be a good thing, because the Saints have all sorts of turmoil to deal with. Someone must clean up this mess. It’s Benson’s team, so we’ll wait and see where he goes from here.

This offseason just keeps getting worse for the Saints.

NFC North vs. Saints in 2002-04

April, 23, 2012
By now you might have heard the latest blockbuster story relating to the New Orleans Saints. If not, here's the synopsis: ESPN's Outside the Lines is reporting that Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had the ability to eavesdrop on opposing coaches during games at the Superdome in part of the 2002 season, as well as all of the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

The entire report is here, including an on-the-record confirmation of allegations from the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. If true, Loomis would have violated NFL rules and possibly federal law as well.

The NFC North played a central role in the most recent Saints story; quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers were two of four quarterbacks the Saints took out bounties on, according to the NFL. It's not yet clear if the division will be affected by the latest story, but it's worth noting the Saints' performance against our teams at the Superdome in those seasons.

Week 1:
Saints 35, Green Bay Packers 20
Week 15: Minnesota Vikings 32, Saints 31

Week 6:
Saints 20, Chicago Bears 13

Week 6:
Vikings 38, Saints 31

More to come, I'm sure.