In the wake of the 2007 Spygate fiasco, one of the unsubstantiated rumors making the rounds was that the Patriots had surreptitiously placed microphones in the pads of defensive linemen in the hopes of capturing the opposing quarterback’s cadence and calls at the line of scrimmage. The information, as the rumor went, was then matched up to the film for each play, helping the Pats crack the code for any future games against the team in question.
Three years later, the NFL has made this otherwise forbidden process much easier.
As Michael Hiestand of USA Today explained on Monday, the league has decided to allow microphones to be attached to the offensive center, which allows the quarterback’s pre-snap information to be broadcast to the television audience. Per Hiestand, it happened in the Sunday afternoon games between the Packers and the Eagles, the Panthers and the Giants, and the Bengals and the Patriots. We also detected it in the Thursday night opener between the Vikings and the Saints, and in the Monday night game between the Ravens and the Jets.
It’s not going over well in some league circles. As one high-level source with one of the teams whose quarterback could not be heard calling out signals in Week One, the teams whose centers wore microphones during the opening weekend will now be required to change the verbiage or risk having the Week Two opponent know what is coming when a given call is made at the line.
It adds another chore to the many things that need to be done in the period between one game and the next, and any prudent team that has had its audibles and run checks and cadence broadcast to the nation will surely will come up with a new code before its next game. It’s a prime example of the ever-present tension between the league office, which hopes to make the game broadcasts more interesting, and the teams, which hope to protect their strategic information and interests.