As Saints broadcaster Jim Henderson tells it, the Saints blitzed the 49ers early and often in the preseason opener because San Fran coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t call New Orleans coach Sean Payton to compare notes before the game.
“When that didn’t occur, Sean just said to Gregg, ‘Let the dogs out,’” Henderson said. “And they did.”
But Harbaugh was doing nothing wrong by not calling Payton. In fact, Harbaugh was merely following the rules.
NFL rules prohibit coaches from making any agreements or arrangements before preseason games regarding issues like personnel and strategy. The rule has been in place for years. (That said, at least one league source said the NFL is emphasizing it more than ever this year.)
Of course, not every coach knows about the rule. Earlier this month, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that he planned to talk to Broncos coach John Fox before their respective teams met.
“I’m going to talk to Coach Fox here in the next couple of days,” Garrett said on August 6. “We’ll talk not only about that, but just what the overall approach is. I’ve known him a long time; he was the defensive coordinator in New York when I played up there, so he’s a good friend. I think everybody in the league will do something like that because everything has been so shortened and you need to be on the same page as to who is playing against who and what kind of stuff we’re using. I think those conversations are important.”
Like plenty of other rules, this could be one that everyone breaks. In Jim Harbaugh’s case, following the rule almost got his quarterbacks’ backs broken.