Wednesday, September 12, 2007

OT: Belichicks Puzzle Palace

Completely off topic.... but I am just fascinated by the news that the New England Patriots are about to be fined for various forms of spying. The big news is that they were filming defensive signals during their game last week. But that may turn out to be the less egregious infraction by far.

The news accounts only mention this in passing, but it sounds like the Patriots could also be hit for using unapproved frequencies with their communications equipment. What's up with that? I see nothing specified in the news accounts, but I am guessing someone thinks the Patriots were getting around the limitations in place for the coach to quarterback radio link. The NFL has allowed coaches to pass plays to a quarterback via a small radio in the helmet since 1994. But you can't communicate all the time and the link should only be active from the time that the playclock starts until it winds down to 15 seconds. There should be an official whose job is to turn off the link at exactly 15 seconds. Why is that important? Imagine a coach in the booth with an eagle eye view being able to point out defensive formations and weaknesses to the quarterback right up to the point the ball is snapped. It would be even more insidious if communications continued even after the play started. Could some of Tom Brady's more miraculous games have been helped by a few timely comments about which receiver was open? If there was an alternate channel in place then the potential exists for the coach to continue talking to the quarterback even after the official channel is turned off. I should emphasize that I am just speculating on no information.... but you never know.

How serious is all of this? The Society of Broadcast Engineers has a web page for coordinating frequencies at NFL games. They have extensive frequency coordination instructions. There is even an NFL (frequency) coordination accreditation and a gameday (frequency) coordination handbook. I might have been tempted to stay an electrical engineer if I thought I could have this much fun. I bet we could have some fun on game day wth a Slick 32 mounted on a truck.

It's not like you need technology to be a football spy. It's pretty clear that technology will intrude into sports more and more. Forget steroids, there is even an argument out there that Barry Bonds has been helped by more mechanical technology enhancements. Long in the future I bet quarterbacks have their own heads-up-display in their helmet that feeds them all sorts of information as they plan and execute plays. But for today, Belichick's busted.


Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Given the punishment the Steelers have endured at the hands of the Patriots, it sure would sound like sour grapes for a Steelers fan to chalk up New England's success to cheating. (And the game is too complex for such an assessment to be fair.) And yet, I don't recall Bill Belichick being hailed as a coaching genius when he was in Cleveland. Then again, ownership and organization makes a lot of difference in the NFL.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 10:54:00 AM  
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