Many people went nuts earlier this season over the revelation that the New England Patriots filmed the signals used by opposing teams on the sidelines, even though former Cowboys Coach Jimmy Johnson and others noted that many teams do this and even though what the Patriots did would be perfectly legal if they had simply gathered the information from a network feed. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts--the league's so-called bastion of integrity--apparently colluded with the Tennessee Titans to throw a game and certainly acted in a manner that affected the point spread.
After the Titans beat the Colts 16-10 in the final regular season game, clinching a playoff berth for the Titans while eliminating the Cleveland Browns from postseason play, I wrote, "Isn't it convenient that (Reggie) Wayne fumbled in the red zone to end the Colts' first series? Then, at the end of the game, the Colts could have called a timeout and at least forced the Titans to run a fourth down play or punt; instead, (Indianapolis Coach Tony) Dungy and Titans' Coach Jeff Fisher were standing at midfield smiling and shaking hands with time still remaining on the clock--and fans are supposed to be satisfied by this charade because the reserve Colts who were on the field for most of the game tried the best that they could and made a few hard hits. Give me a break. Root for the Colts if you must but please don't say that you prefer them to the Patriots because you value the integrity of the game." It turns out that I was right to say that this game was a "charade": MSNBC reports, "the Titans kneeled at the end of the game Sunday because they knew the Colts wouldn't call a timeout" and directly asks, "Did Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans coaches have an under-the-table agreement at the end of last Sunday's game?" Titans quarterback Kerry Collins told WFAN radio, "Apparently there was some communication between Jeff and Tony." The result of that "communication" is that instead of running a regular play the Titans elected to simply have Collins kneel down. Fisher told the Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel, "Let me just say, I knew he wasn't going to use it. Tony and I were on the competition committee for a long time." Fisher added that it would not have made sense for the Colts to call a timeout because then the Titans would have kicked a field goal and gone up by nine with less than 30 seconds left. Rather than clearing the air, Fisher's comments open up a few cans of worms. One, this type of collusion is against the rules and far more nefarious than one team trying to observe a team's public, on-field signals (no one has suggested that the Patriots stole confidential information). Two, if the Titans had been forced to run more plays they might have fumbled or the kick could have been blocked and then the Colts might have won. Three, the point spread for this game was six, so a lot of people were affected by the decision to not push the lead to nine.
It is also worrisome to hear that Dungy said, "I think it is a feather in the cap of our division to get three teams in the playoffs." The Colts and Titans are supposedly rival teams but Dungy hardly sounds upset by the fact that a rival team made it to the playoffs. Can you imagine Denver's Mike Shanahan expressing joy if Oakland made the playoffs? I know that it is hard to picture Oakland qualifying for the postseason but you get my point.
The Patriots' videotaping "scandal" was the most overblown NFL story of the year. We later found out that the New York Jets, the team that ratted out the Patriots in the first place, had done the exact same thing and you can be sure that the same is true of many other NFL teams--but two coaches actively colluding during a game to affect the point spread and possibly the outcome is very serious. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must not simply sweep this under the rug.