It was in the 2nd quarter with the score at Bucs 6 Panthers 12. With 9 seconds on the clock and 1st and goal coming up, many eagle-eyed viewers managed to see something that didn’t seem within the rules of the game.
As the above video capture shows, Coach Koetter is looking at his play sheet and calling a play into the huddle. What can also be clearly seen is 2 people on in Carolina Panthers uniform immediately begin signalling to the other side of the field. The fact this has been seen by thousands of fans, but not the NFL is puzzling.
Or is it? Generally it is accepted that NFL teams will look to gain an advantage over their opponents, as long as they don’t break the rules. But exactly how is that determined? It seems that the best answer is that it is anybody’s guess as all the rules are, effectively, open to interpretation as we all saw with the Patriots “spying” on the New York Jets. The crux of the matter in that case was that New England were caught taping the signals, as opposed to what we saw on Sunday where the signals were communicated as they were being called. Under the ruling following “Spygate” it was stated clearly that coaches should expect to have their signals stolen and used, but that leaves the question; How far does a team actually have to go to be effectively cheating? Where does the line get drawn which says “this is against the spirit of the game and is gaining an unfair advantage”?
Commissioner Goodell is on record saying “This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field,” when delivering the sanctions issued against the Patriots for spying on the Jets signals and using video equipment.
For me this is a blatant attempt to gain an unfair advantage and as long as it is allowed to continue, will water down the product on the field until it becomes less about the players and more about who has the best methods to subvert the rules of the game. It is true to say that this happens every week in the NFL, but that doesn’t make it right.
When I tune into the NFL I want to see the best players competing, not the best analysts lurking in the gray area of already gray rules. The likelihood is that the NFL will not investigate this matter but for me personally, the Panthers are cheats. If I played for Carolina I’d be insulted that Coach doesn’t have enough faith in his players to go out and beat a team, without having to resort to cheap tricks like we all saw Sunday.