Remember when, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Saints were America’s favorite team?
Yeah, us neither.
Between a very highly-publicized Bountygate scandal and management’s shady refusal to pay Drew Brees what he should be paid, New Orleans was already on thin ice with most football fans. According to ESPN’s Outside the Lines, though, those aforementioned black marks may now be the least of the Saints’ problems.
Per sources familiar with the franchise's game-day operations, Saints GM Mickey Loomis reportedly had an electronic device in his Superdome suite that allowed him to eavesdrop on opposing coaches. This device supposedly remained in place from 2002 to 2005 – a three-season span during which the Saints went 25-23.
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New Orleans’ inability to capitalize on this blatant cheating notwithstanding, if this accusation is proven to be true, it could mean big trouble for everyone involved. And not just from a football standpoint. Via ESPN:
“Jim Letten, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, acknowledged being told of the allegations Friday. Sources said he has briefed the FBI in New Orleans about Loomis' alleged activity. If proven, the allegations could be both a violation of NFL rules and potentially a federal crime, according to legal sources. The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 prohibits any person from intercepting communications from another person using an electronic or mechanical device.”
“Sources told ‘Outside the Lines’ the listening device was first installed in the general manager's suite in 2000, when Loomis' predecessor, Randy Mueller, served as Saints GM. At that time, according to sources, Mueller only had the ability to use the device to monitor the game-day communications of the Saints coaching staff, not the opposing coaches. Mueller, now a senior executive with the San Diego Chargers (he also was an ESPN.com NFL analyst from 2002-05), declined to comment when contacted by ‘Outside the Lines.’
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“After the transition from Mueller to Loomis, the electronic device was re-wired to listen only to opposing coaches and could no longer be used to listen to any game-day communications between members of the Saints coaching staff, one source said.”
For what it’s worth, Saints V.P. of communications, Greg Bensel, has come out and called the new reports "1,000 percent false" and “completely inaccurate.” Given the team’s recent history, however, it’s probably safe to say that the denials are being taken with a grain of salt.
So where do the Saints stand right now? Well, regardless of what happens with this latest scandal, Loomis will still serve an eight-game suspension to start this season for his role in Bountygate. Presumably, if anything else comes out, additional punishment will get tacked on to that existing penalty.
While you certainly don’t want to jump to any conclusions, particularly given the denials that were immediately offered by all involved, it’s tough to imagine Loomis having any future in the league if these charges are proven to be true. Being involved in one of the NFL’s 10 most embarrassing scandals in recent history is bad, but survivable. Two, though? That’s definitely grounds for blacklisting.