Play-calling signals are delivered many different ways in professional and college sports. Some use traditional practices by touching the nose or pulling an ear. Others paste photos of Kate Middleton, Mark Cuban, the Philadelphia Eagles logo and a no-smoking symbol together on a poster board.
Whatever the method may be, chances are the opposing team is trying to decipher and use that information for its benefit. Some refer to this as stealing signs.
Is that cheating?
Tony Dungy, the former Gophers football star and Hall of Fame coach, would not call it that.
Former NFL star Deion Sanders this week called out Dungy, who coached the Indianapolis Colts to one Super Bowl title, for stealing signals.
“Those same critics, did they say anything about the wins that the Indianapolis Colts had? You want to talk about that too? Because they were getting everybody’s signals,” Sanders argued while discussing on NFL Network the cheating scandals the New England Patriots, who won Super Bowl LI on Sunday, have been connected to. “Come on, you don’t walk up to the line and look over here and the man on the sideline giving you the defense that they’ve stolen the plays of. We all knew. L.T. [LaDainian Tomlinson] knew. Everybody in the NFL knew. We just didn’t let the fans know. That was real and that was happening in Indy.”
Dungy, known as one of the high-character personalities in the NFL, responded to the accusations Wednesday on ProFootballTalk Live admitting the Colts stole signals, but argued this tactic is not cheating.
“I think we have to go back to what is cheating,” Dungy said. “People accusing us of cheating? I don’t think that’s the case. Stealing signals? You can go back to the 1800s in baseball, you can go anywhere there were signals done, and people were looking and watching and trying to get signals. Back in the early days of football the quarterbacks called the plays and the middle linebackers called the defenses and there was no signaling. When coaches decided they wanted to call plays you had to find ways to get the information in and there were people watching. … So that’s what happens and it’s been done legally for years.”
Dungy added that in 1991 when he was an assistant for Kansas City, they knew ever play San Francisco was calling, but still lost 28-14. He also addressed Sanders directly.
“Deion, I’m sure on every scouting report that he ever got, the first thing that’s on there on the defensive scouting reports, who is the live signal caller, who signals the personnel groups in. And that’s what happened," Dungy said. "And you looked over there because you wanted to know as a defensive player: Is it going to be three wide receivers? Is it going to be two tight ends? Who’s in the game? There’s a person over there signaling and Deion Sanders and every other defensive player would look at the offensive sideline to get that signal. So that is football. And I’m not sure what Deion is referring to, really.
“That’s why you see these college teams now with four and five people signaling, with the posters and the pictures and all these different things because they don’t want people to have their signals. In the NFL, they’ve gotten away from that with the coach to quarterback and coach to middle linebacker communication. But, yes, if you signal, there are going to be people who watch your signals and know what’s going to happen.
“That’s all part of the game, but doing it legally and illegally, that’s the difference. I hope Deion is not saying we did something illegally. Of course we got signals when we had an opportunity to do that, and so did Deion.”
The Patriots illegally videotaped opponents’ signals on the sidelines during the games in 2007. The controversy referred to as “Spygate” cost New England $750,000 in fines and a first-round draft pick.
Dungy had a lot more to say. Read it here.