There are plenty of very good reasons to question ESPN's report that Saints GM Mickey Loomis was able to eavesdrop on opposing coaches during the first three seasons of his tenure. There's the lack of a named source. The dearth of evidence beyond said unnamed sources. The fact that it happened seven years ago and is only coming out now. Most importantly, the allegation that the system was dismantled or destroyed before Hurricane Katrina, and as such there is no possible way to prove (or disprove) the allegations, short of Loomis 'fessing up.
But here's a terrible argument for why the Saints should be afforded the presumption of innocence: that they had nothing to gain from it.
That's the main thrust of Mike Florio's newfound Saints skepticism. If Mickey Loomis had been able to overhear visiting coaches' game-day communications, he argues, New Orleans wouldn't have been able to benefit from it. Ergo, the Saints probably didn't wiretap.
Florio, yesterday, less than an hour after ESPN's report dropped:
As ESPN's Bill Polian (pictured) said when asked to explain the edge that the Saints obtained doing this, "There's something missing here. I don't know what kind of competitive advantage you could get. Mickey would have to know the verbiage of every other opposing team in order to translate, and then he would have to do it instantly and find some way to communicate with his coaching staff, and get it down to the field in time to be useful. That would be very difficult to do, in my opinion."
Polian's right, and he has no natural incentive to help the team that beat his Colts for a Super Bowl that culminated a season in which bounties allegedly were used. If Loomis knew what the opposing coaches were saying, there would have been no way to translate that information into something that could be used to the Saints' benefit.
"There's a huge piece missing here for me," Polian said. "I can't see how they could have gotten information that would have been of use to them."
Barr's report doesn't attempt to explain how Loomis would have turned the information into something that would have benefited the team. Barr and/or his editors easily could have asked Polian (or other current and former General Managers) to explain how the information could, or couldn't, have been used. Barr and/or his editors easily could have asked former NFL coach and executive Bill Parcells for information regarding the potential uses by a G.M. or intercepted conversations among a coaching staff.
They didn't. And so until Barr or someone else at ESPN properly refutes Polian's doubts with an unequivocal explanation from a coach or a G.M. (and ESPN has plenty of them on the payroll) regarding a specific manner in which the information allegedly harvested by Loomis could have been used to the benefit of the Saints, a dark cloud will remain over the dark cloud that Barr has tried to wedge among the dark clouds already hovering over the Saints organization.
OK, first? That reliance on Bill Polian's opinion is fucking weird. Bill Polian is good friends with Loomis, and beyond that, he's plainly wrong. There's no competitive advantage in being able to listen in on the other team's play calls? Bullpucky. Not everything is in secret playbook code. Coaches on the sidelines use normal words like "run," or "pass," or "play-action," or "jam it up the gut," or "look out for the fake," or "get it to [player's number], he's been in single coverage all series." These are things that would be incredibly useful for the other team to know.
Florio (and the denizens of Saints message boards and comment threads, which should be a clue to this particular argument's intellectual origins) are sticking with the notion that Loomis could not possibly translate an overheard play call into an on-field advantage within 40 seconds. This ignores a few things so obvious it's almost painful to bring them up. Couldn't the Saints make halftime adjustments? Couldn't they sync up calls to game film ahead of divisional rematches? Couldn't they, oh I don't know, somehow have someone other than Loomis listening? If they had the technology to tap stadium communications, I'm pretty damn sure they had the technology to transmit it to places other than the GM's suite.
Skepticism is good, and it's healthy when it's based on, you know, something. (The corollary—"The Saints wouldn't have done it if they didn't think they could gain an advantage"—is just as bad. We don't actually know they did it, mouthbreathers.) But the day after an explosive report drops, stupid breeds like fruitflies. Dumb speculation gives way to dumb speculation about dumb speculation, and the only way to keep the story going is through (hopefully willful) ignorance. It's a race to see who can say the stupidest thing in the shortest amount of time. Today, Pro Football Talk is ahead by a furlong.