I don't know Bill Polian. Seems nice enough. Had success everywhere he's been. He's probably a bright guy. But in his new life as ESPN talking head, he's taking just about the dumbest possible position on the latest Saints scandal, and sticking to it with all his might.
"I don't know what kind of competitive advantage you could get," Polian said of ESPN's report that Saints GM Mickey Loomis had wiretapped opposing coaches. And the next day, belaboring the point: "I can't see how they could have gotten information that would have been of use to them."
We already covered the myriad ways a team could benefit from this, but perhaps there's no need for us to mention them. Polian knows exactly what they could have done with the signals. In a USA Today article in 2008, Polian addressed Spygate:
Polian doesn't believe the Patriots used the videotape from the opener for an advantage in their 38-14 victory against the Jets in Week 1. He thinks it was gathered for the purposes of future games.
Polian said videotape of sideline signals could be matched to game footage to decipher codes. Such a process might provide the type of advantage former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson described during an interview with USA TODAY shortly after he retired in 2005.
"Every now and then I'd get a sheet, one hour before the game, with a list of audibles for our opponent," Johnson said in November 2005. "I don't know how, but they just showed up."
That's all Polian would have had to say on ESPN the past couple days. "The Saints could have matched verbal signals to formations and plays, and known them coming in the next game." It would have been actual, valuable insight, gleaned from Polian's former position in the league. That's his job.
Instead he sticks his head in the sand. I don't think it's Polian protecting Loomis, a good friend. I don't think he'd do that. Instead it's this bizarre need for contrarianism that ESPN seems to believe makes for good TV. It's Ron Jaworski admitting he "has to sell" opinions he doesn't believe, because the network thinks argument, even from an insincere place, equals intelligent discussion. And since this Saints wiretapping thing is an entirely ESPN-born, ESPN-driven story, with the network devoting every platform to pushing it, the only dissenting voice is Bill Polian stubbornly staking out a position with no conviction. Decades in the highest levels of NFL, and he's been reduced to a high schooler given the "con" side in the debate club.