Imagine that! Nefarious doings in the world of professional sports? Say it isn't so:
AS THE PATRIOTS became a dynasty and Belichick became the first coach to win three Super Bowls in four years, an entire system of covert videotaping was developed and a secret library created. "It got out of control," a former Patriots assistant coach says. Sources with knowledge of the system say an advance scout would attend the games of upcoming Patriots opponents and assemble a spreadsheet of all the signals and corresponding plays. The scout would give it to Adams, who would spend most of the week in his office with the door closed, matching the notes to the tapes filmed from the sideline. Files were created, organized by opponent and by coach. During games, Walsh later told investigators, the Patriots' videographers were told to look like media members, to tape over their team logos or turn their sweatshirt inside out, to wear credentials that said Patriots TV or Kraft Productions. The videographers also were provided with excuses for what to tell NFL security if asked what they were doing: Tell them you're filming the quarterbacks. Or the kickers. Or footage for a team show.
The cameramen's assignments differed depending on the opponent. For instance, Walsh told investigators that against Indianapolis he was directed to take close-ups of the Colts' offensive signals, then of Peyton Manning's hand signals. Mostly, though, the tapes were of defensive signals. Each video sequence would usually include three shots: the down and distance, the signal, and, as an in-house joke, a tight shot of a cheerleader's top or skirt. The tape was then often edited, sources say, so that Adams' copy contained only the signals, in rapid fire, one after another. According to investigators, Walsh once asked Adams, "Are the tapes up to standards?"
"You're doing a good job," Adams said. "But make sure that you get everyone who's giving signals, even dummy signals."
As much as the Patriots tried to keep the circle of those who knew about the taping small, sometimes the team would add recently cut players from upcoming opponents and pay them only to help decipher signals, former Patriots staffers say. In 2005, for instance, they signed a defensive player from a team they were going to play in the upcoming season. Before that game, the player was led to a room where Adams was waiting. They closed the door, and Adams played a compilation tape that matched the signals to the plays from the player's former team, and asked how many were accurate. "He had about 50 percent of them right," the player says now.
During games, Adams sat in the coaches' box, with binoculars and notes of decoded signals, wearing a headset with a direct audio line to Belichick. Whenever Adams saw an opposing coach's signal he recognized, he'd say something like, "Watch for the Two Deep Blitz," and either that information was relayed to Brady or a play designed specifically to exploit the defense was called. A former Patriots employee who was directly involved in the taping system says "it helped our offense a lot," especially in divisional games in which there was a short amount of time between the first and second matchups, making it harder for opposing coaches to change signals.