Tale of the (video) tape

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

It's been a few years since Don Matthews was accused of having spies videotape coaching signals around the CFL.

But that hasn't stopped Stampeders defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan from operating under a cloak of secrecy that would give 007 fits.

"I do everything possible to make it impossible to steal my signals," said Creehan yesterday, one day after word leaked out the New England Patriots are in serious trouble after allegedly being caught videotaping New York Jets coaches Sunday.

"I change our signals every week, and sometimes if I have any inkling a team has a history of stealing signals, I'll change them at halftime. If I had to, I'd do it every quarter. To me, stealing signals is unethical -- that's not how you win football games. I don't think you should be doing stuff like that."

Apparently the NFL feels much the same way and is contemplating taking several draft picks from the Pats for something every team was warned about by commissioner Roger Goodell. And while the CFL doesn't have a rule prohibiting such behaviour, there can be little debate that if a team were to be able to crack another club's hand signals from a defensive coordinator to his defence, opposing offences could cash in big time.

"There's no question it would be a heck of an advantage," said Creehan, insistent his club wouldn't stoop to such levels.

"Most of them stealing signals are looking for the 'blitz/ man' call. If you know we're going to be in man-coverage or a blitz/man-coverage, they'd just put in an extra blocker and let the receivers work their magic on the giant field."

Coaches have long disguised play calls in many ways, including covering their mouths to prevent lip-reading.

And while offensive coordinators in the NFL are protected somewhat by a headset system that allows them to speak directly to their quarterbacks, there is no such mechanism for the defence.

"You tip off a quarterback that the defence is in a 'man,' 'zone' or 'blitz' and, all of a sudden, it becomes simple as the adjustment has been made. It's a big advantage as he just has to deliver the football," said coach Tim Higgins, well aware teams have tried for years to crack such codes regardless of the ethical nature of such practices.

"It's all about what some people's lines are. Some say 'if we're smart enough to get it why shouldn't we use that information?' It's like if you go nine kilometres over the speed limit you won't get a speeding ticket. But of you go 10, you will. Hey, you're still nine over."

In other words, you're still cheating, which has many now calling into question not only the character of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, but even the legitimacy of his club's wins in three of four Super Bowls from 2002 - 2005.

"It's like the Montreal Alouettes winning the (1977) Grey Cup by putting staples in their shoes -- you do that now and you cheated. Back then it was glorious and the shoes are in the Hall of Fame," shrugged Higgins.

"In my mind, what (the Patriots) accomplished is fabulous but this will put some doubt in people's minds."

With the amount of money at stake and jobs on the line with every win and loss in the NFL, no wonder teams would stoop to having a videographer making $50,000 a year trying to gain what could be a huge advantage.

"To me, it doesn't always help because even if you know -- or think you know -- what they're going to do, you still have to execute," said Creehan.

Does that mean he'll stop going to great lengths to disguise his signals?

"Not a chance."

In this case, he's not hard to read.


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