Broncos, coach fined $50K for taping practice
The NFL fined the Denver Broncos and coach Josh McDaniels $50,000 US each because the team's video operations director broke league rules by filming a San Francisco 49ers practice in London last month.
The NFL investigation determined that Steve Scarnecchia took the six-minute video of the walkthrough and presented it that day to McDaniels. The coach declined to view it.
But the NFL fined both the coach and team because the matter was not promptly reported, as required by the league.
Scarnecchia and McDaniels previously worked for the New England Patriots, who were found to have videotaped New York Jets coaches sending in signals during a game four years ago in a scandal dubbed Spygate.
The NFL bans such videotaping and issued $750,000 in fines against the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots also were stripped of their 2008 first-round draft pick.
Scarnecchia was fired by the Broncos and notified by Commissioner Roger Goodell that as a repeat violator of league rules regarding integrity he faces a hearing to determine if he will be banned from the NFL.
The NFL was to discuss the situation in a conference call Saturday. McDaniels was to speak to the media in the afternoon at the team complex.
"I apologize for not promptly reporting the improper conduct of our video director before our game against the 49ers in London," McDaniels said in a statement. "The actions of this individual are in no way representative of the values and integrity held by myself, our players and coaches, and the entire Denver Broncos organization.
"I understand the punishment from the National Football League and support its commitment to the integrity of the game. We have addressed the situation internally to assure that nothing like this happens again."
The investigation concerned practices at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 30, the day before the 49ers' 24-16 win over the Broncos. It was the only time the teams worked out on the same field while in London.
Team owner Pat Bowlen said in a statement Saturday that when he learned what happened the team "promptly began an investigation" and reported this violation to the NFL. He said the Broncos "fully cooperated with every aspect of the league investigation."
The NFL determined that Broncos executives were made aware of the videotaping on Nov. 8 and told the league about it four days later after an internal review. On Nov. 16, Bowlen and Broncos executives met with league officials in New York.
After that meeting, the NFL security department began its investigation, which included interviews of Broncos personnel. They also arranged for an analysis of the laptop computers used by the team's video department, which confirmed the 49ers' practice had been recorded. The league retained that tape.
Scarnecchia worked for the Patriots in the early 2000s. McDaniels, who worked in New England from 2001-09, hired him in Denver shortly after he became the Broncos' coach 22 months ago. He acknowledged to NFL investigators that he taped the walkthrough, according to excerpts from Goodell's letter to Bowlen.
Goodell's letter stated that Scarnecchia maintained that he had not previously recorded a walkthrough or other practice or "engaged in any other improper videotaping (such as recording coaching signals of an opposing team) since joining the Broncos."
The letter also said Scarnecchia "knew that what he did in London was wrong," that taping the walkthrough was his decision alone and nobody instructed him to record the practice.
In addition, the investigation found that when Scarnecchia offered to show the tape to McDaniels, the coach replied, "No, I'm not doing that." Scarnecchia said he didn't show the tape to any other staff member.
Goodell's letter to Bowlen stated that McDaniels was interviewed "under circumstances that would have made it impossible for him to have spoken to Mr. Scarnecchia in advance" and that McDaniels' recollection of events matched Scarnecchia's.
"Although I find no fault with the way the club handled this matter once you and your executives became aware of it, I nonetheless believe that some penalty must be imposed," Goodell wrote. "We have no more important responsibility than preserving the integrity and competitive fairness of the game and avoiding any implication that games are decided by anything other than what takes place on the field."
The letter added: "This appears to be a single incident by an employee who acted entirely on his own; there was no competitive effect; and, most importantly, the Broncos promptly took the initiative to report the violation. Had any of those factors not been present, I would have almost certainly imposed much more substantial discipline on the club."
But, he added, "clubs are ultimately accountable for the conduct of their employees."
Goodell said that while McDaniels "apparently declined to look at the tape, I also believe that he should have immediately advised you or one of your senior executives when he learned what Mr. Scarnecchia had done."
Goodell cited a policy in which team executives, head coaches and others are obliged to promptly report violations tied to the integrity of the game. The commissioner said a "significant number of club employees" have certified in writing they are aware of no further policy violations.
Goodell added that if further information comes to light, the league will reopen the investigation and, if necessary, impose further discipline.
This is the latest embarrassment for a Broncos team that is 3-7 and has lost 15 of 20 for the first time since 1971-72. The Broncos, who face St. Louis at Invesco Field on Sunday, were routed 59-14 by archrival Oakland last month in what many consider the worst home loss in the team's 51-year history.
After they turned the tables and routed Kansas City on the same field two weeks later, Chiefs coach Todd Haley snubbed McDaniels in the post-game handshake, wagging a finger at him. Haley apologized the next day but refused to say what set him off.
It might have been McDaniels' chest-bumping his players on the sideline during the blowout, challenging calls late in the game or maybe blitzing a gimpy Matt Cassel well into the fourth quarter.