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Spygate 2? McDaniels, Broncos fined over videotaping incident

For the first time since the infamous Spygate scandal in 2007, the NFL has issued sanctions to the Broncos and head coach Josh McDaniels for violating the league’s integrity of game policy involving the improper videotaping of a six-minute portion of the 49ers’ practice Oct. 30 at London’s Wembley Stadium the day before the teams played. 

The Broncos and McDaniels were each fined $50,000 after an investigation by the league concluded this week. The investigation found that McDaniels did not view the videotape that was shot by the team’s video director, Steve Scarnecchia. 

Both McDaniels and Scarnecchia were with the Patriots when the organization and head coach Bill Belichick were heavily penalized for illegally videotaping opposing teams’ defensive signals. Known as Spygate, the scandal was sparked by the Jets reporting the illegal videotaping by the Patriots in a Week 2 game at the Meadowlands. McDaniels was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, and Scarnecchia worked in the team’s video department.

McDaniels was told of the videotape by Scarnecchia the day the 49ers’ practice was taped, but the coach declined to view it, according to the league’s investigation. If subsequent evidence showed that McDaniels was engaged in any actions prohibited by league rules, commissioner Roger Goodell said he will re-open the investigation and impose any additional sanctions if necessary. 

The Broncos have since fired Scarnecchia, and Goodell has notified him that, as a repeat violator of league rules relating to the integrity of the game because of his actions in New England, he will be the subject of a hearing to determine whether he should be barred from the NFL for conduct detrimental to the league. 

The league’s investigation found that Broncos executives were made aware of the improper videotaping on Nov. 8 after the team’s return from London. McDaniels did not notify the team despite a rule mandating that any such violations are to be reported immediately. Once the Broncos discovered the violation, they investigated the matter internally and then informed the league on Nov. 12. The NFL then interviewed several Broncos personnel, including McDaniels and Scarnecchia, and arranged for forensic analysis of laptop computers used by the video department. 

“When he was interviewed by NFL Security, Mr. Scarnecchia admitted that he had recorded the practice,” Goodell said in a letter to Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. “He maintained that he had not previously recorded a walk-thru or other practice or engaged in any other improper videotaping (such as recording coaching signals of an opposing team) since joining the Broncos; that he knew that what he did in London was wrong; that taping the walk-thru was his decision alone; and that nobody had instructed him to record the practice.” 

Goodell said Scarnecchia offered to show the tape to McDaniels, but the coach declined. Scarnecchia “said that Coach McDaniels responded to his offer by saying, ‘No, I’m not doing that,’ at which point, Mr. Scarnecchia left. He also said that he did not show the tape to any other member of the coaching staff, and our interviews do not disclose that any member of the coaching or football staff viewed the recording.” 

Asked yesterday whether the violation constituted grounds for McDaniels’ immediate firing, Broncos chief operating officer Joe Ellis said, “It is not. The discipline has been handed down. We’ve gone through it with the league and the coach himself. He’s admitted his mistake. Once it was revealed to us, I felt we did the right thing [by reporting it to the league].” 

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