Ross Tucker, one time Bill, Patriot and I forget how many other teams, put out an article today for SI.com about the cheating he saw and participated in while playing Pro ball. You can find the article here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/ross_tucker/05/15/rules/index.html
Among the gems is this one: "One season when I was with the Bills, the offensive line coach for the team we were were about to face was fired days before the game. He subsequently called our offensive line coach, Jim McNally, and let him know some of the unique defensive formations we could expect to see that week. Needless to say, the defenders were very surprised how well prepared we were."
Now, I don't figure Jim was going to look a gift horse in the mouth, but there we go, we also did it when we hired Lawyer Milloy right after he was cut by the Patriots and hey, we won that first game from them, and we sure seemed to know what was coming at us that game too. Hmmmmmmm....
As Ross relates ALL teams either cheat outright, or bend the rules to the breaking point to be successful. Why? Because the NFL and its fans are such a big group of "What have you done for me lately" types, that coaches and the front offices of the franchises have no choice but to grab every advantage they can when they get it.
Do I condone or excuse this behavior? Hard to say for me. I've spent enough time in the world of college sports to know that my team did its best to know the other teams signals and formations, we always had a coach at our next opponents game taping and looking for things we could use. Did I personally sometimes apply stickum to my hands in HS when I still played TE in order to make sure I caught those outlet passes when my QB was in trouble, damn right I did, even though stickum wasn't allowed by Section III in NY State. Its all a very very slippery slope, and in the end, I think it all depends on where we as fans, and they as coaches and FO people decide it should stop.
Also of note, Steve Young was on Dan Patrick's radio show earlier today and there was an interesting discussion that took place there. Basically it became a discussion of what constitues "Cheating" and what constitutes "Gamesmenship" and I personally found it very fascinating hearing Steve Young discuss some of the things he saw in games. You can listen to it here: http://http-trd-l3.cdn.turner.com/si/danpatrick/audio/2008/05/16/DP-Steve_Young%20-5-16_Interview.mp3?eref=fromSI
Steve's arguement is that if it is systematic (like the Pats) its cheating. If its a situation where the field is quiet enough, and someone on the other side of the ball overhears the play being called by the other team, and they make an adjustment, then thats gamesmenship, and I gotta agree with that take on the situation.