The news that Denver’s video director, Steve Scarnecchia, filmed a San Francisco walkthough practice in London before the 49ers beat Denver on Oct. 31 will stain Denver's reputation for a long time.
But the NFL acted swiftly to allow the team and coach Josh McDaniels to move forward. It’s now up to him to straighten out his team, a program that is on the brink of being in disarray in his second season.
The team and McDaniels were fined a combined $100,000 and Scarnecchia was fired. McDaniels was fined because he didn’t immediately report the infraction. The league ruled that Scarnecchia acted alone and that McDaniels wasn’t part of the plan to film San Francisco’s workout.
The league has left the possibility for further discipline if new evidence comes to light. Rest assured, the league will be on alert. This incident shows that Spygate still lives, and I’m sure commissioner Roger Goodell is steaming mad that it does. The league thought it moved on from that form of high-level cheating.
But for now, the matter is closed. Denver will not lose any draft picks. New England was fined $750,000 and lost a first-round pick for its “SpyGate”escapade in 2007. McDaniels was part of New England’s staff at the time.
And that’s what will linger in Denver. This was not McDaniels' doing, but it came on his watch and it falls on him. People in Denver have started becoming skeptical of McDaniels' abilities because of some of his personnel decisions and for numerous issues with players. He has also lost 15 of his past 20 games and the Broncos are 3-7 heading into Sunday's home game against St. Louis.
For McDaniels to have to meet the media a day before a game about a matter like this puts the entire organization in a poor light. This is a new black eye.
But clearly, the Broncos are still behind McDaniels. Asked Saturday if there was cause for termination, Denver CEO Joe Ellis said this: “It is not, no. The discipline has been handed down appropriately in our mind and in the mind of the owner. We've gone through it with the league, with the coach himself. He's admitted his mistake. He's paying for his mistake. He needs to move on and finish the season. Hopefully we have some success on the field.”
McDaniels apparently has a clean slate. He has to do everything he can to keep it as clean as possible or the Broncos will eventually have no choice but look for a new direction in leadership.