Did Saints have competitive advantage?

Former NFL executive Bill Polian said he doesn’t understand how New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis got any competitive advantage from allegedly having the ability to listen to opposing coaches communicate during games.

“There’s something missing here,’’ said Polian, who is now an ESPN analyst. “I don’t know what kind of competitive advantage you can get. Mickey would have to know the verbiage of every other opposing team in order to translate it, and then he would have to do it instantly and find some way to communicate with his coaching staff and get it down to the field in time for it to be useful. That would be very difficult to do in my opinion.’’

That all makes a lot of sense. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Loomis to tip off his coaching staff to what opposing coaching staffs were saying seconds before the snap. It also would have been pretty much impossible for those coaches to let players know quickly enough what play was coming.

It also is extremely important to note that Loomis had the alleged ability to listen to other coaches only from a span from 2002 through 2004. That’s when Jim Haslett was coaching the team. Hurricane Katrina hit before the 2005 season, and the Saints had to play their home games in other locations that season. The report says the listening device was destroyed by the hurricane, and there are no indications it was put back into place. Haslett was fired after the 2005 season, and if Loomis was listening to play calls by opposing coaches, Haslett's record doesn't suggest it provided much of advantage.

Sean Payton was hired to replace Haslett in 2006. So you can’t tie Payton to this issue. But I still don’t see how this can mean anything positive for the Saints.

The NFL already has suspended Payton for a full season for a bounty program the league says lasted three years. Loomis also will be suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season for not stopping the bounty program.

The NFL reportedly was not aware of Loomis allegedly having had a listening device until the report came Monday afternoon and the team has denied the allegations. Loomis might not have gained any competitive advantage from allegedly having a listening device, and the allegations are from long ago when a different coaching staff was in place.

But these allegations sound a lot like Spygate, which also was something that happened in the past. The NFL -- particularly commissioner Roger Goodell -- didn’t take that situation lightly, and fined the New England Patriots $750,000. If this had come out a few years back, the Saints might be in line for a punishment similar to New England’s, if the NFL had found them guilty of the allegations.

But that was just one situation. This is different. This is coming on top of the whole bounty program.

Competitive advantage or not, this could convince Goodell to throw the book at the Saints -- even more than he already has.