Former coach Vermeil doubts spying helped Patriots beat Rams

ST. LOUIS -- Dick Vermeil, who coached the St. Louis Rams to
their first Super Bowl championship in 2000, doubts dirty tricks
prevented the franchise from winning it all again under Mike Martz
in 2002.

Vermeil, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from
his home near Philadelphia, said Monday night that players win
games, not schemes. He used the New York Giants' 17-14 upset over
New England on Super Bowl Sunday as an example.

"How was that game decided? By a receiver catching a ball on
the top of his helmet," Vermeil said.

The Boston Herald, citing an unidentified source, reported
Saturday that a member of the Patriots' video staff taped the Rams
final walkthrough before the '02 Super Bowl. The Patriots were
two-touchdown underdogs but beat the Rams 20-17 for their first

Others with connections to that game were keeping a low profile.
Team president John Shaw issued his second no-comment through a
spokesman on Monday and the agent for quarterback Kurt Warner, Mark
Bartelstein, said his client didn't want to get involved "until
things are flushed out." The agents for Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt did not return telephone messages.

Vermeil briefly retired after the Rams beat the Tennessee Titans
in the 2000 Super Bowl and handed the job over to Martz, his
offensive coordinator. The 71-year-old Vermeil thought such spying
would be of limited value.

"Personally, I don't think it had any effect on the game,"
Vermeil said. "That stuff's been going on forever and I don't
think you gain from it.

"But if people are doing it they must think it's making a

Walkthroughs are just what they suggest, players walking through
elements of the game plan. It can provide insight into personnel
groupings, formations that might be emphasized and plays that are
likely to be used. Many coaches script several plays to be used in
the first quarter, and Vermeil said it was typical for his teams to
rehearse the first dozen in his walkthroughs.

Still, Vermeil thought such inside information would just as
easily distract players.

"As a coach, you could get too caught up in it, too," Vermeil
said. "By the time you play the Super Bowl, let's face it, you've
seen them in 16 games plus the playoffs. You're walking through it.
That's why they play the game."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fined New England coach Bill
Belichick $500,000 earlier this season and docked the team $250,000
and a first-round draft pick after league security confiscated a
video camera and tape from a Patriots employee during New England's
38-14 victory over the New York Jets in the opener.

The employee was accused of aiming his camera at the Jets'
defensive coaches as they signaled to players on the field.

The Herald cited a source close to the Patriots as saying a
member of the team's video department stayed inside the Superdome
in New Orleans following New England's walkthrough and then taped
the Rams' session.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Saturday the league had been
aware of the "rumor" for months and found no evidence in tapes or
notes produced by the team, and that the team denied videotaping
the Rams. Goodell used much of his state of the game address on
Friday to say he didn't think the Patriots used such tapes to win
previous titles.

"There was no indication that it benefited them in any of the
Super Bowl victories," Goodell said.

Vermeil said oftentimes coaches can become paranoid about leaks.

During Martz's six-year stint as head coach in St. Louis from
2000-2005, the Rams erected a huge screen to prevent outsiders from
scouting practices from a hotel across the street. The security
director was outfitted with high-powered binoculars to scan the
hillsides and tops of buildings for potential intruders.

Vermeil, whose first NFL job was with the Los Angeles Rams under
George Allen, remembered Allen accusing opponents of sending
coaches in carpenter's uniforms to pretend to make stadium
improvements while they took notes.

"I just know it's been going on for years," Vermeil said.
"It's more of an integrity issue than anything else."