The last couple days have been loaded with discussion about headset malfunctions the Pittsburgh Steelers had to deal with against the New England Patriots. For stretches of Thursday's game, the Steelers were getting the Patriots radio broadcast fed into their headsets. When one team's headsets are malfunctioning, they inform NFL officials at the game, and the other team has to also remove their headsets so it is an even playing field. However, on Thursday, the Steelers said when the officials started walking to the Patriots side, the headsets started working again.
The NFL said they oversee headsets, and it was an equipment malfunction exacerbated by the inclement weather. Nonetheless, coming so soon after the Deflate-gate nonsense, it is easy to be skeptical about Bill Belichick and the Patriots. I can't imagine they would be so brazen to do something like this, but the timing is amusing to say the least.
But they would not be the first team to mess with an opponent. Turns out Bill Walsh did as well! I completely forgot about this from the Bill Walsh Football Life documentary, but there was a segment on the games he would play with Bill Parcells and the New York Giants when it came to headsets.
Walsh liked to script plays at the beginning of the game. Against the Giants one year, the headsets on his sideline happened to go out. Not as big of a deal since he knew what the 49ers were going to do at the start of the game anyway. But that meant the Giants and Bill Parcells had to put their headsets down too.
"Getting ready to play them again next year in the playoffs, and I said to Bill, ‘These phones go out again to start the game, I'm gonna expose you,'" Parcells recalled. "He looked at me with a little wink and says, ‘Just a little gamesmanship.' And I said, ‘I understand.'"
Parcells made the same type of comment on ESPN back in 2007, although he did not specify the 49ers or Bill Walsh. The Giants and 49ers had some epic games in the 80s and early 90s. The Giants did actually win some of those games in which Parcells believed the 49ers were gaming the system.
Walsh is not here to defend himself, so we can only take this with a certain grain of salt. On the one hand, I can definitely see Walsh looking for that edge. On the other hand, I could also see Walsh making Parcells think he was going for that edge, when in fact he was not actually doing that. I suppose it is all part of that gamesmanship.
The best way to handle it is you push the limits until officials tell you to stop. Joe Montana talked about how the 49ers sprayed silicone on their offensive linemen's jerseys so people could not get a good handle. Eventually the NFL caught on and warned the 49ers, and Montana says the team stopped at that point. Whether they did in fact stop or not remains to be seen, but this falls a bit under better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.