Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay will be suspended from the NFL‘s competition committee and the team will be stripped of a draft pick for piping false crowd noise into the Georgia Dome over the last two seasons.
In addition, Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer is expected to be suspended for suggesting play calls to coaches during games. The moves are part of an NFL-wide crackdown against rule-breaking that alters the outcome of contests.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the news, which is expected to be announced this week:
Per Schefter on SportsCenter, via CBS Sports’ Will Brinson, the Falcons are expected to lose a mid-round pick.
Members of the Browns front office were alleged to have sent texts to coaches during games that included things like preferred play calls. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported the texts played a role in the departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Farmer has since admitted to sending the texts.
“I think Ray Farmer knows and has [privately] said that he has made a mistake in sending those texts,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam told reporters in February. “Ray feels terrible about it. Ray’s a guy—I’ve known a lot of people—I think has utmost integrity.”
A report from Schefter at the time indicated the Falcons piped crowd noise through speakers when opposing teams had possession of the ball. Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted the team was guilty within days of the investigation leaking, calling it “embarrassing.”
“It’s not really a fine line,” Blank told Charles Odum of The Associated Press, per Yahoo Sports. “I think what we’ve done in 2013 and 2014 was wrong. Anything that affects the competitive balance and fairness on the field, we’re opposed to, as a league, as a club and as an owner. It’s obviously embarrassing but beyond embarrassing it doesn’t represent our culture and what we’re about.”
Atlanta has gone 6-9 over the last two seasons at home. The Browns finished as the NFL’s 24th-best offense, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics. It appears whatever advantage gained from the tactics was minimal.
Either way, it appears the NFL is prepared to send a loud and clear message to ensure no other team tries pulling similar tactics in the future.
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