News broke that the Atlanta Falcons have been under investigation this season for piping in noise, creating an atmosphere where the visiting team can't hear call plays. What will be the outcome if found guilty?
As the Atlanta Hawks keep adding wins to their NBA record, the Atlanta Falcons may be tarnishing an already a dubious NFL record.
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ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the NFL is investigating the team for pumping artificial crowd noise into the Falcons' home field, the Georgia Dome, while the visiting team attempts to make calls. If true, the offense may result in disciplinary action, including the loss of a draft choice, since the problem has been ongoing for the past two seasons.
Speaking to the sports network, a Falcons spokesman confirmed the allegations. "We were informed during the season that the league office is looking into crowd noise during our games. We have cooperated fully with them, and we're awaiting the outcome."
The investigation update comes amid other team chatter; mainly, who’ll be the head coach since firing Mike Smith?
The Atlanta Falcons are expected to make an announcement on Tuesday, placing Dan Quinn as the head coach for the team, when his current team’s season ends after the Super Bowl. Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank seemed confident in mimicking how the Seahawks and Patriots have created in way of team community when speaking to ESPN. “You'll see a tremendous amount of closeness, collaboration and partnership between personnel and coaching.”
And that’s the direction and environment Blank is looking for. Waving away the idea of power being a good element to a football organization, he explains what the Falcons need now. “What we want to build is an organization that depends on partnership and collaboration. And I think the head coach candidate that was selected is a firm believer in that and has demonstrated that over a long period of time.”
He also expects the head coach to be in charge of all areas of the team plays, not just one area. Defense, offense, special teams…makes no difference. The idea is to win. Currently, Quinn works as the Seahawks defensive coordinator, so Blank is showing confidence. But will the piping noise controversy overshadow the potential news conference?
At Phoenix for the Super Bowl coverage, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution named the team’s spokesman as Reggie Roberts, unlike ESPN. The paper also broke down the rules for noise, where "stadium officials are allowed to use stadium audio until 20 seconds remain on the play clock, 10 seconds longer than previous years."
Additionally, video boards are permitted to incite crowds to create a ruckus while the visiting team's making a play. This is a change from previous years, where all video board calls had to be be silent with only 30 seconds on the clock.
As the AJC points out, there's an ironic twist since the home team was forced to use silent counts because the visiting team's fans grew louder than Falcon fans. According to D. Orlando Ledbetter, when thousands of home team fans fled the Dome during an Oct. 12, 2014 game, Chicago Bears fans "stayed and were so noisy it was difficult for the Falcons’ offensive players to communicate before the snap." It seems the home field advantage has been shot for the NFL team.
Dirk Koetter, Falcons offensive coordinator at the time, admitted, "That’s only the second time since I’ve been here that we had to go to a silent count at home.” Working with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now, he couldn’t recall the first time, but believes it might have been the 33-10 loss to the Seahawks last season.
"Noise always echoes both for us and against us." With the new stadium under construction, perhaps unnecessary noise will not be a problem at all when the acoustics and sound barriers are completed.
At the time of the Bears game, quarterback Matt Ryan opened up on problems for players in too loud arenas, where coordination and communication become completely ineffective.
“We’ve been good at home in the past and that gets our fans going. Our fans have been great since I’ve been here. But it was a tough one.” Winning only 2 out of 5 games in each season may have demoralized some of the players, such as Ryan.
While some league members may feel silent counts eliminate the need for crowd noise control, the overall opposing team effectiveness still remains unknown. Especially given the Falcons record this season at the Dome and losing the NFC South Division title in Week 17 to the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers snipped the team's wings with a 3-34 loss.
However, this isn’t the first time this has happened in the NFL. At the old RCA Dome, the New England Patriots accused the Indianapolis Colts of piping in noises to distract the visiting team as Tom Brady was attempting to relay call signals. In the end, CBS-TV and the NFL cleared the Colts of any wrong doing, saying that it was a network error due to unusually high audio at the time.
That was in 2007, and the former Minneapolis Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Vikings, faced similar accusations. The sound level unofficially reached 118-decibel levels in January 2010 when playing against the Dallas Cowboys. And like many questionable moments, the event happened at a divisional championship.
2013 saw the Seattle Seahawks set the standard, though. 68,331 visitors registered 131.9 decibels at CenturyLink Field as the home team beat the San Francisco 49ers. Even more impressive is the fact the field is outdoors.
But considering 130 decibels is equal to standing next to a jet engine, perhaps it’s not a good idea to hit above that. And that explains why piping in noise is dangerous for the visiting team. If a player can’t hear the call, how does one win the game?
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