Coach with direct ‘Spygate’ ties hired as Falcons assistant
New Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is adding three new members to his staff, including one with direct ties to the New England Patriots "Spygate" scandal.
A source told FOX Sports that Quinn has hired Steve Scarnecchia (assistant to the head coach), Matt LaFleur (quarterbacks) and Jeff Ulbrich (linebackers) as assistants.
Scarnecchia was with New England’s video department from 2001 to 2004, which is when the Patriots were found to have illegally taped opposing team’s signals. New England was caught videotaping New York Jets defensive signals in 2007, which led to the franchise and head coach Bill Belichick being fined by the NFL as well as the Patriots being stripped of a first-round draft choice.
Spygate’s aftermath permanently tarnished the Patriots and continues to resonate today with New England being investigated for using improperly inflated footballs during the AFC title game against Indianapolis.
Scarnecchia’s own reputation was further sullied while serving as Denver’s video operations director in 2010. He was caught taping a San Francisco 49ers walk-through practice before a game in London. The NFL levied a $50,000 fine against the Broncos and then-head coach Josh McDaniels, who is now back in New England for a second stint as the team’s offensive coordinator.
Scarnecchia was fired following the incident and subject to a review by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell before being allowed to re-enter the league.
Scarnecchia’s hiring comes at a time when the Falcons are dealing with their own scandal. The NFL is investigating Atlanta for illegally pumping artificial crowd noise during home games at the Georgia Dome the past two seasons.
"I think what we’ve done in 2013 and 2014 was wrong," Falcons owner Arthur Blank told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "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."
Scarnecchia had served as the director of football operations at Syracuse University. He is the son of long-time New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
Steve Scarnecchia’s role with the Falcons will likely be similar to that of Devin Bonik, who was responsible for providing administrative help to former Falcons head coach Mike Smith. Bonik will not be retained by Quinn.
LaFleur was Notre Dame’s quarterbacks coach in 2014 after holding the same position the previous four seasons with the Washington Redskins. LaFleur will be reunited with new Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who held the same position in Washington from 2010-13.
LaFleur’s younger brother Mike was hired by the Falcons as an offensive assistant earlier this week.
Matt LaFleur will now be responsible for helping Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan adjust to the West Coast-style offense Shanahan is installing.
Ulbrich also comes from the college coaching ranks at UCLA, where he served as defensive coordinator in 2014. Ulbrich played linebacker for 10 NFL seasons with San Francisco (2000-09) before retiring and becoming an assistant special teams coach in Seattle, where Quinn also was coaching.
Ulbrich and Matt LaFleur, respectively, replace Glenn Pires and Glen Thomas from Smith’s staff.