Hey, maybe the Texans didn’t tamper with Nick Caserio.
I mean, they couldn’t be so naïve as to think firing their general manager last Friday – a day after former Patriots chaplain and current Texans VP of Player Development Jack Easterby was at the Patriots ring ceremony – then requesting permission to speak with Caserio about the vacancy wasn’t going to set off alarm bells, could they?
And they – meaning Easterby, Texans coach Bill O’Brien and Texans owner Cal McNair – couldn’t have believed the request to yank Caserio wasn’t going to be met with A) resistance and B) suspicion. So, I’m prone to giving them the benefit of the doubt that they couldn’t so blatantly telegraph their intentions and not expect some fallout.
Because if they did tamper and the investigation the Patriots have requested the league to begin into L’Affaire Caserio uncovers evidence, there’s a simple old saying that applies.
Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Patriots history dating back to 1996 is littered with proof that, when the Patriots – and that means both Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick – believe their employees are being pilfered outside the rules, they are going to take action.
It happened in 1997 when Bill Parcells negotiated his exit from the Patriots to join the Jets kicking off the so-called Border War. And Belichick’s return to New England from New York in 2000 was every bit as messy and led to a Cold War between Big Bill and Little Bill that took a few years to thaw.
The agitation with Eric Mangini when he went to the Jets after the 2005 season was rooted in the belief Mangini was trying to convince Patriots assistants and players to join him in New York while he was still a member of the Patriots coaching staff.
The irritation that flowed from that led to a tit-for-tat snitching contest between the two teams over video personnel and that ballooned into SpyGate which, less than a decade later, may have indirectly birthed Deflategate.
Now the Patriots have seen all manner of employees light out for the territories over the past few years. Matt Patricia went to the Lions. Josh McDaniels nearly went to the Colts. Brian Flores went to the Dolphins. Assistants and front-office personnel have accompanied them. They’ve seen former coaches – after stops elsewhere – land in head jobs in other cities and tap Patriots players as free agents and executives to join them.
But those occasions at least came during the period when people were moving around anyway – after the season and before the draft. For the Texans to fire a seemingly capable GM in Brian Gaine in June and expect they could extract Caserio seems like it was a little too bold a maneuver for the Patriots to merely shrug at.
So here we are.
And now the Patriots are going to fight against O’Brien and Easterby who reportedly has gained “juice” within the Texans organization since being hired by Gaine.
Easterby is, according to Houston Chronicle writer John McLain, going to be involved in the interviews to replace Gaine. The Patriots seem to believe he – or someone with the Texans – has already been involved in more than that.
The bone over which the two franchises will now fight – Caserio – finds himself in an uncomfortable position. I don’t know if I’ve encountered a more principled, ego-free, honest, hardworking executive with the Patriots than Caserio in the time I’ve covered the team.
But it takes two to tango and if Easterby or O’Brien made inquiries to Caserio or Caserio’s agent prior to the Texans canning Gaine and Caserio indicated he was game for a change then we have a sticky situation for one of Belichick’s most loyal and valuable lieutenants to deal with.
The turnover on the Patriots staff in the past few years has been massive. And the Patriots have done what they could when they could to stem it by either blocking requested interviews as they did with Caserio and director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort or convincing coaches like McDaniels to stay.
Where do things go from here?
Well, Caserio – who still hasn’t been granted permission to interview – could stay and the Texans (if found “guilty”) could still be penalized.
Or the Patriots could let Caserio go, deal with a pretty important loss and take whatever compensation Houston is forced to give.
Or there could be a fight after the tampering charge is resolved as to whether or not Caserio already was a high-level employee of the Patriots and is therefore ineligible to leave as he’s under contract.
One thing that’s guaranteed to come from this? Hard feelings.
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