Bill Parcells

In Tom Brady's case, are NFL tampering rules made to be broken?

In Tom Brady's case, are NFL tampering rules made to be broken?

If Robert Kraft ever commissioned a sculptor to carve “10 Patriots Commandments” you’d be sure to find, “Thou Shalt Not Tamper With Our Employees” somewhere on that stone tablet.

Throughout Kraft’s ownership and Bill Belichick’s stewardship of the football operations, loyalty has been rewarded and betrayal punished.

From January 1997, when the Jets were monkeying around with Bill Parcells when the Patriots were getting ready for Super Bowl 31 against the Packers, through June 2019, when the Texans made their overtures to Nick Caserio, the Patriots have made one thing very clear: they aren’t going to be patsies when it comes to other teams trying to lure their people away.

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Which brings us to Tom Brady. As everything does. Do the Patriots care that a stealth parade of suitors is probably all up on him already?

Is this uber-protective organization fine with half of the league’s teams sniffing under the tail of the most important player in franchise history before they’re supposed to?

Rampant tampering with prospective free agents isn’t the NFL’s dirty little secret.

It’s not dirty since it’s somewhat necessary.

It’s not little since every team does it.

And it’s not even treated as a secret.

This week, the estimable and honorable Tedy Bruschi was asked about Brady on ESPN.
 

“I think he’s gonna see what’s out there for himself,” said Bruschi. “Matter of fact, I know he will. But I don’t think he’s going to have to wait until March 16 because you’ve got agents, you’ve got talk going on behind the scenes and I think he has an idea on the teams that are highly interested in him ... He will explore his options and he has the right to do so.”

The question then becomes what’s the league office going to do about it?

We all know the NFL’s penchant for selective rules enforcement. We all know they’ll happily string the Patriots up for transgressions real or imagined and let them twist in the wind. We all know the so-called Spygate II investigation that could have been cleared up in 20 minutes is still ongoing.

So, even if everybody’s doing it, isn’t it a little (a lot) hypocritical for the league to turn a blind eye to teams crawling up the trellis to slip in Brady’s window after dark?

Yes, it is. But a little hypocrisy never slowed the league down from doing anything.

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Besides, they might say, tampering with Tom Brady is actually a victimless crime. It actually does the Patriots a favor.

If Brady and his agent Don Yee have a sense of what’s out there before they start negotiating with New England, then the need for Brady to go on a free-agent tour is eliminated.

If Team Brady has no clue, then Yee starts from scratch when the legal tampering period begins March 16 at noon. 

There’s no way to vet each of the opportunities -- a source close to the situation figures there will be 10 teams expressing interest -- before free agency starts March 18 at 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, how are the Patriots supposed to convince free-agent tight ends or wideouts to come aboard if those players don’t know whether or not Tom Brady will be a Patriot? It’s easily argued that outside teams tampering with Brady is in the Patriots’ best interests.

Besides, if this really isn’t about the money -- and I’ve been told often enough that it isn’t -- it won’t matter if some crap-ass team is offering $70 million over two years.

The persuasion in the Patriots pitch has to revolve around "who" and not "how much." The team that Brady plays for in 2020 won’t be the winner of a bidding war, it will be the one that provides the best ready-made landing spot to compete for a championship and have a shitload of fun while doing it.

All that said, it will still seem odd to me if the Patriots -- whether it be Kraft or Belichick -- don’t somehow have their sense of honor offended by all the predicted sneaking around.

It’s always offended their sensibilities going back to January 1997 when it came to light that Bill Parcells spent the week leading up to Super Bowl 31 ringing up the Jets from his New Orleans hotel room instead of getting the Patriots ready to play the Packers.

The Krafts were apoplectic. Belichick, an assistant on that 1996 Patriots team, was pissed too.

"Yeah, I'd say it was a little bit of a distraction all the way around," Belichick told our Michael Holley for Holley’s book Patriot Reign. "I can tell you first hand, there was a lot of stuff going on prior to the game. I mean, him talking to other teams. He was trying to make up his mind about what he was going to do. Which, honestly, I felt [was] totally inappropriate. How many chances do you get to play for the Super Bowl? Tell them to get back to you in a couple of days. I'm not saying it was disrespectful to me, but it was in terms of the overall commitment to the team."

Every situation’s different, I guess. In this case, the tampering rules were made to be broken.

A birthday shoutout to a former Patriots tight end, No. 87...no, not THAT one

A birthday shoutout to a former Patriots tight end, No. 87...no, not THAT one

Before there was Gronk, there was another No. 87 Patriots tight end who was a five-time Pro Bowler, two-time first-team All-Pro and, at times, was considered nearly as unstoppable.

Happy 50th birthday, Ben Coates!

A fifth-round pick of the Pats in 1991 from then-Division II Livingstone College in North Carolina, Coates blossomed when Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe arrived in New England and he became Bledsoe's go-to target in Parcells' tight-end heavy offense.

His 96 catches in 1994 were a record for a tight end at the time. He's third on the Patriots all-time list in touchdown catches with 50, behind Stanley Morgan (67) and Rob Gronkowski (79), sixth all-time in Patriots history for both catches (490) and yards (5,471) and second all-time for Pats tight ends to Gronk's 521 catches for 7,861.

The birthday tweet and video serve as a reminder that the 6-foot-5, 245 Coates was a force for the pre-dynasty Pats.

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Ty Law discusses the differences in Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells' coaching styles

Ty Law discusses the differences in Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells' coaching styles

Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells are often credited with helping turn the Patriots franchise around. Belichick gets a bit more of the love due to his 225-79 record and six Super Bowl wins, but Parcells did do a lot to help establish the team as a playoff contender.

Parcells' four-year tenure ended with a 32-32 record and just one Super Bowl appearance. But, he did win the team their first division title in 11 years during the 1996 season and got them back to the Super Bowl for just the second time in their franchise's history.

Ty Law happens to be one of the few New England Patriots players who got a chance to play for both Parcells and Belichick and he liked playing for both. But, the two coaches had very different styles. And Law opened up on what the major difference between playing for the two coaches was in an interview with NBC Sports' Michele Tafoya.

Well, coach Parcells, I think, he's a master manipulator. He gets into your head to try to bring the best out of you. Coach Belichick is more of the X's and O's, and he's gonna put you in the right position, especially to use your ability. He's gonna out-think them but Coach Parcells is gonna get up in (your head). Whether you have a good game plan or not, you better get it done.

So, I think that's the major difference between those guys. Coach Parcells, he's a manipulator of the mind. Coach Belichick, he's gonna put it down on paper. I did all the hard work. Figure it out, get it done.

Both coaches were able to get the most out of Law during their respective careers in New England, so it's clear that whatever they did while coaching him worked out. Law was an All-Pro under Parcells in 1998 and also received those honors in 2003 under Belichick. They maximized Law's ball-hawking skill set and played a big role in helping get him to the Hall of Fame.

For a look at Law's full interview with Tafoya, see the video below.

CURRAN: Ty Law never embodied 'The Patriot Way'>>>

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