Yesterday, the New England Patriots filed tampering charges with the league against the Houston Texans. The subject matter of the filing is Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, who is on the Texans’ radar to potentially become their new general manager. However, Caserio’s current club is apparently arguing that the attempts at getting him to Houston have violated the NFL’s anti-tampering rules.
Now, a league investigation will try to shine light on the dispute — and it is far from the first time that the Patriots are involved in such an affair, either as the party accused of tampering or the one pressing charges.
We can trace this history all the way back to 1997 and a dispute between the Patriots and the New York Jets over head coach Bill Parcells. While no official tampering charges were filed for Parcells’ leaving of the Patriots to move to New York, league commissioner Paul Tagliabue still had to broker a deal between the two sides — one that saw New England receive a total of four draft picks in compensation for releasing Parcells out of his contract.
Three years later, a similar scenario occurred when Parcells’ hand-picked successor decided to resign as ‘HC of the NYC’: Bill Belichick wanted out of his deal with the Jets, with the Patriots eagerly awaiting him as their next head coach. Parcells, who was still active as New York’s head of football operations even after stepping down as head coach, later accused New England of tampering with Belichick. Again, however, no official complaint was filed.
Rumors of tampering — but again no official investigation — also were present when defensive coordinator Eric Mangini left the Patriots to become the new head coach of the Jets in 2006. That same year, New England finally pressed official tampering charges against its division rivals; not because of Mangini or another coach, but because of disgruntled wide receiver Deion Branch who was put on the trade block by the Patriots.
Branch had been given permission by the Patriots to seek a trade after contract talks fell apart, but discussing details of a potential move was to be left to the clubs involved. The Jets were one of those clubs, and New England accused them of compromising their own negotiation position by going into too much detail during their talks with the wideout. It took the NFL five months to come to a decision, but in February 2007 it cleared the Jets of the charges.
The Jets and Patriots were again involved in a tampering dispute in 2014. In December, New England filed charges against New York for comments made by team owner Woody Johnson about cornerback Darrelle Revis. Johnson had stated that he would “love for Darrelle to come back” while the All-Pro cornerback was still under contract with the Patriots. Almost immediately, the Patriots complained at the league office.
Three months after New England filed its claim, the Jets countered with one of their own: they accused Patriots owner Robert Kraft of tampering with Revis after he had signed with the Jets in free agency. Only one of the two accusation ended with actual results, though: in late April 2015, four months after the first charges were brought forward, the NFL decided to fine New York $100,000 for indeed having tampered with Revis.
Four years later, and we face the newest tampering scandal involving the Patriots. And if the past two are any indication, we can expect the process to be a long one — which in turn could play into the Patriots’ hands: if the NFL again takes its time to conclude its investigation and come to a conclusion, New England and Houston might have to wait until the regular season was already under way for results regarding Caserio.
Until those results are announced, however, the Texans may not be able to interview or sign the man at the center of it all. Would they be willing to leave the general manager role open or headed by an interim until that point? That is another factor to consider when it comes to the Great Tampering War of 2019.