By Erik Matuszewski
December 15, 2006
Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Guss Scott had a brief stay with the New York
Jets, who hired the third-year safety four days before facing his former
team, the Houston Texans. He was cut two days after the game.
Scott, 23, this week signed with the New England Patriots, who play the
Texans at home on Dec. 17. In the past five weeks, at least seven other
National Football League players won a job with a new team before a game
against their previous employer.
The league's version of industrial espionage, while not widely practiced
or discussed in football circles, isn't new, former NFL executives said.
Teams have been signing players to gain inside information about an
opponent's play-calling and strategy for decades.
``Everything is fair in love and war,'' Gil Brandt, a former director of
player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys and now an analyst at NFL.com,
said in a telephone interview. ``We're in a competitive business and
everybody is trying to get an honest edge.''
New England's signing of Scott comes after Miami players said this week
that they learned how Patriots quarterback Tom Brady audibly changed
plays at the line of scrimmage from television game tapes. The Dolphins
(6-7) beat the Patriots (9-4) last week 21-0 in Miami.
``It's just a part of the league,'' Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Zach
Thomas said at a news conference. ``Everybody's going to try to get an
advantage somehow. The thing is, I don't know if it helped us at all. It
was so loud at the home game, you could barely hear the audibles
The Jets' Eric Mangini, in his first season as an NFL head coach, said
Scott's knowledge of the Texans' defensive strategies was a
consideration when the team signed him last month. It also helped that
Mangini worked with Scott in New England when Mangini was the Patriots'
``It doesn't hurt that he has some familiarity (with the Texans), but it
is also the familiarity I have with him,'' Mangini said at a news
Scott played five games for Houston this season before his release on
Nov. 21. He couldn't be reached for comment through the Patriots'
A Week's Pay
Scott's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said he doesn't see the benefit.
``The way you win in this league is execution,'' Rosenhaus said in a
telephone interview from Miami. ``I don't think it's really a
competitive advantage for a team to pay a week's salary just to pick his
At the average NFL salary of $1.63 million a season, a week's paycheck
would be about $96,000.
The New Orleans Saints, whose 9-4 record is the second-best in the
National Football Conference, last month signed former Cleveland tight
end John Owens four days before playing the Browns. The Atlanta Falcons
grabbed ex-Saints fullback Corey McIntyre off waivers days before
hosting New Orleans.
``Anytime you get a player from a team, he can help them with audibles,
both offensively and defensively, and he can help them with personnel,''
former Washington and Houston General Manager Charlie Casserly said in a
Getting an Edge
Brandt, who won two Super Bowl titles with Dallas, recalls a time in the
1980s when Washington snatched a player off the waiver wire who was
drafted by the Cowboys. Brandt said the Redskins' coaches asked the
player what plays the Cowboys would run in goal-line situations and how
they called audibles.
``The kid was smart enough to say, `Did you bring me here to grill me
about Dallas, or am I here for a tryout?''' Brandt said. ``The answer
was that they wanted to see if he was smart enough.''
With the NFL's parity -- 25 of the league's 32 teams are still in
contention for a playoff berth with three weeks left in the season --
experts say teams are looking for an edge anywhere they can get it.
``I don't know how much good it does,'' Brandt said. ``But if you talk
to a guy and you find out just one thing, that's one thing more than you
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