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NFL Teams, Seeking `Honest Edge, ' Hire Opponents' Ex-Players




NFL Teams, Seeking `Honest Edge, ' Hire Opponents' Ex-Players
NFL Teams, Seeking `Honest Edge, ' Hire Opponents' Ex-Players



http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid 601079&sid=an97nLIjPRzc&refer=home 

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 
anyway.''


Familiarity

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' 
defensive coordinator.

``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 
conference.

Scott played five games for Houston this season before his release on 
Nov. 21. He couldn't be reached for comment through the Patriots' 
offices.


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 
brains.''

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 
telephone interview.


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 
knew before.''


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