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After a week like this, all we can do to keep from crying is to laugh. So let’s try to do a serious breakdown of NFL punishment at a convenient time (what Deshaun Watson?) of the Dolphins without shooting milk out of our noses.

This investigation, understandably, has a large number of tentacles. Tom Brady is involved, and with Brady involved, the Patriots, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft are involved. The Buccaneers, Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles are involved. Sean Payton is involved, which means the Saints are involved too. Brian Flores is involved. The reputation of owner Stephen Ross was seriously damaged. The team was stripped of draft picks, making GM Chris Grier and new coach Mike McDaniel also affected or tangentially involved.

First, the details: The league stripped the Dolphins of their 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick, fined Ross $1.5 million and suspended him until the 17th ‘ October, and fined limited partner Bruce Beal $500,000, in addition to banning him from all league meetings this year for one of the most blatant violations of the NFL’s tampering policy in the history of the championship. Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement announcing the punishment that it was “unprecedented in scope and severity. I know of no previous case of a team breaking the ban on tampering with both a head coach and a star player, to the potential detriment of several other clubs, over a period of several years.”

The Dolphins had “unauthorized communications” with the agent for Payton and Brady.

Left: Andrew Wevers/USA TODAY Sports | Right: Andrew Wevers/USA TODAY Sports

The six-month investigation found that the Dolphins had “impermissible communications with quarterback Tom Brady in 2019-20 while he was under contract with the Patriots. Those communications began as early as August 2019 and continued throughout the 2019 season and beyond.”

It found that the Dolphins “had unauthorized communications with both Mr. Brady and his agent during and after the 2021 season while he was under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those discussions began no later than early December 2021 and focused on Mr. Brady becoming a limited partner in the Dolphins and possibly serving as a football executive, although at times they also included the possibility of he plays for the Dolphins. Both Messrs. Ross and Beal were active participants in these discussions.”

It found that “The Dolphins had impermissible communications with Don Yee, the agent for New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, regarding Mr. Payton serving as Miami’s head coach. Miami did not request the -consent from New Orleans to have these discussions, which took place before Coach Payton announced his decision to retire as head coach of the Saints. After that announcement, Miami requested permission to speak with Coach Payton for -the first time, which New Orleans refused to give.”

The findings also drop a stunning line note, which we will expand on below. As you remember, the Dolphins were accused by former coach Brian Flores of tanking games. The findings reveal that “on a number of occasions during the 2019 season, Mr. Ross expressed his belief that the Dolphins’ position in the upcoming 2020 draft should take priority over the record of ‘ team wins and losses. These comments were made most often to Team President and CEO Tom Garfinkel, but were also made to General Manager Chris Grier, Senior Vice President Brandon Shore and Coach Flores.”

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get into it…

Has Brady’s reasoning for his faux retirement collapsed?

A person with knowledge of the situation said that Brady is not subject to any additional fine, investigation or suspension despite his role in the scandal. Moving forward, we can safely say the quarterback was right when he said he was lying to the media “90% of the time.” Brady said on his podcast at the time of his retirement: “I’m going to spend some time [with my family] and give them what they need ’cause they’ve really been giving me what I need the last six months to do that . I love doing it,” he said in the interview. “I said this a few years ago, it’s what all relationships are. Not always what I want. It is what we want as a family. And I will spend a lot of time with them and understand in the future what is next.”

That, along with a lengthy Instagram statement announcing his retirement plans, seemed like a convenient shield to keep us from active talks taking place between Yee, Payton and Brady (who all share the same agent) and the Dolphin. Brady’s father, Tom Sr. To see also : Sophisticated Settings — Lifestyle — July 01, 2022., said at the time that it was the “media” that forced his son to announce his retirement when perhaps Brady was trying to walk the tightrope between colluding with another franchise and simply having exploratory talks about life beyond football.

Regardless, it feels like Brady has been pulled back into the mire a bit, even though he’s a supporting cast member here. After removing himself from the Patriots, a past that involved team scandals like Spygate and Deflategate, Brady seemed to remove himself from a legacy that could be twisted into a somewhat controversial or ruined career. The flagrantly with which he allegedly tried to get out of the Buccaneers and reinsert himself into a rival franchise with a head coach of his choice must be considered.

What will Brady say publicly about this?

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What did the Buccaneers know, and when did they know it?

Now that we know the secret back and forth between Brady, the Dolphins and Payton, it makes the performances from Bruce Arians and Buccaneers GM Jason Licht all the more fascinating at this week’s scouting combine. a year.

Arians, when asked about the finality of Brady’s retirement decision, said that Brady had “closed the door for me” with an emphasis on the last two words. He also joked (joked?) that Brady might be shaking “just to have his name out there. This may interest you : Sean Payton talks about his expected return as an NFL coach.” Licht, meanwhile, said “I don’t have any information that suggests he’s coming back” but added “He’s Tom Brady. If he wants to come back, we’ll welcome him back.”

This was March 1, a month after the alleged communications were made.

Could Arians have been upset about his alleged role in the confrontations with Brady? As we heard in the months after Arians’ retirement, their relationship did not end well. Was Licht on stage sitting on this massive piece of information, or was he really in the dark about all this going on behind the scenes? Will the joint practices that the Buccaneers and Dolphins share this week turn to ice?

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Did Payton retire to coach Dolphins?

In late January, Payton said of his coaching future (emphasis mine): “I don’t know what’s next. That might be coaching at some point, but probably not this year. This may interest you : Kirby Smart contract: Georgia head becomes highest-paid coach at public university with 10-year extension. That’s not where my heart is. … I don’t know what’s next, and it kind of feels good.”

I think it’s fair to the cynic in all of us to rehash our initial stance on Payton’s retirement, which was that he was leaving a team with a dwindling competitive window to hit the free agent market free in an unprecedented broadcast time. and high level training salaries. Regardless of whether the Brady-Dolphins deal worked out, he was in a win-win situation. The NFL found that discussions between Payton, Yee and the Dolphins began before Payton announced his retirement.

Payton is one of the best coaches in recent NFL history, but regardless of whether he “retired” in order to establish a coaching tenure with Brady and the Dolphins, or if time and the alignment of facts simply make him looks like he is he did, this is one of the biggest coaching scandals in recent NFL history as well. Here is a person who regularly asks players to sacrifice their health and safety for the greater good. Here is a person who, while asking those players to do so, is potentially engaging in a plot to leave a recruiting roster high and dry while he flees to Miami for a better situation.

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So, what about the tanking?

Do you remember the whole genesis of this thing? Flores, who was fired as coach of the Dolphins on January 10, 2022, left the NFL less than a month later. Amid the explosive allegations, which covered issues of both racial discrimination and competitive integrity, Flores said Ross offered him $100,000 for every loss back in 2019.

The league’s six-month investigation concluded, basically, that Ross was joking. From their findings: “One such comment is an offer requested by Mr. Ross to pay Coach Flores $100,000 to miss games, about which there are differing recollections as to wording, timing, and context. However, such a comment was not intended or taken as a serious offer, nor was the subject pursued in any respect by Mr Ross or anyone else at the club.”

Note what he doesn’t say: Mr. Ross never said this.

The investigation concluded that Ross’ offer of $100,000 per loss was not meant to be taken seriously.


It will be interesting to hear how the NFL came to these conclusions, since, in the same statement, the NFL said that Ross “expressed his belief that the Dolphins’ position in the upcoming draft of -2020 should take priority over the win-loss of the team. record. These comments were made most often to Team President and CEO Tom Garfinkel, but were also made to General Manager Chris Grier, Senior Vice President Brandon Shore and Coach Flores. These comments, which he considered suggestions that he should miss the game, worried Coach Flores and led him to express his concerns in writing to the senior club executives, each of whom assured Coach Flores that everyone, including Mr. Ross, supported him in building a winning culture in Miami. After that, Mr. Ross stopped making such comments to Coach Flores.”

Put yourself in Flores’ shoes. As a Black coach, you know with a fair amount of certainty that this opportunity will be your only chance to be a head coach. You’ve probably heard through the grapevine that your owner has already tried to lure Brady away from the Patriots and he has a knack for getting involved. The owner fired the previous coach because he wanted to rebuild, which was a well-known sentiment in league circles at the time, and now he’s making comments—joking or otherwise—about how he really, really likes them. if the Dolphins. he had a higher draft the next year.

Editor Gary Gramling and I recently finished an investigation into the Browns under Hue Jackson. Added to Jackson’s contract was a bonus pool that gave him additional compensation for a higher number of early round draft picks. It is undeniable that these types of pressures, whether written expressly or with subtle jokes about them, create a complicated political environment for coaches who are afraid of losing their jobs. Coaches have to win to stay employed. They need to lose, in some respect, to please their owners. They have no certainty that losing will keep them employed when the draft picks are good enough to help them win.

The NFL, by not punishing the Browns for Jackson’s allegations, essentially blessed this practice as O.K. It is the closest a team can get to tanking without crossing the line. That said, the NFL should have really forced itself here to chide Ross for making offhand comments about tanking while not actually accusing him of tanking.

What did the Dolphins tell McDaniel before he took the job?

As Kyle Shanahan’s top run game designer, McDaniel would have opportunities in the coming years. The 39-year-old is still relatively young for the role but he chose the Dolphins in a move that could ultimately define his coaching career. McDaniel was hired in February 2022, a month after the NFL found that the Dolphins were having unauthorized contact with Payton.

It’s fair to wonder whether a highly sought-after coaching candidate would have accepted the job if he knew he would be removed from critical draft picks that could ultimately help him fix a potentially complicated quarterback situation (a situation made even more complicated now that Tua Tagovailoa knows with absolute certainty his franchise was looking for a high-profile replacement). It’s also fair to wonder if McDaniel would have wanted to sign on to be the daily media spokesperson for a scandal-ridden franchise. Ross emerged from this investigation with a brutal reputation as a desperate and over-involved owner whose mercies will run the business as they see fit, within or outside the scope of the rulebook. While some of this was already known in NFL circles, will the enormity of it all bother McDaniel?

Would Tagovailoa ever demand a fresh start?

Think of the quickest ways to destroy a promising young quarterback’s career, and think of how the Dolphins approached Tagovailoa. They compared him to a coach who changed offensive coordinators like they were bad Tinder matches. They created an environment where Flores was so concerned about competitive balance that he regularly benched Tagovailoa during his rookie season. They’ve made regular attempts to find his replacement, which Tagovailoa and his connections no doubt got wind of during the process (we’re also discounting Miami’s pursuit of Deshaun Watson at the trade deadline, which involved Ross’ desire for Watson to settle his lawsuits before coming to Miami ). This is a playbook on quarterback mismanagement, if the playbook had been given several cycles of anabolic steroids and enhanced beyond recognition. Never in the NFL has a player’s career been so grossly and grandiosely mishandled. We’re not saying Tagovailoa would have turned out differently, but how are the Dolphins supposed to reasonably expect him to give up his health and safety for them? What a monumental claim it is for McDaniel to manage.

The Dolphins regularly made attempts to replace Tagovailoa, including with Brady and Watson.

Brady is a free agent after this season and could walk right into Dolphins headquarters and into a full-time position as a starting quarterback and GM-type player, and Tagovailoa knows it.

What did the Dolphins think was going to happen?

Here’s the most fascinating aspect of this: The Dolphins tried to aggressively pursue the greatest player in NFL history and one of the greatest coaches in recent history, both of whom were under contract with teams another. What would a trade package involving Payton, who is under contract with New Orleans through 2024, look like? Also, would they have any capital left to bring Brady from Tampa Bay?

Arians joked at the combine that it would take “five [first-round picks]” to get Brady out of Tampa Bay. If the Dolphins had the wherewithal to acquire Brady and Payton? Were they using the ownership position for Brady to subvert the process? It seems an incredible risk for Ross.

Now he ended up without the coach he wanted, without any of the quarterbacks he wanted and rightfully pissed off the greatest coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick, who Ross was sick of being outdone by for so many years already. Sometimes, in a three-dimensional chess game, you win. Sometimes, you end up suspended, cut a cool $1.5 million and exposed as the closest thing to a cheater as the NFL is willing to publicly admit.

How does Goodell calm a band of uncontrollable billionaires?

Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam signed and fully guaranteed a contract for Deshaun Watson, who, according to NFL arbitrator Sue L. Robinson, had a pattern of conduct “more egregious” than any previously reviewed by – the championship. The Dolphins tried to bend league rules to steal Brady from both the Patriots and the Buccaneers. The Saints and owner Gayle Benson should be upset. The Kraft family in New England must be in turmoil, too. We haven’t even tapped the wild card, Raiders owner Mark Davis, and broiling cause Jon Gruden. And Daniel Snyder hid from the subpoena of Congress in international waters.

To be a fly on the wall of the next collection of owners.

It’s moments like these that I wonder if even Goodell himself knows how impossibly huge his job is. He should be the public relations face of a group of rich people who don’t feel bound by any rule given to them, be it by the league, the FBI, the constitution or congress. At what point do all these wildly divergent interests and egos collide in a way that ultimately hurts the product? What does Goodell do when that happens?

Has the NFL figured out a better way to dump news?

We used to point out how, without a hint of irony, the league would drop big and unflattering news in the depths of a quiet summer week in the hope that it would disappear. As one smart agent pointed out in a recent conversation, the start of training camp is a much better tool to reduce the seriousness of these findings. The NFL is generating tons of training camp stories, ones that might interest its fan base more than information about its moral decay. It can effectively wash away the bad news in breathless updates of the Mitch Trubisky–Kenny Pickett–Mason Rudolph quarterback battle and appear transparent.

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