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NFL nixes draft picks for coaches

Teams no longer can give up picks for compensation, like the Bucs did for Gruden.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 17, 2003


TAMPA -- Jon Gruden led the Bucs to a franchise-record 12 victories, a division title and a berth in Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Eagles. You would have to agree the trade Tampa Bay made with the Raiders for the rights to Gruden is an unqualified success.

Now such a deal is against league rules.

The league Thursday banned the type of trade that enabled the Bucs to sign Gruden. The new policy was announced in a memo to all 32 teams by commissioner Paul Tagliabue, league spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Tagliabue acted after the competition committee concluded that such coach-for-picks trades might be undermining the purpose of the draft.

The co-chairman of the competition committee is Bucs general manager Rich McKay, whose team has reaped the benefits of such a trade.

The Bucs ended a 36-day coaching search by trading two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8-million to the Raiders for the rights to Gruden, who had a year left on his contract.

Three weeks ago, the Bucs attempted to receive compensation from the Cowboys for the rights to hire Bill Parcells, revealing the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach had signed a four-year contract to coach Tampa Bay a year ago.

But the contract never was submitted to the league office for approval and Tagliabue ruled no compensation was owed.

McKay declined comment Thursday.

The league's owners can decide whether to restore the right to trade draft picks for coaches at their annual meeting March 22-26 in Phoenix.

The league's new policy is not restricted to head coaches. It prevents draft picks from being used to sign anyone under contract with another team, including assistants, front-office personnel or scouts.

Gruden is the latest success story for teams that have been bold enough to package draft picks to hire coaches under contract with other teams.

In 1997, the Jets sent draft picks to New England to acquire the rights to Parcells. Two years later, Parcells led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game.

In 2000, the Patriots sent draft picks to the Jets to hire coach Bill Belichick, who was under contract. Last season, Belichick led New England to the Super Bowl XXXVI title.

This is not the first time the competition committee recommended the league reconsider its policy of swapping picks for coaches. Three years ago it presented its concerns to ownership about teams attempting to receive compensation for assistants.

After firing Tony Dungy and having Parcells renege on a deal to coach Tampa Bay and remain retired, Bucs owners targeted coaches under contract.

First, they offered the 49ers a package of undisclosed draft picks for the rights to Steve Mariucci, who ultimately walked away from an offer to become coach and general manager.

That prompted Bucs vice presidents Joel and Bryan Glazer to call Raiders general partner Al Davis and offer a king's ransom of top picks for the rights to Gruden.

Both teams benefited. The Raiders host Tennessee in the AFC Championship Game while the Bucs travel to Philadelphia for the NFC title game.

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