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NFL

Can NFL teams trade coaches?

With six NFL teams currently looking for a new head coach, we look what contract options are available to franchises when it comes to non-player personnel

Update:
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 07: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the sidelines during the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 07, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
GRANT HALVERSONAFP

One of the most exciting off-field aspects of the NFL is the trades done for players. It makes up the backbone of Fantasy Leagues and team redevelopment plans, occupying a disproportionately large amount of time and mental effort by fans and press alike. The concept of buying, selling, drafting and trading players is so central to the football experience that one thing stands out by its relative scarcity and that is applying the same market rules to coaching staff.

Trading coaches, though little considered, does in fact happen in the NFL. Jon Gruden was sold by Raiders owner Al Davis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for two first round draft picks, two second round draft picks, plus $8 million. It turned into a wily move by the Bucs as they and their new head coach went on to beat the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII in his first year.

One of the most successful football dynasties of the modern era was begun with a controversial trade when the New England Patriots and New York Jets came to terms for the services of not one but two great coaches.

Bill Parcells who had attracted Bill Belichick to leave the head coaching position at Cleveland and accept the defensive coordinator job with New England, decided to offer his services to the Jets. In a complicated turn of machiavellian deal-making, the Jets hired Parcells' protégé as head coach and brought on Parcells in an advisory role.

Naturally, the Patriots were less than enthusiastic to have their contracted head coach in New York. Ultimately, the league had to step in to settle the dispute and Paul Tagliabue duly awarded New England the Jets’ third and fourth round picks his first year in NY, a second round pick the next year, and a first round pick the year after that. In turn, Parcells was made the Jets head coach and Belichick ended up as an assistant.

But in a “turnabout is fair play” bit of kismet, New England owner Robert Kraft agreed to send the Patriots 2000 first-round pick to the Jets, plus the fourth and seventh round picks in 2001, in exchange for New York releasing Bill Belichick from his contract. Of course this turned into the most astute move of recent memory as Belichick would put in place a system that with the acquisition of Tom Brady in one of his first moves as head coach and go on to win six Super Bowls over the next 19 years.

Not all trades give such instant and emphatic results, but they still continue. More recently, in 2006, Herm Edwards was traded to Kansas City when the Jets agreed to let him out of his contract in exchange for a fourth-round pick. New York got the pick and Edwards ended up signing on as Kansas City's coach.

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