Any NFL team that wants to employ Bill Belichick this year must pay the New York Jets to get him.
While commissioner Paul Tagliabue didn't completely rule in favor of the Jets on Friday, he did uphold their rights to Belichick through the 2000 season. Tagliabue ruled Belichick breached his contract, which has three years remaining, when he resigned as coach of the Jets on Jan. 4 and cannot work for another team this year without the Jets' approval.
"Taken as a whole, the contract and the related memoranda constitute an agreement that Mr. Belichick would be the Jets' head coach except when Mr. (Bill) Parcells served in that capacity," Tagliabue ruled in a grievance filed by Belichick. "The agreement contemplated that Mr. Belichick would automatically succeed to the head coaching position if Mr. Parcells was no longer head coach."
Parcells stepped down as coach the day before Belichick resigned.
Neil Cornrich, Belichick's attorney, threatened legal action against the league.
"We think the commissioner's decision is unlawful and we are actively assessing all of our legal options," Cornrich said.
Belichick is sought by the New England Patriots for their vacant head coaching position and a personnel role. Now that the grievance has been dismissed, the Patriots will need to negotiate with the Jets to free Belichick.
"The commissioner's ruling and order are clear and self-explanatory," Parcells said. "The Jets will have no further comment at this time."
Coincidentally, the Jets had to do the same thing in 1997, when they sent four draft picks to New England to get Parcells released from his contract with the Patriots. Now, the Jets figure to get some draft choices back for Belichick, who came to New York with Parcells and served as defensive coordinator -- and coach-in-waiting -- until earlier this month.
Don't expect the Jets to get four picks for Belichick, however. He doesn't have the proven track record of Parcells; while Parcells has led two franchises to the Super Bowl, Belichick had one winning season in five at Cleveland. Something like a pair of second-rounders is more likely.
But even before any negotiations take place, the Jets must clear up their muddled coaching situation. Parcells apparently doesn't want to resume coaching, even though new owner Woody Johnson is in favor of exactly that. And Johnson did not limit a search for a new coach to the Jets' staff, although Parcells apparently favors linebackers coach Al Groh.
Tagliabue rejected claims by Belichick that he never actually assumed the head coaching job. The commissioner cited "more than 10" discussions between Belichick and Parcells about the prospect of Belichick becoming head coach after the 1999 season.
But Tagliabue denied the Jets' claim that Belichick should be barred from leaving for another team for the remaining three years on his contract.
Around the league
The Miami Dolphins fired defensive coordinator George Hill and defensive line coach Cary Godette. Earlier this week, new head coach Dave Wannstedt fired offensive coordinator Kippy Brown, offensive line coach Rich McGeorge and quarterbacks coach Larry Seiple. Hill, 66, served as defensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson for four years and coached the linebacking corps for 11 seasons. Godette, 45, served as defensive line coach in Miami for four years after holding the same position for a year with the Carolina Panthers.
Defensive backs coach Chuck Bresnahan was promoted to defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, replacing the recently fired Willie Shaw. Bresnahan, 39, spent the past two seasons as the Raiders' defensive backs coach.
The Green Bay Packers will ask Brown County voters to approve a 0.5 percent sales tax to help pay for a $295 million renovation of Lambeau Field, a state lawmaker said. The sales tax would bring in $160 million, and the remaining $135 million would be paid for by the Packers, according to the lawmaker and another source briefed by the team, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.
Dave Adolph, assistant head coach and linebackers coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, is retiring after 37 years of coaching.