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McKay Can Interview If the Falcons Agree to It


We’ve had an interesting week, to say the least, in connection with our efforts to acquire a better understanding of the NFL’s rules and procedures regarding tampering.

Just like the 2008 NFL season, whenever we think we know what’s going on, we realize that we don’t.

The latest example? We’re told by a source with knowledge of the league’s tampering rules and procedures that, even though the rules plainly and unambiguously prohibit a team like the Cleveland Browns from requesting permission to interview Falcons president Rich McKay until Atlanta’s playoff run ends, the Falcons have the ability to consent to the violation of the rules, simply by not filing tampering charges against the Browns.

The rule is clear: “Unless otherwise provided for in this Policy, no club may request permission to discuss employment with a non-player, non-coach employee of another club, whether or not that employee is under contract, during the employer club’s playing season, defined as the period from the opening of preseason training camp through the club’s final game of the season, including postseason if applicable.’”

A revision to this rule, adopted in October 2008, creates an exception for non-high-level front-office employees only. Under the new procedure, a team that is still in the playoffs may permit, for example, its director of college scouting to be interviewed for another team’s G.M. position.

But the new rule applies only to non-high-level employees, and not to club presidents. Like McKay.

So, based on the text of the rules, the Browns cannot even seek permission to interview McKay.

And that’s where a disconnect arises between the rule and its application. Per the source, the Falcons can allow McKay to be interviewed and hired, by not filing tampering charges with the league office.

But why, then, did the league bother to pass the rule allowing non-high-level employees of a playoff team to be interviewed if their current team grants permission? Under the interpretation that apparently will be used if/when McKay interviews with the Browns, a violation of the tampering rules arises only when one club accuses another club of tampering.

If that’s the manner in which the league intends to apply it’s rules, that’s fine with us. But the rules need to be written to reflect this reality. Because, under current rules, the Browns aren’t permitted to even ask permission to interview McKay.

Of course, it could all be moot (at least as to McKay) if the Falcons lose to the Cardinals on Saturday. That said, it’s an area that requires prompt clarification from the Competition Committee (which McKay still chairs) and the owners, so that all teams will understand exactly what the rules prohibit, and what the rules allow.

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