Updates from Friday, June 20
Cromartie, who spent the past four seasons in New York before signing with the Cardinals in free agency, downplayed the notion that a loose playbook would provide a significant advantage, then took a swipe at Pettine for good measure.
"I think it's all wanting to make up a story," Cromartie said during a Thursday appearance on NFL Network's NFL Total Access. "Because their team is not getting talked about a lot as other teams. I think that's what it really is.
"I've been around Pettine. Pettine is that kind of person. I've been around him for my first three years in New York. I think it's, you know, something he wants to build about."
The rivalry between the New England Patriots and New York Jets is a long-running and bitter one, but Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine has added even more fuel to the fire.
Pettine, who previously served as the Jets' defensive coordinator under head coach Rex Ryan, believes the Patriots may have gotten their hands on the Jets' defensive playbook due, in part, to University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
According to Greg A. Bedard of SI.com's MMQB, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady bragged to Jets linebacker coach Mike Smith at wide receiver Wes Welker's wedding that the Patriots may or may not have had some Gang Green playbooks.
If the Patriots obtained the Jets' playbooks, then who is most to blame?
When Pettine caught wind of that, it wasn't a surprise to him due to the circumstances surrounding Ryan's laissez-faire attitude with playbooks.
"It didn't shock me because Rex would give them out like candy anyway," Pettine said. "He gave one out to Saban and I was like, 'Don't you know Saban and [Patriots head coach] Bill [Belichick] are pretty good friends? I have a feeling it's going to end up in New England.'"
With that in mind, Pettine prefers to keep his playbooks simple so something similar doesn't happen to him.
"I don't put a lot of graduate-level information in it," Pettine said. "We know in places like New England, it's only a matter of time that they somehow mysteriously end up with our playbook."
The Patriots' "Spygate" scandal broke in 2007 after New England was caught taping the Jets' defensive signals. That took the Patriots vs. Jets rivalry to another level, and it has reached even greater heights since Ryan took over as New York's head coach.
When asked about Pettine's accusations, Belichick didn't have much to say, according to Phil Perry of CSNNE.com:
Belichick on Mike Pettine allegations that Pats had Jets playbook: "Talk to Mike Pettine. I don't know."— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) June 19, 2014
Ryan commented on the story as well (via Jane McManus of ESPN):
Ryan on whether Pats have playbook: "It's disrespectful to New England to sit back and say they did this."— Jane McManus (@janesports) June 19, 2014
The idea that Nick Saban betrayed him by giving a playbook to Pats? "I don't think that's a fair assessment of who Nick Saban is," Ryan.— Jane McManus (@janesports) June 19, 2014
"It's in a bad spot right now," Ryan said of his relationship with Pettine.— Jane McManus (@janesports) June 19, 2014
McManus also weighed in on Ryan's comments:
Rex is being a little tongue in cheek about Pettine, but seems annoyed about the insinuation. #NFL— Jane McManus (@janesports) June 19, 2014
Only Patriots coaches and players know for sure if they had the Jets' playbooks, but one has to wonder how much of an impact it had if they did. Playbooks tend to be fluid, and it is entirely possible the Jets changed things up if they had any suspicions at all.
This plays into the narrative that has been attached to the Pats ever since 2007, though, so it is inevitable that football fans and analysts alike are intrigued by this situation.
It only figures to heat things up between the Patriots and Jets, but it could also lead to some bad blood between the Browns and Pats. Pettine has been outspoken as the Browns' head coach thus far and seems to be taking a page out of Ryan's playbook in that regard.
Perhaps even more importantly, though, this could reflect badly on Saban. If the allegations are true, then he betrayed Ryan's trust. At the same time, Ryan has to be smarter about what he does with sensitive information.
However, a Alabama spokesperson has denied that Saban has given the playbook to anyone (via Rick Karle of Fox 6):
There are plenty of moving parts in this story that impact multiple coaches, players and teams across different levels of football, so it will be interesting to see the developments coming out of Pettine's comments.
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