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Sunday Football Notes

New look at how Robert Kraft dealt with his coaches

Robert Kraft said he never thought about firing Bill Belichick after the Spygate controversy, and maintains that Belichick wouldn’t do anything “deliberately” wrong.

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Robert Kraft said he never thought about firing Bill Belichick after the Spygate controversy, and maintains that Belichick wouldn’t do anything “deliberately” wrong.

In his new book, “Coaching Confidential: Inside the Fraternity of NFL Coaches,” New York Daily News columnist Gary Myers has some excellent nuggets about some of the best in the business.

There is a meaty chapter about the rise and (for now) fall of Saints coach Sean Payton. Some of it has to do with his arrogance, which contributed heavily to the bounty scandal.

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There are also choice bits on Joe Gibbs, the relationship between Tony Dungy and Andy Reid, and also some interesting reading about coach/quarterback relationships between John Elway and Mike Shanahan, and Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren.

Tom Coughlin, Rex Ryan, John Fox, and Brian Billick are also covered in depth.

The book, which comes out Tuesday from Crown Publishing, has a behind-the-scenes, insider feel, so I recommend picking it up.

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Patriots fans will want to grab it for Chapter Three, “Tuna Subs,” which goes into great depth about Robert Kraft’s purchase of the team, and his dealings with the three coaches he has had: Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll, and Bill Belichick.

Probably the most noteworthy nugget has to do with Spygate, the infamous signal-taping scandal.

“Everybody has their idiosyncrasies, but if there is trust, that’s the key in business, in marriages,” Kraft told Myers during a 2010 dinner. “You build a sense of trust so you go through rough times. Look what happened with this bogus thing with the Jets. I stood by him pretty darn good. That was rough.”

The “bogus thing” Kraft was referring to was Spygate.

“How much do you think that helped us?” Kraft asked. “How much of a surprise was it to [Jets coach Eric] Mangini and [general manager Mike] Tannenbaum?

“You know how many teams steal signals? That’s bupkis . . . We kicked [the Jets] off our roof [in 2006].”

The Jets insisted they had permission from the Patriots to tape from that location.

Myers also recounts an incident in 2004 when then-Jets coach Herman Edwards and defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson knew the Patriots were taping them in a game at Giants Stadium. They both waved at the cameras.

Kraft also told Myers that he confronted Belichick about the taping.

“How much did this help us on a scale of 1 to 100?” Kraft asked Belichick.

“One,” Belichick replied.

“Then you’re a real schmuck,” Kraft said he told Belichick.

Kraft calling Belichick a schmuck. Well, that’s certainly an interesting exchange to think about.

Kraft said he never thought about firing Belichick after the controversy, and maintains that Belichick wouldn’t do anything “deliberately” wrong.

“He would take every edge he could get but he would never knowingly break the rules or cross the line,” Kraft said. “I know him. I’m not saying he was a choir boy.”

Another interesting revelation that Myers makes in regards to the Patriots is that Parcells asked Kraft to sell 1 percent of the team to Tim Mara, who had sold his half share in the Giants to Robert Tisch. Parcells wanted Mara to be the intermediary between Parcells and Kraft. Parcells would tell Mara something, and he would relay it to Kraft.

Parcells denied the charge to Myers, but a high-ranking league insider confirmed Kraft’s version and believed the motivation was for Mara to irritate his uncle, Wellington Mara.

There are a lot of details about the dysfunctional relationship between Kraft and Parcells in the book, including Kraft’s disdain for how Parcells treated his wife and the banker who loaned Kraft $172 million for the purchase of the team.

“He never would talk to her, not even be polite,” Kraft said. “That’s my wife.

“I get on the team plane with my banker . . . The guy takes a big risk as a banker, so he comes to an away game, and Parcells wouldn’t talk to him or say hello to him. It was not pleasant.”

Myers also talks about some interesting player acquisitions, including the selection of troubled Nebraska defensive tackle Christian Peter in the fifth round of the 1996 draft. It’s certainly relevant now in the wake of the Aqib Talib trade.

The Patriots quickly relinquished their draft rights to Peter, though it’s not entirely true that Myra Kraft demanded that happen. After not getting the entire truth about Peter’s past from his coaching staff, Kraft did his own investigation and found out that Peter’s troubles were much deeper than he was told.

“So I went down to Bill [Parcells],” Kraft said. “I said, ‘Look, we’re cutting this guy.’ I had to show him we couldn’t do things with a wink and a nod.”

“Kraft,” Myers wrote, “believes every player on his team ‘has my family name attached to it. I don’t want thugs and hoodlums here.’ . . . He told his coaches that if he needed ‘thugs and hoodlums’ to win, he would get out of the business.”

SO FAR, SO GOOD

Midseason All-Pros at the top of their game

Here is one man’s opinion on the top players at each position through the midpoint of the season.

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Matt Ryan, Falcons. He’s the quarterback of an 8-0 team. A no-brainer.

Running backs: Adrian Peterson, Vikings; Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks. Peterson has been unbelievable since returning so quickly from knee surgery, and Lynch is the workhorse for one of the league’s surprising teams.

Fullback: Jerome Felton, Vikings. Hard to dispute what he has done blocking, though Marcel Reese (Raiders) and James Casey (Texans) add more to the passing game.

Tight end: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots. The scary thing is, he’s not 100 percent healthy yet. Look out in the second half.

Receivers: Reggie Wayne, Colts; Roddy White, Falcons. Percy Harvin was really close, but how many Vikings can you have? Wayne is a one-man band, and White has been terrific.

Tackles: Duane Brown, Texans; Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots. Most voters go with two left tackles, I like to stick with one from each side. Brown leads a crowded class on the left side, while Vollmer is clearly the best of a poor bunch on the right side.

Guards: Evan Mathis, Eagles; Marshal Yanda, Ravens. Mathis, since his Bengals days, has been consistently underrated. Yanda was a bit overrated last year but has improved.

Center: Mike Pouncey, Dolphins. The play is much improved at this position, and Pouncey leads a crowded bunch. Should be a good battle down the stretch.

Kicker: Phil Dawson, Browns. He is 17 of 17 on field goals, including 4 of 4 beyond 50 yards. Hard to argue with that.

Kick returner: Harvin, Vikings. He gets his nod anyway, with his league-leading 35.9-yard average.

Most Valuable Player: Ryan, Falcons. Whatever Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers are doing statistically pales in comparison to 8-0.

Offensive Player: Peterson, Vikings. He’s the only back averaging more than 100 yards per game (106.3), and he leads the league by far with 11 rushes longer than 20 yards.

Offensive Rookie: Doug Martin, Buccaneers. He is second in the league with 99.3 rushing yards per game, and is second to Arian Foster (10) with seven touchdowns.

DEFENSE

Ends: Cameron Wake, Dolphins; Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants. Wake is probably the biggest reason the Dolphins are a playoff contender. He has been relentless pressuring the quarterback. Pierre-Paul gets the edge, for now, over Patriots rookie Chandler Jones.

Tackles: J.J. Watt, Texans; Geno Atkins, Bengals. Yes, I’m cheating a little bit putting a 3-4 end in Watt at tackle, but he does most of his best rush work from the inside. Atkins is showing that his 2011 campaign was no fluke. He’s very good against the run and the pass.

Outside linebackers: Von Miller, Broncos; Clay Matthews, Packers. As good as Miller was as a rookie last season, he has been even better this year. He makes Elvis Dumervil look average. Matthews is the Packers’ pass rusher, and he might be better against the run. Now dealing with a hamstring injury, Matthews may not make this list after the season.

Inside linebackers: Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, 49ers. Not really happy that I had to leave Arizona’s excellent Daryl Washington off the list, but San Francisco’s dynamic duo is too good and too steady.

Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman, Seahawks; Charles Tillman, Bears. This position is wide open with Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson out. Sherman is a very good player who doesn’t need to talk as much as he does. Tillman has steadily improved, and there may not be a better tackling corner.

Safeties: Eric Weddle, Chargers; Jairus Byrd, Bills. Weddle might be the best all-around safety in the game now that Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed are slowing down. Byrd for now leads a crowded field because of his coverage skills. Imagine if the Bills had a pass rush.

Punter: Andy Lee, 49ers. They don’t come much more steady than Lee, who was the All-Pro pick in 2011.

Defensive Player: Watt, Texans. He is singlehandedly changing what is expected of a 3-4 end, with a league-leading 10.5 sacks and 10 passes defensed (for a lineman).

Defensive Rookie: Jones, Patriots. Bill Belichick absolutely struck gold with a player that has well exceeded expectations.

TWO MORE AWARDS

Comeback Player: Peyton Manning, Broncos. Uh, yeah.

Coach: Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians, Colts. They’re 6-3 even with Pagano in the hospital battling leukemia. After 2-14, no one saw this coming.

ETC.

First-hand experience

As the NHL labor dispute grinds on, with the union saying that a wide gap remains between the sides, I was reminded of something that happened at the outset of the lockout. Bruins fans flooded the Patriots’ official Twitter account asking if Robert Kraft, who was one of the central figures in ending the NFL lockout before any games were missed, could take part in NHL talks. I asked Kraft about it at the time, and he respectfully declined. “I have great respect for Jeremy Jacobs and Gary Bettman, and they have a lot of wonderful people there who know what they’re doing,” Kraft said. “The one thing I learned from the NFL experience is that you always try to look at what’s in the best interest of the game long-term. And what happens is you get people in there — and especially the professional negotiators on each side who want to prove how smart they are — who really just do this job and then they leave. They can burn some bridges and forget what really counts: the fans who are paying the bills. All they want to do is just get their fees. I know in the NFL they were trying to create a litigation strategy that would have been huge fees for them but ownership, players, and the fans would have been hurt. That’s why it’s so important that the principals be the ones sitting down on both sides and doing it. There are capable people in that whole system.” On behalf of NHL fans everywhere, are you busy the next couple of weeks, Mr. Kraft?

Nickel package

1. Patriots safety Patrick Chung (shoulder) is questionable for Sunday. Whenever he returns to action, we should see a player at the top of his game, if for no other reason than he has eight games to unrestricted free agency. If Chung doesn’t elevate his game now, you have to wonder whether he ever will.

2. So the Patriots will trade one suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs (Aqib Talib) for another (Brandon Bolden). That’s good for roster stability.

3. So what will the excuse be from Bolden: the very trendy ADHD-drug Adderall, a supplement that didn’t include a banned substance on the label, or over-the-counter cold medicine (ephedrine, pseudoephedrine)?

4. Many players, including Brandon Spikes in 2010, love to trot out the Adderall excuse. It could be valid, but that doesn’t mean you should believe them. First of all, it’s legal with a prescription so, um, don’t be dumb. And, second, the NFL can’t say what the drug was, and “PED” is all-encompassing, from steroids to hormones to stimulants. When was the last time an active NFL player admitted he was busted for steroids? Agents tell their players to admit taking the most innocuous, easily excusable drug. If a player wants to be believed, then provide the paper from the NFL telling him what he tested positive for.

5. Rest in peace, NFL Players Association travel coordinator Dana Green, who lost her battle with cancer last week. Green had the unenviable task of coordinating travel for the NFLPA to and from events. She was one of those valuable glue-like employees behind the scenes that every organization has.

Short yardage

Commissioner Roger Goodell will speak Thursday at Harvard’s School of Public Health as part of the Dean Julio Frank’s Distinguished Lecture Series. Goodell’s lecture, which will include a question-and-answer session, is titled “Leadership on the Road to a Safer Game” and will deal with player safety and concussions. The lecture starts at 3 p.m. at the Kresge Building at 677 Huntington Avenue . . . On paper, the Monday night game between the Chiefs (1-7) and Steelers (5-3) looks like a dog, but this one will have a lot of bite. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley was fired by Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli after a 5-8 start last season left him at 19-26 in his nearly three years as Chiefs coach. Safe to say there’s no love lost between Haley and Pioli. Haley has downplayed the matchup, but his players can sense something different. “Without him saying it, you can always see it,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger . . . The New England Celebrities Tackle Cancer Gala, the signature event for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, will be Dec. 3 at Gillette Stadium. It will mark five years for the former Patriot’s foundation helping cancer patients and their families. Current and former Patriots are expected to attend the event, which will feature Bob Costas as auctioneer. Individual tickets are available exclusively at JAFGala.org. For information on sponsorship opportunities, contact the foundation at (774) 284-4694.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.
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