In the high-stakes world of NFL player contracts, the two-year, $1.2 million deal between New England and fullback Patrick Pass barely registers on the radar screen.
But the angry trolls who inhabit the seedy underworld of online football punditry were incensed at the way the deal was reported in one Boston media outlet.
Boston Globe hatchet man Ron Borges, who's written himself into tiny, discredited corner of Morrissey Boulevard by taking blind, wild swings at the most successful franchise in football, looked at the deal and compared it with the three-year, $2.5 million contract recently signed by Houston fullback Moran Norris ("One man's wallet more full than another's", April 3).
As we wrote soon after the Borges report was published, there were several possible reasons to explain the discrepancy between the Pass and Norris deals. Perhaps Pass took a hometown discount, or maybe Houston wildly overpaid for Norris, as second-rate teams so often do (the Texans have won just 16 games in their three-year history in the league; the Patriots won 17 last season alone).
But Borges offered just one possibility: Pass's agent, Kristen Kuliga, failed her client. "Sometimes," he wrote in the lead to the article, "agent moves make you wonder."
We recently spoke with Kuliga and she disputes many of the statements Borges made in the article.
Of course, this is no surprise. When we read the Pass piece we quickly recognized a typical Borges hatchet job. So, too, did the angry trolls. Wrote one Cold, Hard Football Facts.com reader: "I IMMEDIATELY identified it as another 'agenda' item ... What the hell was his point? If the agent and the player agree to take 'less' money to stay in New England, what right does Borges have to question it?"
We also surmised that Borges failed to discuss the deal with Pass or Kuliga before swinging his axe. Once again, we were right. Wrote Kuliga in an e-mail to the Cold, Hard Football Facts: "Yes, (Borges) was incorrect in his article and he never did call to ask any questions related to Patrick's contract."
In an ensuing phone conversation with the Cold, Hard Football Facts, Kuliga said several times that she has no beef with Borges and respects his opinions. But we do not, because his opinions so often seem shaped by agenda and easily refuted by Cold, Hard Football Facts. And Kuliga's version of the story stands in sharp contrast to the way it was reported by Borges in the Boston Globe.
* Borges wrote that Pass did not venture "even a toe into the free agent market."
* Kuliga said "I called every team in the NFL, spoke to 11 and had subsequent conversations with two, but neither put forward a substantial offer."
* Borges wrote that the contract contains "no noted incentives."
* Kuliga said "there are $400,000 worth of (playtime) incentives each year."
* Borges wrote that Pass signed his contract "only hours after the free agency period began March 2."
* Kuliga said "there was a risk that the Patriots may not hold the offer open much longer in free agency" and that "if teams are interested, they'll put forward an offer in the first day or so of free agency. The two teams that showed the most interest did not put forward an offer, knowing the range that the Patriots' offer was in."
We asked Kuliga if Pass took the proverbial hometown discount, as many other Patriots players have done in recent years. As you might expect from a player's representative, she did not respond directly to this question. But she did say that Pass was "comfortable" with the deal, "understands the offense here and the coaching staff" and that he has "established several endorsements in this marketplace that he may not have elsewhere." (Pass has a deal with Verizon and another "car deal that is being finalized right now," said Kuliga.)
She also said that a two-year deal was "the best opportunity for (Pass) and his family." In part, because the collective bargaining agreement has not been extended into 2007 and there's the chance that it will be an uncapped year. Therefore, a veteran free agent in 2007, one with three or more Super Bowl rings on his fingers, may be in a position to cash in on the open market should he so desire.
Borges could have heard this side of the story had he made a simple phone call to Kuliga before writing a piece that essentially accused her of incompetence. But he did not, at least according to Kuliga. (We e-mailed Borges to get his side of the story, to see if he did attempt to reach Kuliga before writing the piece. He did not. Read his entire response here.)
This would be a non-story if not for Borges's well-earned reputation as an axe man intent on carving up the reputation of the New England NFL franchise and everything associated with it. This onslaught infuriates Patriots fans who watched the organization struggle for the first 40 years of its history, only to blossom in recent years into the model organization in all of sports, by any measure.
The April 3 article was typical of his efforts. He made several assumptions that supported his ongoing default position: the Patriots, and everything associated with them, including fans, players and agents, are wrong, incompetent or stupid. Remember, this is the guy who went on TV last season and called Patriots fans "idiots."
In Borges's world, teams show respect for players by overpaying for some of them. In the finite-pie world of the salary cap, this means that these same teams must underpay other players to compensate. But this fact is lost on Borges, who fails to comprehend the salary cap and, more surprisingly, can't understand why players would prefer to stay with a team that's won three of the past four Super Bowl titles. (He also struggles to explain how a team plagued by incompetence and ill intent managed to set an NFL record for most victories in a two-year span, and somehow overcame the toughest postseason schedule in NFL history. But we digress).
We'll never know the true story about the Pass deal. Maybe he took a hometown discount; maybe Pass wants a shot at a fourth Super Bowl ring; maybe Houston overpaid for a player of similar talent; maybe Pass's agent did fail him, as Borges suggests. All are possibilities.
But one thing is clear: given a tiny bit of data about two players, Borges quickly concluded the worst about Pass and his agent and didn't even make an effort to get the other side of the story. We're not surprised. It's consistent with activity found inside the character chop-shop that passes for Borges's columns.