After reading the Tuesday morning edition of the Shallow Thoughts and Observations by Ted Bartlett (very well done indeed), I had been thinking about some of the “rumors” coming out of this year’s draft class. While I am not what I would call a journalist (my journalistic experience consists of primarily one round of being a reporter for my college newspaper) I would say that I generally provide an opinion, good or bad, regarding certain subjects as do most here at the MHR. What concerns me is not the journalistic integrity of the MHR, I think that it has been very fair in addressing rumors as rumors and reporting stories generated by others, what concerns me more is that in general the blogsphere doesn’t look more closely at the sources of rumors concerning the potential draft picks and their motives.
During the whole Jay Cutler debacle, I think the MHR staff did an excellent job in looking at motives of some of the individuals in the drama, namely Bus Cook. Now I agree with certain theories regarding Cook’s motivations and past actions, I do not necessarily agree with every point of the Bus Cook ultimate mastermind theory, I still think that the insight and analysis was certainly valid and thoughtful and gave some very good arguments regarding Cook’s motivation. What concerns me is that with the “rumors” of players like Raji, Harvin, Maualuga, Cushing, and Matthews that the majority of the sources are touted as “NFL insiders”. What exactly is an NFL insider, is it someone that works at the NFL, is it someone who works for a particular team, or is it someone associated with the NFL, lets say an agent or trainers for players? My fear is that most of the “NFL insiders” are likely agents, trainers, and personnel friends of players entering the draft with some questionable motives.
Other questions can be raised about people associated with teams spreading these stories. Are the teams spreading the rumors in an attempt to get players they target to fall to them, are they making deals with agents in order to help with contract negotiations (scratch my back and I will scratch yours), are they making deals with writers to help them with positive coverage of the team? In any circumstance, I would question the motive a “team” source.
With the potential millions of guaranteed dollars gained or lost between say the 10th overall pick and the 20th overall pick, many of these insiders have some serious motivation to drive down the stock of other players in order to raise their own client’s stock. With a potnetial $500,000 to $1,000,000 extra dollar payday for the agent, there is every motivation to get your client drafted as high as possible and get other guys not your client drafted lower, not only for the immediate finacial gain, but also as a sales pitch to other potential clients. Why not float a rumor that Cushing and Matthews tested positive for steroids, within the internet and blogs, there is little chance that they would ever be sued or found out since trying to sue someone on the internet can be a futile waste of time. There are the rumors of Rey Maualuga being some problem child, which I kind of find funny since at USC there really is no motivation to keep problem players since they have another five or four star recruit backing them up ready to take their place and get the national exposure. And a player’s recourse for stopping any of these rumors is especially limited in the time between the end of the college football year and the draft. The player would have to identify the source(s), file a lawsuit, and get it into court in the time that they are supposed to be training and getting ready for the draft. After the draft they are now concerned with getting a contract in place and learning a new system and teammates. But once the rumor is out, just like Pandora ’s Box, it generally won’t go away and the damage is done to the player both financially and to their reputation.
For most of us, it probably doesn’t concern us greatly if a player gets 10 million versus 15 million, hey they are getting paid to play football, they don’t need to complain. But I think it does a greater injustice for us the fans when we don’t look more closely at the source of the rumors and reports. We want to latch on to rumors to help justify our opinions on players or justify picking one guy over another guy. As much heat that Bloggers take for reporting rumors, I think we need to do more to understand the sources and their motives, much like what MHR did with Cook.