Every offseason NFL fans get treated to a daily bombardment from the rumor mill. Andy Reid will be the Chargers coach. Andy Reid will be the Cardinals coach. Andy Reid will be the Chiefs coach. How do we know which rumor to trust? How do we know what’s really going on?
The first thing I do is analyze the reality of the data. During the Chip Kelly Watch some guy running a parody account (as CBS Sports) on Twitter put up a note that the Eagles had signed Kelly to a 5-year, $65M deal. For half a second I bought it. Then…wait…what? $13M a year? Way too much money. I checked more closely and the Twitter account was even labeled a fake.
Often the data isn’t that easy to judge. A lot of times we’re dealing with opinions or vague reports that can’t be confirmed. The first thing to do in this case is judge the source.
Jay Glazer is the one guy who I have complete trust in. Complete. If he reports today that Bubby Brister is going to be the Eagles next coach and will sit atop a horse on the sideline to give himself a more authoritative look, I won’t question it for a second. Jay is tight with lots of players and coaches. He gets info directly from them. There is no spin.
Guys like Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen, and Jason LaCanfora are more difficult. Their reports are largely agent driven. Agents have agendas. Sometimes you are getting legit scoops. Sometimes the agent is trying to create a market for his client or trying to knock a competitor down. NFL teams and executives do leak some info to these guys as well. Sometimes there is an agenda with this.
I can’t tell you how to sort through the information to know what’s valid or not. Each nugget has a lot of different angles. Just like an intelligence analyst at the CIA, you must be able to gather the information and decipher what it is. I like to think I’m pretty good at this, but I sure know that I’m still wrong plenty of the time.
I’ll offer a few quick suggestions. Think about timing. Is the nugget coming out now beneficial to someone? Think about the specific words used by the insider. Is there some word or phrase that could give away the source. Then there’s always the good old smell test. Does it simply feel like this is a planted item?
One of the big problems some people have is understanding information vs opinion. NFL insiders are worth listening to for their scoops, but often their analysis is garbage. Peter King watched N.D. Kalu up at Lehigh the summer after the Eagles signed him away from the Skins as a free agent. Kalu had a great day. King said something to the effect to pencil him in for 10 sacks. Kalu had 18.5 in his 4 years as an Eagle. He had 3 the season that King saw him up at Lehigh.
King made a dumb statement today in his MMQB column. He started to talk about the Eagles being turned down by the 3 college coaches. Peter questioned how good of a job the Eagles opening truly is. That’s fine. I can live with that. He then covered the press release by the Eagles that explained their discussion with college coaches and followed that up by saying this:
“Fine. But would three premier college coaches say no to the Steelers? The Giants? The Packers? Don’t think so.”
Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Aaron Rodgers. 8-8, 9-7, 11-5. Those are the QBs and records of those 3 teams. Of course coaches would want to go there. Those teams have franchise QBs in place and played better football than the Eagles. Those are better situations right now.
The only reason the Eagles are looking for a coach is because things went wrong. The team just went 4-12. Very rarely does an NFL team in a coaching search work from a position of strength. You don’t get to be a top franchise in the NFL because of what you did in 2004 or 2006 or 2008. This is a fluid situation. The Eagles are in a down cycle. I think it can be changed quickly, but that depends on finding the right coach and QB. Does King think he’s offering insight by saying that PIT, NYG, and GB are in a better situation right now? Does he also want to mention that water is wet and the Sun is a tad on the warm side?
Another King tidbit of interest. Back in 2007 he offered up a report at halftime of a Notre Dame game that sources around the league expected Kentucky QB Andre Woodson to be a Top 10 pick, possibly as high as the #3 overall pick. Woodson was picked in the 6th round by the Giants.
Peter is a smart guy. He’s got good connections. But even he will say dumb things and report some things that are just miles away from being true.
The real key with the insiders is to focus on what they report as information given to them. That’s the stuff worth paying attention to. I do think Chris Mortensen has a good football mind. He is the one guy that I’ll listen to for analysis. The others are almost clueless when it comes to their opinions.
It can help to know a reporter’s background. Schefter worked in Denver. He’s tight with agent Peter Schaffer (who used to live in Denver…still might). Schefter is sorta tight with Mike Shanahan. John Clayton has worked in Pittsburgh and Seattle. Pay attention if his stories involve those teams. And so on. I can’t cover every guy, but over time you can start to figure out who knows what and why.
What about the local guys? Les Bowen, Reuben Frank, Jeff McLane, and Geoff Mosher have all broken stories. They have a variety of sources. Sometimes their stuff comes from agents. Other items come from misc sources. Some come from the Eagles themselves. I trust all four for the most part. McLane did get adversarial with Reid down the stretch and that had to be noted. It sure seemed like he was getting “info” from Joe Banner for a bit. When “league sources” ripped Reid, that was Joe sticking it to Big Red. Now that Reid is gone, that stuff will die down a bit. I’m sure Banner will dig at the Eagles when he can, but Reid was his primary target since the split-up.
Dave Spadaro cannot spill the beans, but is important to read him in the offseason. He can offer hints on some situations. I don’t have any recent examples, but every year there are useful nuggets about free agency, the draft, or just the roster in general.
Howard Eskin is a tricky subject for me. Since I don’t live in Philly, I don’t hear everything he reports. I know he’s been way off more than a few times, but I don’t think you can completely ignore him. He gets a good item every now and then.
His report on Mike McCoy having a bad interview is one of the most controversial for some reason. I believe him. Why? He didn’t say it in an over the top “I’ve got a huge scoop” fashion. Also, the buzz on McCoy died down so quickly that it sure felt like news got around the league. I know McCoy is talking to San Diego and possibly Arizona, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have a bad interview with Lurie and company. I wish I could verify this for you, but in reading between the lines, I’m guessing Eskin is right on that subject.
One huge point must be made. This isn’t all a way to pick and choose which stories are favorable to the Eagles. The goal is to try and find out what the truth is. Which players are we going after? What’s right with the team? What’s wrong with the team? What mistakes were made?
Reading the negative stuff and deciding what is legit and what’s not is just as tricky as everything else. The classic example is Michael Silver’s hatchet job on Howie Roseman. Silver called Howie a “shakedown artist” and ripped him up and down. Well, Silver was being used by Jason Licht, who lost a power struggle to Roseman. Howie was described as someone that other teams didn’t want to deal with. I think Howie has made about 12,000 trades since then and gets along just fine with most teams. Silver did a pro-Howie piece in March of 2011, just a year after the rip job. I’m sure Howie talking to him and offering some good nuggets is what got the article written.
So the Eagles were victims of smear one year and then got the writer to do a puff piece the following year. That’s the NFL and the spin cycle for you.
There is a lot more noise out there than news. Hopefully you’ll have a better idea of how to figure out which is which. If not, just trust me. Just like Sex Panther cologne, 60 percent of the time, I’m right all of the time.