Former NFL General Manager Charley Casserly is taking a beating in some circles for his comments about quarterback Kyler Murray. And rightfully so.
Casserly would be entitled to his opinions about Murray if they were indeed his own opinions. But Casserly peddled on the NFL-owned and NFL-operated broadcast network earlier today not his own opinions but opinions that were shared with him by someone who supposedly witnessed (or who heard about) Murray’s performances during Scouting Combine interviews.
Murray reportedly sat for 10 interviews at the Scouting Combine. How many of those teams did Casserly talk to in crafting his report? The quotes being distributed by NFL Network indicate that Casserly talked to “more than two teams, I’ll leave it at that.” But he shouldn’t leave it at that; he should provide the specific number of teams. It could be as few as three or as many as all of them, and that’s a critically important piece of information.
“He better hope [Kliff] Kingbury takes him No. 1 because this was not good,” Casserly said in the initial quote posted on the NFL Media Twitter account. “These were the worst comments I ever got on a top-rated quarterback and I’ve been doing this a long time. . . . Leadership — not good. Study habits — not good. The board work — below not good. Not good at all in any of those areas, raising major concerns about what this guy is going to do. Now, people will say we’re going to compare him to [Patrick] Mahomes, we’re going to run an offense like Mahomes, we’re going to run an offense like Baker Mayfield. . . . But those guys are much different. Those guys, you never questioned them about their ability on the board, you never questioned their leadership ability, their work habits. They were outstanding in those areas. This guy is not outstanding in those areas and it showed up in the interview.”
NFL Media posted on its Twitter account more verbatim quotes from Casserly’s report on Murray, which include a back-door body slam of Murray’s agent, Erik Burkhardt.
“In the interviews . . . I got exactly the same stories,” Casserly said. “They were not impressed with his leadership skills or potential for the interview. They weren’t impressed with his study habits, and I can’t give you the quotes but they’re pretty bad. And they were not impressed with his board work and understanding football concepts that was quizzed on, and that wasn’t good. I can’t give you the quotes. It was the worst report I’ve ever heard on a top-ranked quarterback from the interview part of it. One thing that stuck out to me: this guy was never trained for the interview. Whoever trained him did a poor job; guys do get trained for interviews now.”
In processing these remarks, it’s important to remember one key fact. Casserly isn’t a reporter. He’s an analyst. But he has provided under the cloak of his many years of experience what amounts to a report, not an analysis.
Remember when NFL Network had to remind Warren Sapp that he isn’t a reporter, after he outed Jeremy Shockey as the Saints’ bounty snitch? What Casserly did today is the same thing. Instead of chastising Casserly, however, the NFL is reveling in his reporting.
But who vetted Casserly’s report? Who are his sources for this report? Did NFL Network require Casserly to name them before allowing him to spread such strongly negative information about a player around whom NFL Network surely will be focusing much of its pre-draft hype?
As to the unspecified number of teams to which Casserly spoke, did he talk to someone in the room? Did he talk to someone who talked to someone in the room? From how many of these interviews did he receive first- or second- or third-hand information?
Even if Casserly were a reporter, trafficking in anonymous rumor regarding draft prospects without some specific sense of context or precision is inherently untrustworthy, from the perspective of the audience. Everyone with every team lies when it comes to opinions about players in the draft pool, and those who aren’t lying are going about it wrong. The draft has become the NFL’s ultimate cloak-and-dagger exercise, where teams that love a player say bad things about him in the hopes that he’ll slide to that team and where teams that hate a player talk him up so that some sucker drafting higher in the pecking order will waste a pick on him. Anonymous scouts and coaches and executives who whisper about prospects almost always have an agenda; in this case, the potential universe of Casserly’s sources consists of franchises that have enough interest in Murray to take the time to meet with him, during a week when teams are strictly limited regarding the number of 15-minute interviews they can conduct.
In the early years of PFT, when I knew even less than I know now (if that’s possible), I often passed along anonymously-sourced opinion. Over time, I realized that, while anonymously-sourced fact (e.g., Casserly’s report that the Cardinals were shopping Josh Rosen at the Combine, something else that technically doesn’t fall under Casserly’s analyst umbrella) makes the football and non-football reporting world go ’round, anonymous opinion, especially prior to the draft, has become the fuel for those who would manipulate members of the media to push a narrative and/or to advance an agenda
Casserly’s reporting is flawed, it’s incomplete, and it likely wasn’t subjected to the standards that presumably apply to NFL Network’s small army of actual reporters. Casserly was able to pull it off because of his many years in the business, but he passed along information that may not be accurate, may not be complete, and could ultimately take millions of dollars out of Murray’s pockets, if anyone with any of the teams considering Murray actually regard Casserly’s remarks with anything more than a grain of salt.
Then again, maybe no one will. As Patriots coach Bill Belichick said about Casserly more than nine years ago, “Who’s been wrong more than Charley Casserly since he left the Redskins? His percentage is like a meteorologist.”