Count Baker Mayfield among the people who thought the Giants were being a little dangerous in late April.
In an interview with Clay Skipper of GQ, Mayfield made these eyebrow-raising comments about the sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft: “I cannot believe the Giants took Daniel Jones. . . . Blows my mind.”
Mayfield’s primary criticism comes from the fact that Jones had a record of 17-19 at Duke.
“Some people overthink it,” Mayfield told GQ. “That’s where people go wrong. They forget you’ve gotta win. . . . Either you have a history of winning and being that guy for your team . . . or you don’t.”
That’s all fine. He undoubtedly said what the said. And he’ll be criticized for saying what he said. But when will non-sports outlets like GQ be criticized for drawing controversial remarks from young, inexperienced players in a casual setting, where they often don’t realize anything they say can and will be used against them? Last year, it was Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who learned his lesson the hard way about anything and everything he says to Clay Skipper of GQ being fair game. This year, it’s Mayfield, who blurted out his opinion about the Giants and Jones after noticing a SportsCenter segment about the Giants while Mayfield and Skipper were having a meal.
It’s disingenuous, in my view, for reporters to play that “gotcha!” game, treating every word uttered during an encounter with the subject of an interview as fair game unless and until the subject of the interview utters the magic words: “Off the record.” And for people who cover the NFL on a regular basis, those tactics are among the quickest ways to run out of people to interview.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve interviewed more players and coaches than I can remember; the number likely falls somewhere between 250 and 500. And there have been plenty of interesting and/or funny things said before the interview officially began. And I’ve never repeated anything that was said before the interview officially began, even though the comments rarely were accompanied by the invocation of “off the record.”
Maybe that makes me not as good as I could be at my job. (There are plenty of things that could be pointed to in order to prove that true.) Maybe I missed that day in J-School. (In fairness to me, I missed all of them.) But it ultimately comes down to how we treat others, and it feels improper and wrong to on one hand try to get people comfortable and relaxed for an interview and on the other hand rush to highlight the things they say while they are comfortable and relaxed, but before they realize that the interview actually has begun.
And because GQ isn’t regularly interviewing NFL players, they don’t have to worry about Ramsey being pissed or Mayfield being pissed or the next guy being pissed. Because there will always be a next guy who gladly accepts the chance to have a photo spread in GQ if it means submitting to an interview with someone who isn’t a sports reporter and thus who won’t ask any questions that could lead to problematic answers.
Until realizing, once the story is published, that something they didn’t even realize was an official answer became the problematic answer.