Minutes before the draft began, the NFL tried to slip a pretty big story through the collective five hole of the media and fans. And it worked.
The truth about the events that led to the negotiated penalty for Arizona’s blatant tampering with former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon remains hidden, and it likely will stay that way. They (mainly, 345 Park Avenue) don’t want us to know. They don’t want us to ask. (I did, and of course they haven’t answered.)
They want us to just keep going. To not pay attention to the man behind the curtain, like always.
They used the ultimate offseason bright, shiny object as a shield for Big Shield’s efforts to conceal the facts and circumstances resulting in the unprecedented settlement of a tampering case. It all felt carefully cultivated and manicured, because it surely was.
So why are they hiding the truth? One potential explanation is that the circumstances surrounding the hiring of Gannon could potentially strengthen a claim that Brian Flores could make regarding Arizona’s failure to hire him for the job, in retaliation for his pending litigation against the league and multiple teams. Another potential explanation, as Chris Simms identified it on Wednesday’s PFT Live, is that the truth would spark a groundswell that would force the NFL to finally revolutionize its hiring cycle.
Peter King has argued for years that no team with a head-coaching vacancy should be allowed to communicate with potential candidates until after the Super Bowl, and that no interviews should happen until the season has finally ended. This would allow all assistant coaches to focus fully and completely on their current jobs, without any distractions arising from an upcoming interview or ongoing consideration for the possible realization of a lifelong dream.
The disclosure of the full facts and circumstances regarding the Gannon case quite possibly would cause others to notice and to agree that change is badly needed. That a moratorium should be placed on any and all interviews until after the Super Bowl has been played.
Even if the Cardinals, as they claim, made only one impermissible phone call to Gannon, that phone call put him on notice that, immediately after the Super Bowl, they wanted to talk to him about their still-open job. How could that not distract him from his preparations for the biggest game of the year?
Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill, during Gannon’s introductory press conference, bragged about the team’s decision to not create such distractions for assistant coaches who still had jobs to do. This shows that they knew merely letting him know what was coming would be a distraction.
The official story is that the Cardinals self-reported the ensuing violation. I still don’t buy it. I believe the Eagles conducted an internal investigation, and that they quickly found digital footprints showing that Gannon had been, for example, lining up potential members of his coaching staff and/or working on an outline of the points to make during his day-after-the-Super-Bowl presentation to the Cardinals.
Every minute spent preparing for the interview he knew would happen is one less minute that was available for preparing to stop Kansas City’s offense in the Super Bowl. Gannon failed, for example, to fix obvious struggles when it comes to dealing with motion and shifts.
Even if he still would have failed to button up a fairly glaring flaw in the Philly defense — a flaw that the Chiefs exploited with two key second-half touchdowns — the idea that Gannon spent X hours preparing for his next job in lieu of devoting that time to finishing up his current one would prompt outrage among Eagles fans. And it quite possibly could create a critical mass of fans across the sport who demand that the rules immediately change.
At its core, the issue that undermines the integrity of the game. If one team has one or more coordinators who are under consideration for a head-coaching job and the other one does not, one team isn’t getting the full focus and attention of his coaching staff — and the other one is.
That’s another reason for the league to downplay this one. With the ongoing proliferation of gambling, the integrity of the game has never been more important. Identifying and neutralizing threats to it has never been more important. Arizona’s tampering quite possibly damaged the integrity of the Super Bowl, and contributed to the Eagles losing the game.