It started as a recognition of insufficient evidence. It quickly has become something sufficient happening to get the Colts to drop it.
Through little more than 12 hours, the prevailing narrative regarding the Colts’ tampering claims against the Commanders pivoted from, per the Washington Post, a lack of hard evidence to, per ESPN.com, the Colts being content with the outcome.
Stephen Holder of ESPN.com reports that the situation “has been resolved to the Colts’ satisfaction.”
The Post report created the impression that the situation would go nowhere because there was no way to prove that the Commanders had contacted retired Colts quarterback Andrew Luck or someone in his camp regarding a potential unretirement in 2022. (As explained last night, there was/is a simple way to investigate this.) Holder takes it one step farther, explaining that an actual determination has been made that the Commanders “never spoke to Luck or anyone in his immediate circle.”
Of course, it was ESPN.com that lit the fuse — twice — regarding potential tampering. John Keim of ESPN.com reported in 2022 (it went largely unnoticed) and in 2023 (it was definitely noticed by the Colts) that the Commanders’ wide-net search for a quarterback in 2022 included a call about Luck.
Colts owner Jim Irsay was upset. Per Holder, Irsay personally called Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the situation.
Lost and/or overlooked in most assessments of this situation is the fact that last month’s bizarre resolution of tampering by the Cardinals with former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon created a very real incentive for teams to cry foul when they believe they’ve become the victims of tampering. The league, which either didn’t realize or didn’t care that the effort to brush the Gannon tampering under the rug would prompt other teams to try to get what the Eagles got, quite possibly has sent the message to the Colts, and perhaps to other teams, that the Gannon outcome was not intended to provide a tampering treasure map.
In other words, the league wanted the Gannon tampering to not be a big deal. The best way to keep that from happening was to let the teams work it out, and in turn to announce it minutes (literally) before the start of round one of the draft.
Then, once others began to realize that the resolution potentially becomes a precedent that could be used to their advantage, the league had to start spreading the word that it’s not a new procedure. That it was just a way to keep people from asking too many questions about the tampering with Gannon — and about whether it might have truly disrupted his work in preparation for Super Bowl LVII and, in turn, about whether it possibly undermined the integrity of the most important game of the year.
With owners gathering in Minneapolis for their spring meetings, don’t be surprised if they’re all told that making public tampering allegations in an effort to improve their collection of draft picks will be frowned upon. Be very surprised if that message is ever acknowledged publicly.