When you hang around this media business long enough you learn a little bit about how things work.
For instance, you come to understand that sometimes when there’s smoke, there’s fire. And sometimes there’s just smoke. But if there’s no fire, why is their smoke? Sometimes it’s because somebody is trying to start a fire.
And here’s another thing you learn from hanging around the world of fun and games: there’s only one group of people on the face of the earth that like to gossip more than scouts, no matter the sport. They’re topped only by coaches, no matter the sport. If you think the ladies in the neighborhood canasta tournament can tell stories, you’ve never seen scouts and coaches in action.
I got that feeling that both of those truisms have come together in the last 24 hours as the pro football blogosphere lit up with a couple of Chiefs items. The blasts involved Scott Pioli and his 2009 Draft class.
First, understand that Pioli does not seek attention. In fact, he’s just the opposite; he runs the other way. He’d be very happy never having to deal with a reporter’s question. In his past, dealing with the media was not really part of his job description; Bill Belichick was around to handle all of that. That’s why way back on the day he was announced as GM, Pioli said he would not be the face of the franchise.
The desire to stay away from attention doesn’t mean attention stays away. Not in today’s world, where rumor is considered news, no matter how much investigation actually goes into fleshing out the facts.
Let me hit you with what popped up on the blogs.
On the website nationalfootballpost came this from columnist Michael Lombardi on Sunday:
Based on my conversations, the Kansas City Chiefs’ draft has many league executives curious – not about the quality of the draft, as that will take some time to determine, but about the character element, a signature and requirement of the building of the New England Patriots. The fact that the Chiefs selected some players with off-the-field issues has executives asking me, “How does character fit in Kansas City now?”
This caught my attention. Lombardi is a former NFL executive who hasn’t been able to get back into the league and has been forced into the Internet world to pass the time. He has some obvious connections, and in fact worked with Pioli many, many years ago; they were both at the Cleveland Browns when Belichick was head coach. I’ve read some of Lombardi’s stuff and it’s been quite thoughtful. But he’s also the guy that was the source for the story about a new contract between the Chiefs and Matt Cassel that slipped out on the first day of the NFL Draft. We learned later that report was not true and now more than two weeks after the draft and there’s still been no announcement of a contract.
Nevertheless, anybody who followed the draft closely knows that the Chiefs fourth-round pick Donald Washington was suspended for two games at the start of his senior season at Ohio State for breaking team rules. That hurt his senior season, cost him a starting job and thus the suspension was probably a major factor in his falling to the fourth round.
But who were these other so-called questionable characters in the Chiefs draft class? Lombardi didn’t bother to identify them or what their problems may be.
He left that duty to Matt Bowen, another writer at the nationalfootballpost. Bowen went up with a Monday post that fleshes out more details about these supposed character issues of the Chiefs draft choices. Who is Matt Bowen? He’s a former NFL player, with seven seasons (2000-06) in the league with five different teams. His website bio says he’s currently working on a Masters degree at DePaul.
Anyway, Bowen writes:
“But, we can speculate on character as it applies to the draft. Yes, I agree that the Chiefs and Pioli shouldn’t be compared with the Bengals when it comes to their current draft classÃ¢â¬âyetÃ¢â¬âbut there are some names in front of me today that at least make me wonder. Our own NFP Draft Expert, Wes Bunting shared his notes with me on four draft picks in KC that have me scratching my head today.”
Rather than waste more bytes on this stuff, you can read what he wrote here, or you can save a lot of time and read my cliff notes that follow:
- Washington was suspended for two games at Ohio State for violating team rules.
- Sixth-round pick Quinten Lawrence was injury prone and supposedly didn’t work hard in the weight room.
- Seventh-round pick Javarris Williams reportedly rubbed people the wrong way, but his coaching staff said he was a good guy.
- Seventh-round TE Jake O’Connell supposedly didn’t take to coaching.
Now that’s a real murderer’s row of character problems, wouldn’t you say? No really, that’s it, those are the guys that are supposedly rife with personal problems and have shattered the profile of what Pioli did for so many years with Belichick while building the Patriots.
First of all, is there any truth to these supposed character problems? I called a scout I know in the league. I can’t use his name, and that bothers me, but I think what he had to say is worthwhile, so you the reader can decide what you want to believe.
His team just had a mini-camp and he was already back home. But he unpacked his notes and told me this: “We code players we think have problems, or have shown signs of that in the past. We had Washington in that category because of the suspension. These other guys don’t show up on that issue. But then they wouldn’t for things like being injury prone or rubbing people the wrong way. Hell, Mike Lombardi has been rubbing people the wrong way for a lot of years in the NFL.”
OK, so now I wanted to know who is Wes Bunting? Who is this personnel expert with all this information on these guys? I’ve been covering the NFL for over 30 years now, and while I can’t say that I’ve kept a scoreboard of names and movement in the world of scouting, I have spent plenty of time with the football bird dogs. Wes Bunting was not a name I was familiar with. The scout that shared information had never heard of the guy either.
I looked on the nationalfootballpost website and could not find a bio for this person. Ah, but this is the 21st Century and that means if somebody is alive, you can probably find them on Goggle. I did.
So this website, with former big-time NFL executives writing on a regularly basis, probably has a former NFL scout with a lot of experience as their draft guru right?
Wrong. Wes Bunting is a 22-year old college senior at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. He will graduate in June with a degree in communications. The sum total of his NFL experience is a summer interning with the Baltimore Ravens.
Bunting is a Mel Kiper wanna be, who sits in his under-graduate apartment and watches tape and does his own scouting reports. Unlike real personnel types, he does not go to the campus; he does not meet with college coaches, trainers, secretaries, weight coaches, or the woman who works at the reception desk of the athletic dormitory. He doesn’t have access to security reports, personality tests, and background checks.
His opinions on a college player’s ability are no better or worse than any other draftnik. For all we know, he might be able to break down a film with the best of them. Good for him that he found an outlet for his work, especially in this economy and especially at his age.
But to quote him as a purveyor of information on the character of players he’s never met is nothing short of ridiculous.
If you want to criticize Pioli for taking picks based more on physical skills and potential than what they produced on the college football field then you can make an argument. But to question the character of these young men because they were supposedly injury prone, rubbed people the wrong way and didn’t take to coaching? You’ve got to be kidding me!
There’s something else at work here. This smoke that went up was not caused by any fire, so that means somebody is trying to start one. I poked around the smoldering pile of poo dropped by the nationalfootballpost and came up with two possibilities.
One, Lombardi is ticked off that his scoop on the Cassel contract got shot down. He ended up looking bad and he may blame Pioli. So here’s a chance to get even, by plastering a little smear on the draft class. Two, Pioli just cleaned house in the Chiefs personnel department and there may be a backlash against those moves within the personnel community. Guys like Bill Kuharich, Chuck Cook and Bruce Lemmerman have been around a long time and they have a lot of friends in the business. Maybe some of those friends don’t feel those guys were treated very well by Pioli. Maybe they are standing up for their buddies. Or maybe it’s an issue that hasn’t reared its head yet.
Whatever the reason, it falls under the category of throwing a handful of you know what against the wall and hoping something sticks. And along the way if a bunch of poo gets splashed on the reputations of a couple of kids coming out of college, hey no big deal according to the nationalfootballpost. They are just reporting what they heard.
I’ll tell you this: it all rubs me the wrong way. If that means I have a character flaw, then include me with the Pioli Four.
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
BEARS – signed TE Michael Gaines (Lions).
COWBOYS - special teams coach Joe DeCamillis was released from a Dallas hospital eight days after suffering a broken neck in the collapse of the Cowboys practice bubble.
JETS - re-signed TE Bubba Franks.
SAINTS – released G Cedric Dockery and OT Sam McNaulty.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on May 12, 1978 in Clearwater, Florida was RB Dee Brown. He played in two seasons (2005-06) with the Chiefs, appearing in 23 games. Brown carried 17 times for 45 yards and caught four passes for 28 yards. He played five seasons with four different teams in his NFL career.