Around the NFL as many as a dozen general managers and personnel department vice presidents will conduct mandatory pre-draft press conferences next week, most of them on April 21. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is similarly scheduled to have his presser on the 21st.
I encourage Ireland to lie if he must.
You did not misread because I did not mistype.
I encourage Ireland to lie ... if he must.
The truth of the matter is those pre-draft pressers are a hoax, a farce, an exercise in futility for journalists trying to get meaty and truthful answers to questions as fundamental as, "What are your team's most signficant needs?" or "Who are you going to select?"
Yes, we as journalists have to ask.
And, no, the GMs and VPs are not really going to tell us.
So it devolves into many words signifying nothing. The true reason the pressers happen at all is that the NFL mandates them. The NFL, you see, likes publicity.
The intriguing thing is that while most general managers and journalists understand this to be a dance in which the truth gets trampled, some folks are simply more open than others. Some folks are just salt and light. They cannot bring themselves to obfuscation. Or they let stuff slip.
Seeing the new Denver Broncos front office do things this offseason, I nominate John Elway as a candidate for being candid in his upcoming pre-draft presser. Having attended a couple of Ireland's meets with the media, I nominate him as someone who will offer nothing or perhaps even throw out a nugget of misdirection.
If I'm a fan, I'm hoping my team falls in the latter category rather than the former.
The truth is teams monitor each other. They watch each other's pre-draft visits and meetings. They read each other's press clippings. They do all they can do to get a handle on what the opposition is about to do on draft day.
And these pressers are a window through which teams peek.
So the really good teams offer a view of a dark room or no view at all. They do, not because they like to fib or have no morals. They do it for the sake of their own competitive advantage.
Overblown, you say?
Look, teams have eyes on each other and sometimes even the most casual misstep affects careers and drafts. I present to you the 2008 draft.
The Dolphins needed and wanted to add a running back later in the process. Bill Parcells had long been a proponent of sending a coach or scout to work out and check on his targetted player two days before the draft -- as a last-minute guard against surprises.
Except in April of 2008, for one reason or another, the Dolphins sent out running back coach James Saxon to work out Richmond's Tim Hightower one day earlier. The Dolphins liked Hightower and intended to pick him. The problem is the Arizona Cardinals picked Hightower instead.
Arizona's running back coach at the time, Maurice Carthon, played for Parcells and worked for Parcells. He knew that Parcells typically sent his RB coach to his targetted running back a couple of days before the draft. When he read media reports that Hightower worked out for Saxon, he turned the information over to Arizona's personnel department. The fact the Dolphins had met with Hightower one day earlier had allowed the visit to be in the press in time for Arizona to use the info.
The Cardinals swooped ahead of Miami and plucked Hightower.
I talked to Parcells last week. He told me the story. He was still somewhat irked about losing on out on a good player because of the circumstances simply because the information got out.
Parcells invented the Iron Curtain in the NFL. Bill Belichick, his former trusted assistant, perfected it. The Patriots say little when it comes to injury, depth chart, or draft information. In fact, I know of stories in which they openly used to mock former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards for having such an open approach with the media.
The Pats believed they could find out plenty about their New York competition just by reading newspaper accounts about them.
And so, yes, sometimes the open approach which the media hopes for during the coming pre-draft pressers can on occasion hurt a team.
I don't want the Dolphins hurt. If Jeff Ireland says something, I'll report it. That's my job. If he says the Dolphins are looking for a quarterback in the first round and Ryan Mallett is their guy, you'll hear it here first. (By the way, I don't think you better get used to the idea of Mallett being draft at No. 15)
But root for him to reveal anything significant? To hope he says something that could help Miami's opponents?
Go ahead, Jeff, lie if you must. You get an annual free pass for this one.