When you are a fan of a professional sports team, you tend to be a little paranoid about criticism of your team. When you are a fan of the Dallas Cowboys "a little" tends to become "a lot". Writing about America's Team is a sure way to attract readers for your website or publication (or viewers and listeners in other venues). Putting the Cowboys and especially their owner and general manager Jerry Jones in a negative light just increases traffic. This a staple of some publications who don't put a great deal of effort into maintaining any level of journalistic integrity. Sadly, it also seems to be standard practice for what should be more conscientious major outlets.
If you are a long-time fan of Dallas you have seen what you believe are many examples of this. Sometimes, it is a matter of national writers who don't have an in-depth knowledge of the Cowboys and their front office. That is to some extent understandable and perhaps even forgivable. What is not is when an article admits that it is largely making up things, but goes right ahead and slings some mud anyway.
It is hard to see the recent article by Mike Florio at the NBC affiliated website Pro Football Talk in any other light. He finds himself a high horse to climb on in slamming an article about the reinstatement of Adrian Peterson published at DallasCowboys.com.
With Peterson reinstated on Thursday following a suspension under the personal conduct policy, the website operated by the team Jones owns posted an article regarding the impact Peterson would have on the roster. It looks and feels like tampering. Based, however, on the plain language of the NFL Anti-Tampering Policy, the article doesn't constitute tampering.
Excuse me? It "feels like tampering", but isn't when you read the policy? So what exactly is the point?
The article in question at the mothership was written by Rob Phillips, He makes it perfectly clear that this is just a reflection of the many articles that are floating around linking the Cowboys to Peterson. At the very start, he throws caveats that basically add up to "it ain't gonna happen, but everybody keeps asking about it, so I'll write about it anyway". And what Florio completely ignores is a companion article written by David Helman that goes into much more detail about why trading for Peterson is a bad idea. The fact that Phillips' article was labeled "Point" and Helman's "Counterpoint" was a subtle clue that apparently eluded Florio's grasp.
There is also the implication that somehow the mothership is an unofficial mouthpiece for Jerry Jones. However, if you have read their work for any amount of time, there are frequent times that Jones, the coaching staff, and the play on the field is objectively critiqued by the various writers. In the past couple of years, the decision to pass on Sharrif Floyd when the scouts and the coaches were in disagreement during the 2013 draft and keeping Jason Garrett as head coach after three 8-8 seasons have been criticized, at times fairly harshly. It may be the official website of the team, and part of the revenue stream that has made the Jones family hugely wealthy, but it also strives to be a legitimate source of well-informed sports journalism that happens to specialize in the Cowboys. There is little homerism and a lot of unique information due to the extra access to the team there.
Even worse, Florio is incensed about something that did not happen in the articles. His "concern" centers around this quote from the policy:
"Articles that appear on the website of a club that identify prospective free agents that the team might be interested in, or that rate prospective free agents, shall not be considered violations of the Anti-Tampering Policy unless they include a direct quote or expression of interest by an employee of the club (other than the author of the article) about a specific player," the policy states.
Neither Phillips nor Helman say anything about acquiring Peterson as a free agent. They talk about the advisability of trading for him. Both concede that there is basically no way on this green earth that the Minnesota Vikings are going to just cut Peterson loose without trying to get some real value for him. And apparently the Vikings have come up with a price that would interest them.
ESPN's Adam Caplan reports that the Vikings would be seeking "at least" a first-round pick and "more compensation" if they were to deal Peterson. In addition to the first-rounder, Caplan says Minnesota would want a starting cornerback.
If there is now a price tag associated with a trade, it would basically be a logical inference that Minnesota is at least thinking about being forced into this by Peterson. How a debate between two writers about the wisdom of such a trade constitutes tampering is hard to discern. That is probably because it is not.
The reason for the discussion at DallasCowboys.com is that there have been so many articles published about Peterson being traded. As far back as late November, there was speculation about him wanting to go somewhere else (and this article did include the idea of him being released outright).
Peterson tells Tom Pelissero of USA Today that he would return to the Vikings if the appeal of his suspension results in a reinstatement between now and the end of the regular season, and that Peterson has given extensive thought to the possibility that "maybe it's best for me to get a fresh start somewhere else."
A couple of months ago, the articles about Peterson began to focus more on whether he wanted to be traded, and it became almost obligatory to throw in a mention of the Cowboys. They are almost always mentioned when a big name looks like he might be on the market.
Those two schools of thought have not yet collided.
Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that Peterson has not asked for a trade to the Cowboys and has not had any conversations with G.M. Rick Spielman.
Less than a month later, the idea was that things were starting to heat up as other running backs, like former Cowboy DeMarco Murray, started to cash in during free agency.
And as more and more running backs make more and more money, the likelihood that someone else will pay Peterson as much or more than the $12.75 million he's due to earn from the Vikings increases.
As has been mentioned by someone around these parts, the Peterson-to-Dallas rumors refuse to go away. So of course, the official website of the Cowboys would see fit to address them.
Oh, one odd thing about the three articles that I quoted that seem intent on fanning the flames behind all those rumors? They were all written by one Mike Florio.
That's right. He spends time flogging the whole idea of Peterson getting traded to the Cowboys around the interwebs, and then when some writers who happen to work for Jerry Jones' team-owned website address the topic, he twists the idea around to allege that there is some horrific impropriety that prompts him to ask the NFL to clarify their policy. That's some fine journalistic integrity on display there.
I want to use certain colorful terms to encapsulate Florio's conduct here. I will refrain to maintain the decorum we pride ourselves take pride in here at Blogging The Boys.