Romeo Crennel may be a highly paid man, but he’s still a man, and he deals with the problems of the common man.
He talks, and he talks a lot. When he’s talking, he doesn’t fully grasp the weight and meaning of the words flowing out. Words that shouldn’t be formed by his mind and vocal cords are then allowed to move freely into the dangerous, open air. The result is a coach who looks like a fool, and a league where tampering rules may be allowed to run amok.
During a news conference over the weekend, the Chiefs head coach was asked the inevitable Peyton Manning question. League rules bar coaches, general managers, or team executives of any kind from commenting publicly on pending free agents, because until March 13, those players are still under contract with their current teams. A coach or GM who comments publicly on their desire to sign said player is then using the media as a tool during negotiations that aren’t supposed to begin until a designated date.
Crennel knows this, and so does Kansas City’s general manager Scott Pioli. That’s why Pioli gave a firm and direct “no comment” when asked about Manning during his own press conference. Crennel wasn’t nearly as swift, but his slip was still subtle, and hardly worthy of punishment.
From Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star, here’s what Crennel said when asked about Manning potentially landing in Kansas City if/when he becomes a free agent in 11 days:
“I’m not supposed to talk about anyone else’s players. He’s still a player with Indianapolis. But with a talent like that, I would be crazy not to consider it if he were available. I’ll leave it at that.”
Tame, right? Sure, but it doesn’t take much to violate the league’s rules. Teicher also relayed part of the language in the NFL rule book regarding tampering, and gave an example:
“Any public or private statement of interest, qualified or unqualified, in another club’s player to that player’s agent or representative, or to a member of the news media, is a violation of this Anti-Tampering Policy. (Example of a prohibited comment: “He’s an excellent player, and we’d very much like to have him if he were available, but another club holds his rights.”)
The seed of a tampering violation lies in a comment’s subtlety. A team official can say something to a player without sounding like they’re saying anything at all, which is why the rule is so strict.
However, as Arrowhead Pride noted, the focus on each word goes both ways, which is why the presence of the word “consider” is important in Crennel’s comments, and it’s the reason why the league likely won’t pursue any tampering charge against Kansas City that would result in the loss of a draft pick. Crennel isn’t committing to anything, and instead he’s just answering a question honestly while making an attempt to tip-toe that nearly failed.
Continue with your unoriginal insults and call the NFL the “No Fun League” if you must, but tampering rules serve a purpose. In an ultra-competitive format where executive jobs ride on each draft pick and signing, the playing field has to be level.
Pioli knows this, and he had the common sense to use two quick words to bat away the Manning question. After 31 years in the league in various capacities, Crennel is still developing that simple skill.