Anonymous sources and the information gleaned from them are a necessary — and often vital — aspect of how the media conducts itself. Without them, the public simply wouldn’t be exposed to certain information related to all topics, from sports to politics.
The distaste among some for sources that hide behind anonymity is understandable. When they’re relied on too heavily or used in abundance (example: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez by Selena Roberts, which used 19 anonymous sources for core information), they can subtract from the legitimacy of what’s written. This is especially true when those sources aren’t just used for factual information, but instead they make personal claims and attacks.
That’s sounding familiar. Every March and April during the pre-draft period that’s laced with rumors and speculation, we — the football following public — are asked to make decisions between fact and fiction while being bombarded with anonymous sources from all angles. An AFC scout says this guy is a two-down linebacker, and an NFC East scout says a quarterback is chronically noodle-armed. It’s dizzying.
Geno Smith was in the crosshairs of the blank face vitriol before the draft in Nolan Nawrocki‘s scouting report which relied on sources to lob shots from afar, and question his dedication and work ethic.
Now, just five days after his draft fall was complete and he went to the Jets in the second round, Smith’s character is being questioned again by people who don’t have names.
This time, the punches come from Jason Cole‘s sources:
“His biggest problem is that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know,” said a league executive, who spent extensive time assessing Smith before the draft. “I’m not sure he knows how to take instruction because he pretty much wouldn’t listen or talk to our coaches … he’s talented. He can sling it, he can fit it into tight spots, he can do a lot of things and I think he wants to be good. But you can’t tell him anything right now. He’s tuned out because he thinks he’s got it all down.”
“He doesn’t have much presence, not much of a leader,” said another league executive, who spent a great deal of time studying Smith before the draft. “I don’t think he’s a bad person, but that’s not enough to be a quarterback in this league.”
Other sources also noted that Smith had the attention span of an eight-year-old while meeting with teams prior to the draft, saying that he was often flipping through his phone instead of conversing. Basically then, he was me while alone in public. Yeah, I still play all varieties of modernized pong and word search games. What of it?
If you’d like, you can argue that this lends legitimacy to Nawrocki’s report, and there’s nothing I can say to refute that. There are now multiple sources saying that Smith’s dedication is less than stellar, and his personality may be fractured.
But then I can also observe that in a draft where quarterbacks continued to plunge, Smith was still the second name at his position off the board, and he was still a top 40 pick. Even better, the next quarterback wasn’t selected until 34 picks later (Mike Glennon in the third round). Maybe — just maybe — Smith was drafted based on his true value, and his value was based on skill, and also the lack of general skill in this quarterback class.
The perception that every prospect has to be some saint-like angelic figure whose a sponge to all instruction is odd, and it’s rooted in the desire to chase a narrative ghost. Could a player fall in the draft solely because he’s a bit of a self-centered jerk? Sure, but a full round? And well behind E.J. Manuel, the top quarterback who was drafted 16th overall?
If a quarterback-needy team valued Geno Smith and thought he could help them win games both now and in future, he would have been deemed worthy of a first-round pick, and any character flaws would have been wrestled with later. That didn’t happen, and he fell.
I really do think it’s that simple.