Matthew Stafford is the undisputed king of private workouts, pro days and conveniently leaked Wonderlic scores. For Stafford, it's another week, another PR victory. He stared down yesterday's media darling and won: getting the better half of an exchange with the increasingly unhinged Mike Singletary. Publicly decry a 21 year old for being glib about his parents divorce? Welcome to the other edge of the media, Samurai Mike. Novelty will shield you only so long.
All the while Detroit dangles Stafford to a quarterback starved NFL. As many as 14 teams are in need of a young quarterback. Tampa Bay is in desperate need. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are prominent in the short-term memory of the league. It's not unusual for a team to wait until the week of to announce their selection for the first overall pick, but this year's decision seems especially charged. There's potential energy throughout the league: Young quarterbacks in Arizona, Cleveland and Green Bay misplaced or redundant; Julius Peppers unhappy and awaiting a trade; three teams with two first round picks; teams with cap to burn, and the ambiguities and potential of an uncapped year looming. Detroit isn't just determining the best player or haggling for the best contract, they're pulling strings and working the phones hoping for a deal they can't refuse.
That's why we get another week, another PR victory for Matthew Stafford. There are two layers of media at work. A nascent shadow media of questionable reputability and standards that, ironically enough, actually pursues the truth, and an established media that reports naïve truth as it's fed to them. On March 22, KFFL reported that Detroit had settled on signing Jason Smith. Since then, there's been no substantiation of that story, and instead a handful of mainstream media reports that Stafford may top Detroit's draft board. KFFL cites unnamed sources. The mainstream media cites "experts" that offer such insightful commentary as:
"At the end of the day, it probably comes down to how much they like Matt Stafford or don't because they need a quarterback, that's the most important position," ex-Houston and Washington general manager Charley Casserly said recently in a phone interview. "And if they are sold on him, that's probably where they'll turn first."
Which is to say: If Detroit thinks Stafford is the best player in this draft, they will probably draft him with their first overall pick. It's a fact that people read headlines at a far greater rate than the body of a story, and for an overcooked story like this that's body is as flimsy and hollow as a piñata, the headline is the story. Which is to say: The story is the story. It's as if I asked my wife if she'd like a slice of bread, and she said "If it wouldn't make me deathly ill and was covered in butter and honey, I think that'd be a nice snack." And I wrote: Wife Zeroing in on Toast. It's less of a story even than what KFFL reported.
Detroit is playing a high stakes game of chicken with the NFL. It's barreling towards drafting Stafford, hoping some poor schmo tosses itself in front and Ditkas its fans out of a future. Seattle has joined the charge and publicly set its crosshairs on Mark Sanchez. Detroit General Manager Martin Mayhew and Head Coach Jim Schwartz are economics majors only too aware of "loser's curse" inequities in the rookie pay scale. They are desperate to trade out of the first overall pick. Detroit is not a player-away offense like Atlanta or a ready-made contender like Baltimore. Mayhew and Schwartz understand the instability of their positions, and the potentially ruinous results of a failed first overall pick. I would wager they also know that the best scouting in the world isn't foolproof. So they're making a lot of noise knowing they might hold nothing. They're wining and dining and attending pro days and when the pro days pass, keeping things current with a suggestive murmur and enough information for a rumor. KFFL played their cards right. There's three viable picks at one, the over-reported Stafford, the unlikely because he's a linebacker Aaron Curry and Jason Smith. KFFL could be right by luck of accident. The mainstream media could be right by luck of accident. Detroit is just happy to have people talking. But no one knows anymore than you and I - no one that's sharing - because, right now, no news is really just no news.