August 24, 2021
While honesty is almost always the best policy, there are certain professions where telling the truth is paramount. Doctors, teachers, anyone in law enforcement. Heck, even lawyers, who have a reputation that suggests otherwise, are bound by ethics (and occasional birthday wishes) to tell the truth.
And then there are other professions where being honest is, let's just say, less important. You know, the ones where a competitive advantage can be gained by dealing in gray areas, half-truths and, at times, outright lies. Business and politics come to mind, but it also applies to other fields where lying is actually a job requirement, such as acting.
As sports fans, you always want the truth from your favorite teams' players and coaches. You want to know what they're thinking, how they're feeling and what led to play X or mistake Y in the most recent game. You don't always get it — and sometimes you don't know what to do with it when you do — but that quest for honesty remains, even when it's hard to come by.
Where it's less black and white is when it comes to the front office, where a team can certainly get that competitive advantage by masking what they're doing behind the scenes. And anyone who has followed an offseason of any professional sports league knows that side of the game is littered with disinformation, most of it stemming from the same front offices from which fans demand honesty. When it comes to how the front office interacts with other teams, however, all bets are off, as most fans would prefer their general manager do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if it means lying to or misleading a rival GM.
If you're one of those fans who believes all is fair in football and war, then you're going to like the results of The Athletic's recent NFL agent survey (at least some of it).
The Athletic asked 33 NFL agents a series of questions, ranging from offseason moves to the upcoming season to the most and least trustworthy people in the league. And they have quite the pedigree. "Collectively, the agents surveyed represent hundreds of players, including franchise quarterbacks, Pro Bowl starters and 33 first-round selections over the past three years," writes Ben Standig.
And those agents, who have been known to be a bit untrustworthy themselves, had an interesting name atop their list of the least trustworthy NFL executives. Here's more:
9. Among GMs or front-office leaders, whom do you trust the least?
Eagles GM Howie Roseman (seven votes)
• “He’s always playing both sides at all times. He’s not dishonest. He’s a hedger. Always makes sure he has a side deal.”
• “Howie will do what Howie needs to do. I say that with tremendous reverence, but I don’t trust him.”
• “This is easy. He tells you one thing and does the opposite. You can tell him something and say it stays with us and then three or four people are hitting me up about what we discussed. It doesn’t make him a bad guy, but there’s no transparency.”
• “Why? Because he’s Howie. I would have said (former Washington team president) Bruce Allen, but he’s gone.” [theathletic.com]
Second was Bill Belichick, who finished atop the list a year ago. Third was Roseman's former righthand man and current Jets GM Joe Douglas.
It's interesting then, that both Roseman and Douglas would be high on this list, given that some of the team's best offseason work and roster building occurred with both of them working together, culminating with the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl back in 2018. And the Patriots' success over the years goes without saying, so it would seem that being an untrustworthy general manager is a good thing, at least when it comes to the big picture.
One agent might have said it best when asked which GM he trusted most:
“None. Even the ones who are your friends have a job to do in the best interest of their team.”
However, that lack of honesty, while potentially a positive for the team as a whole, can backfire on a micro level, as it can rub players, coaches and other members of the organization the wrong way and ultimately erode personal relationships, assuming that double-talk alluded to in the GM survey extends beyond negotiations and bleeds into other parts of the job. It can lead to a toxic environment or a potential power struggle that might end with your GM being banished to a closet on the other side of the building.
Ultimately it's a fine line that only the best can walk — which is perhaps why Belichick also got votes for the most trustworthy front office leader. Roseman, it's worth noting, didn't receive any votes in that category.
But he did get some votes in another. And while he might wear that "untrustworthy" moniker as a badge of honor rather than a scarlet letter — what, given the requirements of the job and the people (agents) who are calling him that — there isn't really any way to spin this second appearance on the survey into a positive.
When they asked the agents which NFL team had the most disappointing offseason, the Texans ran away with it, getting a third of the total votes (11). They were followed by the Packers and Raiders, each with three votes. Next up? The Eagles. Here's more from The Athletic's survey:
Eagles (two votes)
• “Who could have thought after winning the Super Bowl (in 2018) they would move on from Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz and have one of the worst rosters in football?”
• “I would be suspicious of the (Nick Sirianni) coaching hire if a press conference determines his fate. In that market, is he going to be Gase’d? Gase’d is a head coach who is chewed up and spit out by the local media and rabid fan base that desperately demands winning, even though here they just won a Super Bowl three, four years ago.” [theathletic.com]
Obviously this has more to do with the Wentz and Pederson situations — and the unheralded signing of Sirianni — than the offseason additions/subtractions Roseman made, but it's all tied together given how the dead money from Wentz helped to handcuff the Eagles and limit them in free agency.
Speaking of the Wentz trade, there was one more nugget in there regarding the Birds, and it had to do with the decision to not just fire the coach but to also trade away the quarterback:
• The Eagles’ trade of Carson Wentz: “I thought once the Eagles changed coaches, that would be enough to keep Wentz.” [theathletic.com]
That was a popular sentiment locally at the time as well, but that might have more to do with the messaging fans were getting from the team than anything else. But as we learned today, they're not always to be trusted. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
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