Opinion: Slave to the Rumor Mill

As expected, unverified rumors take center stage when there's little else to report. OBR publisher Barry McBride offers his perspective on two rumors which have surfaced in the last day.

It's starting.

In a Letter to Randy Lerner on 1/29, we wrote: "Rumors, whether tossed out by the local media or new internet media… will get increased heft because they will be increasingly difficult for local media entities to disprove. Weaken the local media, strengthen snipers at the national level who you cannot control."

Alrighty, then.

Over the last eighteen hours, two new reports have thrown doubt on the Cleveland Browns plans for the immediate future, again painting the organization in ways they might not prefer.

With Browns news scarce, bloggers and even some in the local media have jumped on the items like starving dogs with a wad of beef jerky suddenly thrown into their midst, happily regurgitating both back as fact, or close to it.

One of them seems provably false, and the other is possibly inspired by the team's weak position in the public eye.

Let's take a look at each.


The first rumor, which we can deal with quickly, is today's report from Pro Football Talk that the Browns regime is "lukewarm" on quarterback Brady Quinn.

This is an easily-formed impression of the team's intent and, in my opinion, not really newsworthy. The team will appear to be lukewarm towards Quinn for two reasons, neither of which will surprise readers of this site:

  1. Showing wild enthusiasm for Quinn would dampen the trade value for Derek Anderson. The new brain trust has a strong incentive to fog up their intentions at the QB position. It was generally thought that Quinn would be the starter and that DA would be available for trade. Expressing limited enthusiasm for Quinn and some enthusiasm for Anderson helps douse some speculation which would reduce the team's leverage should they get serious about dealing Anderson.

  2. This new administration does not to listen to marching orders about how the roster is constructed, and does not have a very high opinion of the public's skill at talent evaluation. They're at pains to point out that they are evaluating these players on a level field, and are not influenced in any way by outside opinions. Don't expect to see bobblehead-like rapid head nods on the value of the popular Quinn.

So, in my opinion, the buzz via PFT this morning and last week's comments in Indianapolis are exactly what you would expect to hear, and don't show the team's hand either way. It gives folks something to write about, but means nothing.

The PFT report is correct, however, in saying that the new administration doesn't have any particular stake in justifying the presence of either QB on the roster.

John Taylor and Lane Adkins have been writing about the QB situation for months, and provide a different picture of the team's direction with Quinn and Anderson and the potential for trades. Naturally, we have greater faith in what we've heard with our own ears.


The latest Browns rumor – which isn't exactly getting a good reaction from fans – is via NFL.com's Adam Schefter.

Schefter works for NFL owners, but this latest report certainly didn't come from within the Browns front office. It likely came from either someone who knows Rogers personally or via Rogers' representatives.

Regardless of the source, Rogers has certainly done this sort of thing before, and is well-motivated to do it again now. In fact, the timing is perfect.

Rogers is coming off a Pro Bowl season where he exceeded expectations and was clearly the dominant player on the Cleveland Browns defense. He is also watching a free agent market that will likely reward even troubled DT Albert Haynesworth with a mind-boggling contract

The Browns are also somewhat vulnerable at this point, and the story looks quite believable given recent media coverage. For example, a story last month in the local media that made a big deal out of Mangini not talking with Rogers during a recent event in Canton. Mangini is often pictured as holing up in his office, and not talking to players.

We've reported things somewhat differently, but given the general media coverage of the team to date, I have no doubt that a lot of folks will take the story at face value, i.e., "grumpy new coach has already irritated his best player".

There are really three possibilities about this story:

  1. It's about money. The team's poor public image may have created the sense on the part of players or their representatives that they might have some leverage. The fact that the player's gripes are simply presented as Rogers being "disenchanted", and that they become public right before the NFL's annual spending spree could lead to this conclusion.

  2. Rogers is genuinely distressed and wants to leave. His gripes haven't been spelled out, but it's known that Rogers had a positive opinion about some of the people who have recently left the organization, which might have upset him.

  3. The story isn't as severe as the report might indicate. In this case, Rogers is bothered by some things have have been happening, but hasn't gone as far as the story claims. The Browns have already said that Rogers hasn't asked for his release, and Rogers hasn't even talked to Mangini about his concerns.

My gut tells me it's "3". Regardless of the truth – and you know we're already digging to get it – the story will certainly get a lot of attention. A number of fans and bloggers have jumped on board the cries of despair are already being heard.

Personally, I think I'll just grab a seat on the fence here until I get more information. I'll save you a seat if you want it.

Barry McBride is publisher of the Orange and Brown Report. He can be contacted by clicking here.

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