NFL secrets & the Cold War, “When is too much not enough?”

Throughout the Cold War the Soviets and the Americans did everything to try and gain an upper hand through Intelligence.  Tom Clancy’s stories of espionage and intrigue have painted a picture of two sides literally on the brink of “nuclear annihilation” if any mistake was made.  Though fictional in presentation, these tales were derived from real world scenarios made even more exciting by Clancy’s own style.

Read my lips

There’s a bit of a parallel within today’s NFL.  General Managers and Head Coaches know their very existence depends greatly upon the decisions they make in order to build their teams to their fullest potential.  Information is the key to the equation in finding that missing piece to bolster a roster.  One slip up can mean the difference in signing a top talent or filling a void with an undrafted free agent.  So clubs are tight lipped as to what their own thoughts and intentions are, and the media is doing their part to try and pry this very information out of the facility (whatever that motivation might be).


During the Cold War the Soviets lived behind the Iron Curtain.  A Wall of Secrecy so impenetrable that any tiniest piece of intelligence gathered was a coup for the United States.  It was so difficult to ascertain their intent, to understand their objectives.  NATO did all it could to insert spies, flyover satellites and debrief defectors.  Still we always felt behind the 8 ball.  There was NEVER enough.

After tensions ended between the East and West, Soviet leaders began to open up.  They had similar frustrations but in a rather complex dichotomy.  They argued that so much information was available from the West through television, print and the radio that there was always TOO much.  They had extreme difficulty trying to filter out what our leaders thought because everyone seemed to have a pointed opinion.

What side is your bread buttered?

Not enough vs too much; polar opposites with the same results.  It’s hard to understand in some circumstances the reaction GM’s and coaches have to the media.  The very industry that has made professional sports (and specifically football) what it is today is so mistrusted and reviled.  The NFL requires participation by its member clubs to communicate with the media on an official basis, but many personnel do so as if being interrogated by Igor & Ivan.  They’d just as soon have their finger nails pulled out than answer a question from some “pencil pusher” at a press conference.

Secrets of the State

Recently I read one of the newest GM’s in the NFL state, “When it comes time to publicly assess our needs we will not do that because I feel that is a competitive disadvantage.”

Alright, I’ll admit as GM of the Broncos I’d track each team’s draft needs through various local and national sources.  We’d match those needs with our own draft board, calculating the number taken at each position, current roster status of the club choosing at a particular pick and whether or not a need had been filled through free agency or an earlier selection.  At times we were able to accurately assess the direction a club was going to go based on this “intelligence” and the remaining talent.

Could we have blocked their pick?  Maybe.  Did we ever jump at an opportunity because of this knowledge?  Perhaps.  If I told you, I’d have to kill you.

Much bigger problems

I assert that most GM’s and Head Coaches have trouble talking about their need areas because they have trouble talking TO their own players.  Talk to NFL vets and their number one complaint is lack of internal feedback, of any kind.  Leaders don’t want to upset the apple cart and have to face an angry player at their door.  Clubs don’t want to face the scrutiny of their evaluations from the fans and the media.  How else can you explain Tim Tebow as the starter going into 2012, while the Broncos are “still in the market for a QB”?  Easier to play both sides.

A few things to remember.

  1. The media is what PAYS the salaries of GM’s and Head Coaches.  Don’t think for a minute the skill being executed is really worth the dollars being paid for it.
  2. With today’s coverage of the NFL, EVERYTHING is already known.  Not fessing up to problem & or need areas makes one look out of touch with your own team.
  3. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.  The new catch word “transparency” won’t bring down your efforts.
  4. This is football, not Patriot GamesThough New England seems to have perfected both.

TOO much can be as mystifying as NOT enough.  Lighten up and have some fun, you’re the GM or Head Coach, not the Cardinal of the Kremlin.

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