Foolishness. Stupidity. Blatant misinformation. Those are just some of the terms I can use to describe the events that took place yesterday afternoon; that culminated with the rampant rumor that spread throughout circles within the NFL that the New Orleans Saints were going to cut recently signed 15 year veteran free agent and future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey. It probably would take too long for me to include of all of the chain of events that were set into motion by the notions of one observer (and national writer / journalist), that at the end of the day threw the Saints fan-base into a state of uproar. So come on and take a journey with me, as we look at how yesterday’s events played themselves out on the ‘Twitter Timeline’.
The strange day all across Who Dat Nation began innocently enough at approximately 11 A.M. EST, when ESPN SportsCenter featured a segment at Saints Training Camp at the top of the hour to start the show. After the segment was over, co-host Chris McKendry had NFL analyst Herm Edwards on to get his take on the Saints and the rest of the NFC South Division. Herm was polite enough to mention that the Saints were “probably considered the favorites’, and then proceeded to launch into a diatribe (complete with a list of reasons) about why he felt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the clear favorites of the division. Now, with all due respect to ol’ Herm, I completely disagree with his assessment.
Of course, it’s not very surprising that he feels that way, given his past association with his good friend (and new Buccaneers head coach) Lovie Smith; whom he coached together with on then-Tampa Bay head coach Tony Dungy’s defensive staff, and their talented and tough squads of the late 1990′s and early 2000′s. However, Herm didn’t seem to be the least bit objective in expressing his feelings, going so far as to say the Saints would not “match-up well” (REALLY?) with Tampa. I’m certain that any Saints fan watching at home had to be a little angry, if not somewhat amused — and I’m confident that when all is said and done after the 2014 season is over, Herm’s spin on the Saints will have been proven to be completely wrong.
Speaking of being proven completely wrong, what happened next on the timeline of yesterday’s events brings us to the point of this entire article. ESPN wasn’t the only sportsmedia conglomerate in White Sulphur Springs yesterday in town to cover the Saints. It turns out that the good folks with famed longtime Sports Illustrated writer Peter King’s exclusive pro football division MMQB (Monday Morning Quarter Back) were also doing a story on the Saints for their site as well. Staff Writer Greg Bedard, known nationally for his coverage previously of the Packers and the Dolphins, was at Greebrier and made several observations about what he had seen with the team in his article.
The article was published at 1:00 P.M. EST and one of the things that Bedard had observed in it was about the Saints’ defense, particularly the secondary where recently signed free-agent and longtime veteran Champ Bailey was seeing some action in a few of the alignments that the DB’s were working on, in pass coverage. Under the subheading title that read ‘Strong Opinion I May Regret by November’, Bedard said this:
“Former Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey is not going to help this team as much as the Saints had hoped. He’s extremely average at this point. He’s lost a step, is much stiffer in the hips and is relying even more on his mind to make plays. It’s early, but it would not be a shock if Bailey, who has just $500,000 guaranteed on his contract, doesn’t make the team. The Saints have some promising young defensive backs who might have to be kept. Undrafted free agent Pierre Warren, for instance, was making plays all over the field.” – Greg Bedard, writer for MMQB, 7/29/2014
Now to be completely fair to Greg Bedard, I’ll be the very first to say that Champ Bailey probably isn’t the same player that he was ten, or maybe even only 5 years ago. But to say that he possibly might not make the team in my opinion, is completely an IRRESPONSIBLE statement to make. Part of the problem I believe stems from the fact that the national media doesn’t spend as much time covering the team nearly as much than the beat writers like Mike Triplett of ESPN , Larry Holder of NOLA.com /Times Picayune, or Ramon Antonio Vargas of the New Orleans Advocate (or the independent writers such as myself) do.
That’s because if they (the national media) did cover this team as much as we do, then they’d already know that there’s no way that Champ Bailey is going anywhere. Saints management I believe brought him in here for one purpose in mind, which was to bring in a savvy veteran presence who can be a mentor, or even a tutor in some aspects, to the younger DB’s such as 2nd year man Corey White and this year’s 2nd Round pick out of Nebraska, Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Never has there been an expectation that Bailey was going to be the No. 2 CB opposite of Keenan Lewis. That would be foolish. That’s not to say however, that it would be a pleasant surprise if he still had something left in the tank.
Champ Bailey will be in the NFL Hall of Fame someday. That much is a fact. Nevertheless, once the article began being read and retweeted throughout the football world, that particular paragraph emerged as the prominent part of the whole story – spreading like wildfire in the process. As such, it began taking on a life of its own; and as rumors often do, they become bigger and bolder in each subsequent retelling. That was the case by the time that it reached nfl.com writer Gregg Rosenthal, who published his observation about what Bedard had said, at 3:40 P.M. EST.
Rosenthal doesn’t say anything controversial (to his credit), and merely states what I’ve said here: which is that NO ONE (except perhaps Bedard, mistakenly) ever thought that Bailey had been brought in to be a starting CB. He may not even have a major role with the defense as far as significant playing time is concerned. That’s not to say that he won’t or that he possibly couldn’t. However, he certainly was brought in to be a complimentary piece to this team and in particular to an already promising defensive unit that was on the rise before his arrival. It’s for that reason, if nothing else — that Champ Bailey WILL NOT be cut by the New Orleans Saints.
By the time nightfall had come, Who Dat Nation (many of them who had been at work and missed out on hearing the false rumor) began to digest all of the information that I presented just above. Most Saints fans simply dismissed it as a simple case of someone being mistaken, while others such as myself and some of my friends on Twitter took the national media’s image of our team to task. Any way you slice it, the day’s events were a case of one individual unnecessarily being careless with his ability to reach and influence a wide audience — bringing undeserved discredit and disrespect to a man in that process which clearly was unwarranted. As the day finally came to an end, it was Twitter users @bucklezzzman and @whodatdoc that summed up best what everyone was thinking…..