By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — How’s your week going? It’s got to be better than Jon Gruden’s.
In a span of about 72 hours, Gruden went from being the head coach of a promising 3-1 Raiders team to being unemployed, out of football with little hope of ever getting back in — all because of emails sent 10 years ago.
To be clear, Gruden is rightfully paying the price for broadcasting thoughts and feelings that can’t be tolerated in the NFL — or in any workplace, for that matter. So there’s no real sympathy for the man in that regard.
But merely in the sense of getting absolutely blindsided, there’s no way Gruden could have seen this coming.
And while, again, Gruden deserves to pay a price for his reprehensible words, there is a much larger story at play here.
These emails surfaced because of the NFL’s investigation into alleged workplace misconduct within the Washington Football Team — formerly the Washington Redskins — organization. With more than 40 former female employees of the organization alleging sexual harassment, the NFL decided to take it seriously.
The NFL took these allegations so seriously, in fact, that the league spent 10 or 11 months looking into the accusations. The NFL actually found those accusations to be credible, and as a result, some serious punishment was dished out.
–Billionaire Daniel Snyder was fined $10 milion
–Jon Gruden (who had and has nothing to do with the Washington football organization) is now banished from the league
And … that’s it.
Something doesn’t quite smell right.
In the wake of the leaks to The Wall Street Journal and New York Times, the NFL insists that it was not behind that information getting out. But … the NFL ran the investigation into the Washington Football Team. And the NFL opted to … not have any written report to summarize their findings from that investigation. The NFL merely said, essentially, “We’ll tell you what you need to know.”
Ergo, it stands to reason that the NFL wanted to go ahead and let us know about Gruden’s emails.
As one devilishly charming writer said at the time of the league’s findings: “When the NFL wants you to know something, it gives you endless reams of paper with as much information as possible printed on it. When the NFL doesn’t want you to know anything, it acts very, very differently.”
Which is to say, the NFL held back a lot of information, much of which has to be more inflammatory and troubling than Gruden’s emails to former GM Bruce Allen.
The league apparently pored through over 600,000 emails in this investigation. They found enough evidence of sexual harassment (and other behavior) to warrant a $10 million fine. Yet … you can’t know about those details. You cannot know who did what. You cannot judge for yourself how this misbehavior should be considered.
You can only know what Jon Gruden said to Bruce Allen. Everything else? That’s a secret. And you’ll never know it.
Obviously, this is ridiculous. The attorney who represented those 40 former employees released a statement saying as much, calling it “outrageous” and “a slap in the face.” Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio is loudly banging the drum to release more emails. Some more in the media — though likely not Adam Schefter — will make that push, too.
But ultimately, the NFL will be the NFL. And the powers that be at the league headquarters who filed no written report and asked us all to just take them at their word after that investigation? They will continue to keep it all under wraps … if or until they see another opportunity to apply some vengeance to anyone who might need to get exposed.
It is an evil sort of power play, a horrible way for the league to be run, straight out of the school of Dolores Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic. (Dang it, I’ve been meaning to make fewer Harry Potter references in these stories.) But it also perhaps helps illustrate why someone like Tom Brady would sooner strap his cell phone to one of Jeff Bezos’ rockets than hand it over for the NFL to get their grubby mitts on. (Dang it again! Been meaning to tone down the DeflateGate discourse, too.)
In any event, Gruden is out of the league, paying a price for his own actions. There can be no disputing that.
But it’s the absence of information — not the Gruden revelations — that should raise eyebrows around the country. The league appeared to be hell-bent on exposing Gruden. With his emails in their back pocket, they held that power.
Now, don’t you wonder whom they’re simultaneously protecting?
We might never know.
For now, unlike the league, the sport is still very good. So we’ll do what we always do, and we’ll pick the games.
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
Tampa Bay (-7) over PHILADELPHIA
I’m 1-4 picking Bucs games this year. It’s maddening. A big issue is that that I overrated them on the road in L.A., and I downplayed the impact of losing Rob Gronkowski for the New England game. I also overrated their defense vs. Dak and Dallas in Week 1. It happens.
Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about either of those issues this week. Even if the Eagles have a decent offensive night, Tom Brady is coming off one of the best games of his life. Even with a banged-up thumb, he’s liable to put Nick Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon in a blender for all the world to see. (How DARE you accuse me of having to Google the name of the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. How ABSOLUTELY dare you.) Seems like the Bucs remembered they could score touchdowns without Gronkowksi last weekend.
Also: Did you know Brady leads the NFL in passing yards and is one behind Patrick Mahomes for the lead in touchdown passes? He’s 44, you know. Just here to share some information with you, that’s all.
JACKSONVILLE (+3.5) over Miami
The Dolphins are 1-4, and would almost certainly be 0-5 if not for Damien Harris’ fumble in Week 1. Is it possible that they’re actually bad enough to get stuck in the mud with Jacksonville? I will absolutely not watch to find out, but I will definitely keep an eye on the box score.
Side note: You’re welcome for this one, London. We are exporting some of our finest competition right here. Consider it retribution for the Stamp Act, which was pure garbage on your part.
Green Bay (-4.5) over CHICAGO
Aaron Rodgers is so obscenely mean to the Chicago Bears. He’s 20-5 against them, with 55 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, along with a 107.2 passer rating. Just incredibly rude.
The Packers have won four in a row vs. Chicago, winning last year by 16 points and 15 points. Things do sometimes change, sure, but … will this thing change?
Los Angeles Chargers (+3) over BALTIMORE
Sometimes it’s hard to evaluate teams, even after five weeks. It’s particularly hard to evaluate the Ravens just from their Week 5 game alone.
I suppose Lamar Jackson may go off with one of the best quarterbacking halves in football history again, but the Chargers — against all odds — have become as steady as they come. I don’t hate them here on the cross-country trip heading into their bye.
Minnesota (-1) over CAROLINA
If you’re into this game, you’re a nerd. Sorry, those are the rules. I don’t make them.
Kansas City (-7) over WASHINGTON
So … uhh … this is awkward but like … are the Chiefs going to like, you know … stop being bad? They’ve yet to look really good this year. They’re 2-3. They got their doors blown off in Buffalo. They’re currently in last place in their division.
All the pieces are in place, so it’s worth wondering how or when they’re going to wake up and start being the Chiefs.
In that sense, Washington and the points is probably the smarter play here. But fear of looking stupid in the event of the Chiefs actually playing like the Chiefs is a powerful motivator.
Los Angeles Rams (-9.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Not loving the Giants, ever, even while fully healthy. Definitely not loving the Giants after their quarterback and running back got hurt. (That is the nicest thing I’ve ever said about Daniel Jones. It’s called maturing, people.)
Houston (+9.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
This has absolutely nothing to do with the Texans almost winning a game last week and instead has everything to do with the Colts possibly being dispirited after that shocking Monday night collapse. They’ll probably win, but I don’t know that they have the juice to really win with gusto.
DETROIT (+3.5) over Cincinnati
If the Lions can’t win one for a crying Dan Campbell, then the franchise needs to be shut down. You guys made Dan Campbell CRY. Time to step up.
CLEVELAND (-3) over Arizona
Kind of the inverse of the Chiefs here … don’t the Cardinals have to knock it off eventually? They’re good, no doubt. They’ll win plenty of games. But the undefeated nonsense has to stop. The Browns are pretty good here. Last week was the Cardinals’ first non-blowout. Maybe this week will be their first L.
(Maybe not. But maybe!)
Dallas (-3.5) over NEW ENGLAND
I guess, technically, the Patriots’ defense is tough to figure out. They did well to limit Tom Brady two weeks ago, and then allowed Davis Mills to throw for a cool 312 yards and three touchdowns. More often than not, the Patriots’ pass defense has been pretty good. But Dak Prescott is a different challenge altogether.
Getting borderline shootout vibes, because the Cowboys’ pass defense is terrible. But Dallas is much better equipped to emerge victorious from such a game.
Should be an easy day for the punters, though.
DENVER (-3.5) over Las Vegas
Yeah, we’re just going to go ahead and go against the Raiders for the time being. Not sure how well they’re going to be able to get their work in during the week here.
PITTSBURGH (-5) over Seattle
Geno Smith under the bright lights of Sunday night.
Sounds like a good opportunity to watch a baseball game or catch up on “Squid Game.”
TENNESSEE (+5.5) over Buffalo
I am not a Bills doubter. I am merely a Bills realist. And at some point, the absolute flogging of opponents has to chill out.
After face-planting in Week 1, the Bills beat the Dolphins 35-0. Then they beat Washington 43-21. Then they slaughtered the Texans 40-0. They beat the reigning AFC champs 38-20 last week. Even with the loss, they’re outscoring opponents by 108 points this year.
Buffalo Bills with a narrow edge in point differential among AFC East teams. pic.twitter.com/HqPvYn3j7U
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) October 13, 2021
That is … awesome. But it’s not sustainable. This isn’t the 2007 Patriots or the (choose your year) Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison-Reggie Wayne Colts.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Titans are wildly underwhelming this season. They are certainly candidates to become the Bills’ next victim. But maybe there’s a little bit of snarl left in that Tennessee program to make this one fun. (The Titans did whoop the Bills 42-16 last year, if that matters.)
Last week: 10-6