Ray Ratto

Giants should ask Kim Ng questions that circle around one major theme

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USATI

Giants should ask Kim Ng questions that circle around one major theme

Kim Ng is about to interview for a general manager’s job in Major League Baseball for the fifth time, which borders on the number of head coaching jobs Tony Dungy interviewed for before Tampa Bay finally saw the wisdom in hiring him.
 
In other words, there has probably been a fair amount of tokenism thrust upon her in her time in the sport, and that time has run its course. The San Francisco Giants are next on her list, and for the franchise’s sake this had better be a more serious investigation of her qualifications than the others.
 
Not because it’s “edgy,” or “politically correct,” or “it’ll get some buzz,” but because she has been in the game long enough on the executive side of the sport to have accumulated the kind of knowledge that is worthwhile utilizing, and which the Giants need as they finally abandon World Series nostalgia for a brave new world.
 
Larry Baer, you see, is the president of the club and operates essentially in the same way that Jed York operates the 49ers – in charge of hiring and deferring to smart people. Baer’s gifts are not baseball gifts per se, so he has to be good at delegation. The franchise delegated its baseball operation to Brian Sabean 20-plus years ago and got far better baseball than it had ever gotten in the last century.
 
Now Baer is looking for a new paradigm, a baseball CEO in charge of revamping, streamlining and further revamping Baseball Operations -- not because the last two decades were failures or that the last two years were, but because the sport is heading off in a series of different directions at once, and already some people are thinking past The Three True Outcomes and bullpenning toward the next great innovation.
 
And the questions to be asked of Kim Ng should not circle around the central theme of “Do you think you can do this job as a woman?” but “How do you think the job should be done, now and for the next two decades?”
 
Not all her answers will be right. Nobody is good at predicting the future 20 years down the road, and nobody who thinks they should be that good should be allowed to operate machinery. But the issues facing the sport require an ability to know things, and know people who know more things, and Kim Ng can do that. She’s been accumulating names and knowledge her entire baseball career, which now spans 27 years. She knows this stuff having done it, from arbitration cases to transactions, and if she isn’t a dogmatic seamhead, sabermetrician or strategist, she is certainly more than merely conversant with all the substrata of the sport as it is and where it’s heading.
 
In other words, there is no reason why she can’t be the next head of baseball operations for the San Francisco Giants, and not because she ticks off this demographic blank or that one but because she transcends them.
 
She may not get the job, mind you. There are other candidates who bring different but equally impressive resumes and experiences, and winning a sweepstakes like this also requires developing a sense of comfort in the person doing the hiring. She’s been hired enough times by enough people to know how to do that, too.
 
But if she isn’t hired by the Giants, the person they do get better be damned good at all the things she already is. She may not be a slam-dunk (nobody thought Brian Sabean would be back in the day, and he is a Hall of Fame-level executive), but she is an open-look three-ball from the corner as wielded by Klay Thompson.
 
If she gets hired, we’ll see if she is an open-look three-ball from the corner as wielded by Stephen Curry, but for now, it is established that she can shoot her shot. Now she just needs to know if the Giants are willing to get her the ball.

 

Kareem Hunt, implausibly plausible deniability and the NFL's big issue

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USATSI

Kareem Hunt, implausibly plausible deniability and the NFL's big issue

It might be a stretch to say that the Reuben Foster story begat the Kareem Hunt story. Then again, it might not.
 
The theory would be this: Perhaps the Foster story and its uproars in the Bay Area and the Beltway could have caused someone in Cleveland to remember the Hunt video, in which he is caught in a hotel hallway at The Metropolitan beating and kicking a woman who might have used the time-honored racial slur to one of Hunt’s friends. TMZ obtained said video plus police bodycam videos, which originally had been reported by Cleveland.com back in February, but the videos were released Friday.
 
Either way, the Kansas City Chiefs, for whom Hunt had been doing exemplary work as a running back, immediately sent him home from their facility and then released him the same way the 49ers released Reuben Foster five days earlier.

You might now forgive the NFL for the sigh of relief. Let the team that signs Hunt on Saturday afternoon take the grief.
 
The swift turn of events suggests the teams now have, if not a policy but a suggested line of attack in such situations -- do nothing until forced, and then deal with it so the league doesn’t have to. Only in the Foster case, the league has to because those nimrods in Washington couldn’t wait to sign him.
 
Hunt’s release still is just a release, so the league likely will press for him to stay out of the football universe. And just as likely, some other team will decide the league is talking out its ear, because Hunt can run just as well as he clocks people in hallways.
 
And the reaction to Hunt’s release will be the same as Foster’s. Some will see this is a daft football decision. Some will see it as a belated reaction to an outrage.
 
And then there’s the other reaction, which is this: “Everything’s good until TMZ gets hold of it.” Or as we like to call it, “The presumption of innocence until you show us the video.”
 
That was the case here: Cleveland.com had the original story, and TMZ had the 9-1-1 call in June. But the video was the thing that called the Chiefs to action, a proportionately sluggardly response to the number of Foster-related legal violations before the 49ers cut him for (weirdly) betraying the team’s trust.
 
And here is where the league and its constituent members keep getting it wrong. Their unofficial official policy remains “We see nothing until you shove the evidence under our noses by showing it to the world,” which a great way to seem both callous and feckless at the same time.
 
Of course, it is difficult to know how they can get it right, barring a zero tolerance policy that might in fact make it worse on the women, whose welfare the league otherwise is not interested in protecting. It needs the player to do the work, and will protect said player (if he is important enough) until someone finally displays the public-relations problem the industry cannot evade.
 
And that is where we are in the Hunt case. He has not been charged, jailed or tried, but he's clearly involved, based on the video. Yet the Chiefs, who claimed not to know of the existence of the video until Friday, didn’t bother to worry about the incident until the lawyers had to be called.
 
Thus, the question is re-asked yet again: What ought the teams and the league to be doing? Should they be above and beyond the law, follow the process and wait for the evidence to kick down their doors? Suspend with pay? Suspend without pay? Fire without pay?
 
Or do they do the thing they really want to do -- tell the police there’s nothing to see, tell the media they never heard of such a thing, exonerate Hunt on the spot while dealing separately with the woman or women in question, and have Hunt ready for Sunday’s game in Oakland?
 
There must be a coherent policy in there somewhere, even though no policy is completely clean and successfully addresses the team’s needs, the players’ needs. And if necessary and unavoidable, the victims’ needs.
 
The Chiefs’ problem-solving went in the predictable order -- us, him, her -- and Hunt now is someone else’s issue.
 
[RELATED: 49ers cut Foster after repeated arrests left them no choice]

And it just might work out that way; talent/tolerance is as inviolable in its way as the sanctity of the confessional. Surely by now there are thousands of Chiefs fans trying to rationalize Hunt’s role and savage the team for ruining their Super Bowl hopes. That’s still going on here and in Washington re: Foster, though not at Super Bowl levels. Hell, it still might be going on in Baltimore about Ray Rice, and that’s been five years now.
 
But we can safely assume one thing: The league and team policies of putting their hands over their ears and singing while slamming their eyelids shut forcibly will be adhered to with conviction, until there is one.
 
Before that, well, there are yards to be gained and points to be scored. They’ll deal with it when they have to deal with it, and when they do, it will key on three words.
 
Plausible team deniability, with a “Why, I’m shocked to discover this thing I’ve known about for 10 months” on the side. And the first of those three words is very much optional.

Why Condoleezza Rice to the Browns really isn't all that crazy

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AP

Why Condoleezza Rice to the Browns really isn't all that crazy

The immediate reaction to the Cleveland Browns’ reported interest in interviewing Condoleezza Rice for its head coaching job is, “Well, that’s nuts, so it must be the Browns.”

That would explain why the Browns denied the story within a couple of hours of its appearance via ESPN. Rice herself also downplayed the report.
 
But one of the best tests for an idea always has been, “What’s the idea here, and what’s the harm?” And that’s where the idea stops being all that crazy.
 
If one considers what Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State, can provide -- ideas, concepts, ways of thinking and problem solving -- the idea is clear. And if one then thinks about the harm -- there is none, except to the old world order.
 
But the dismissive nature of the denial indicates the Browns either weren’t interested in Rice as a coaching candidate or didn’t want the traditionalist backlash. In short, there’s nothing to see here ... except maybe this.
 
Maybe you could think of it as an interview for a different job, a better and more influential job than head coach, a job unlike any other in the sport. Think of it as Consultant Without Portfolio.
 
Owner Jimmy Haslam, who seems to have left the footballing to general manager John Dorsey, is trying to make the Browns less, well, Brown-y, even though he is part of the reason for their Brownsiness, and without a firm idea of how to do it himself is opening the organization to the waft of different ideas. If a Rice interview happens, no matter how you term it, it would be evidence that Haslam and therefore Dorsey are willing to cast a wide search for those ideas.
 
Then the hard part would begin, namely, deciding what ideas are worth considering and to what extent. And there, the Browns’ track record has been almost uniformly poor. You don’t get to be this anti-functional without a series of errors in judgment that seemed like good ideas at the time.
 
Rice has been offered up by the rumor mill for other jobs in her time, including NFL commissioner, which is a phenomenally well-compensated lousy job in that the 32 bosses never can be made happy, no matter what. To be interviewed by the Browns is not much of a stretch.
 
But being interviewed specifically for the head coaching job currently held on an interim basis by Gregg Williams is what made heads snap, because by traditional standards, she has remarkably thin qualifications. As in, she’s never coached football at any level for even a moment.
 
So let’s calm everyone’s fevered brains and just say she might be interviewed by the Browns for a position of influence with the club. And to be honest, the way power is devolving away from the coach and toward the front office in all sports, being the head coach of the Cleveland Browns might in fact be beneath her skill set.
 
So while the headline is “Rice May Interview For Browns Coaching Job,” maybe it’s better that the Browns backed away from the idea before it got real traction. Maybe the headline is “Rice May Be Interviewed For Big-Deal Browns Job.” That way, we don’t have to distract ourselves with the tiresome and diversionary arguments about qualifications and gender roles. Maybe it’s interesting enough that she’s in line for an interview that might help reverse the Browns’ ongoing comedic turn.
 
That beats being the head coach every time.