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Beware smokescreens and misdirections

New England Patriots offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach O'Brien looks on during the first quarter of their NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Foxborough

New England Patriots offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien looks on during the first quarter of their NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Foxborough, Massachusetts January 1, 2012. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL HEADSHOT)

REUTERS

Every year at this time, the ever-growing NFL media horde combines with the always-active coaching carousel to create a strong possibility of deliberate smokescreens and misdirections.

It happened last year when multiple reports linked former Eagles coach Andy Reid to the vacancy in Arizona, with some putting the inevitability of a marriage at 95 percent. Ultimately, Reid became the head coach of the Chiefs.

This year, the first strong-lean-with-wiggle-room comes from Houston, where ESPN has linked Penn State coach Bill O’Brien to the Texans’ head-coaching job. Ninetieth-percentile predictions have wisely been avoided, but Bristol has pointed an arrow strongly at O’Brien bolting Happy Valley for Energy Alley.

But here’s the question to ask. Why would someone leak word of a potential deal between the Texans and O’Brien prematurely?

The goal of the leaker could be to help push a deal to conclusion. The goal of the leaker could be to blow a deal up. The goal of the leaker also could be, quite simply, to curry favor with the persons to whom the information was leaked.

The goal of the leaker also could be to nudge another candidate (e.g., Lovie Smith) to do a deal first. No information has been leaked regarding Smith’s candidacy since he interviewed for the job for seven hours more than a week ago. It’s possible the Texans opted to look elsewhere. It’s also possible that they quietly have been trying to get Smith to agree to a deal before the land rush for his services officially commences on Black Monday.

What better way to do that than to make it look like O’Brien could be getting the job?

While it remains entirely possible that owner Bob McNair prefers a member of the largely-underperforming Belichick tree with no NFL head-coaching experience over a guy who took the Bears to the Super Bowl despite having a starting quarterback named Rex Grossman, it’s hard to imagine McNair preferring O’Brien strongly enough over Smith to pay Penn State more than $6 million for the privilege of paying millions more to O’Brien.