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Media skirmish breaks out over John Henderson reports

We always love a good media fight. We love it even more when it doesn’t involve us.

Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that the Raiders offered a fifth-round pick to the Jaguars for defensive tackle John Henderson. After refusing the offer, the Jags cut Henderson -- and the Raiders eventually landed him for no compensation to Jacksonville.

Then, Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union reported that the Raiders “put out” the story, and that no such offer ever was made.

Now, Tafur has fired back, with an item titled “Vito Stellino is an idiot.”

At the risk of being the next reporter (or whatever in the hell I am) called an idiot by Tafur, I need to make a couple of candid, objective observations regarding some of the statements contained in his article.

Let me start with a generalization as broad as the one he hurled at Stellino. “Vittorio Tafur is naive.”

Tafur bases his conclusion that Stellino is an idiot on the notion that the Raiders “don’t do anything to make themselves look good.” Really?

We have no idea how long Tafur has been covering the Raiders (or any NFL team, for that matter), but he apparently was not paying attention when, for instance, the team attacked ESPN’s Adam Schefter (then of NFL Network) as a “false rumor monger” because Schefter reported that the Raiders soon would fire coach Art Shell.

More significantly, the Raiders responded very aggressively in early 2008 to reports regarding the magnitude of the contract signed by receiver Javon Walker by putting out much smaller numbers. The only problem? The Raiders disseminated inaccurate information, forcing the team later to admit that the initial reports were indeed accurate.

And who can forget the press conference announcing the termination of Lane Kiffin? Every word uttered by owner Al Davis had one goal in mind.

Making the Raiders look good.

Also, Tafur amazingly attempts to defend his report by outing his unnamed source. “One person -- I called him a league source in the story -- who should know what he is talking about said the Jaguars last month offered Henderson for a fourth-round pick but the Raiders would only part with a fifth,” Tafur writes.

Translation? Tafur’s source was Henderson’s agent, Tim McGee.

Next, Tafur justified his inability to confirm the notion that the Raiders offered a fifth-round pick for Henderson by explaining that he placed the assertion in the seventh paragraph of his story. I’ve never gone to “J” school (and it shows on a daily basis), but I’d be surprised to learn that the newspaper industry’s double-sourcing standards that apply in paragraph one don’t also apply in paragraph seven.

Tafur, who apparently has spent plenty of time covering NBA basketball, college football, and college basketball, also has failed to consider one very important reality regarding any potential trade of Henderson. The Raiders and the player would have had to work out a deal on an adjustment to the contract that the Jags ultimately dumped. The suggestion that the Raiders were willing to ship to the Jaguars a fifth-round pick implies that the Raiders would have been willing to absorb a commitment to pay him a base salary of $5 million in 2010. So unless the Raiders and Henderson had a deal in principle regarding a significantly reduced salary for 2010, it’s highly unlikely that a fifth-round pick would have been moving from Oakland to Jacksonville.

We’re also troubled by the blatant hostility in Tafur’s article, if only because we’ve come to expect the mainstream media to not behave that way. Dishing out insults is a hallmark of independent blogs. Unless the Chronicle has decided to adopt an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach, we’ve got a feeling that more than a few folks at the Chronicle are feeling uncomfortable regarding Tafur’s gratuitous and, frankly, underinformed attack on Stellino, one of the most tenured and respected football writers in the country.

Look, we’ve got no problem with a good, old-fashioned media takedown. But Tafur needs to get his sea legs under him regarding the nuances of the NFL before jumping to unwarranted conclusions regarding the way this league works. And he can start by doing some basic research regarding the manner in which the team he now covers has operated in the past.

Put simply, if Vito Stellino is an idiot for thinking that the Raiders want to make themselves look good, then the entire NFL press corps is full of idiots.

Except for Vittorio Tafur, who is simply naive.