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On conspiracy theories and pursuing truth

Howie Roseman joins Mike Florio to discuss the challenge of resetting at 0-0 after coming so close last season, explore initial reactions to the schedule, provide insight on trading up for Jalen Carter and more.

The recent #PFTPM interview with Eagles G.M. Howie Roseman included an effort to shed a little more light on the Jonathan Gannon tampering situation.

I doubted I’d get anything from Roseman, but I wanted to at least try. Because I firmly believe -- given the way the league dropped the news minutes before the draft began with an unprecedented decision to let the teams resolve it among themselves -- that there’s so much more to this story than anyone will ever admit.

I posed two questions on the subject to Howie. First, I simply asked what he can tell me how it all came to be, how he found out about it.

“I think for me personally, obviously extremely appreciative of [Gannon] and his contributions to our football team, you know, helped us win the NFC,” Roseman said. “You know, that that was handled, as we discussed before, at the ownership level. And I think the more we look in the past, the less focused we are on the future. And so, for me, that’s over with, you know, wish him well in Arizona, and we’re moving on.”

I ignored the non-answer and asked him whether the Eagles discovered the tampering on their own, or whether the Cardinals raised a hand and said, “Oops, we screwed up”?

Roseman retreated to his talking points: “Really appreciative of [Gannon’s] contributions helping us win the NFC and that was handled at the ownership level, and I think we need to move on and, you know, the less we focus on the past the better we’ll be in the future.”

I chose not to move on. I chose to be candid about the message sent by his insistence on avoiding the subject: “Do you not realize that answers like that make people like me think there’s a hell of a lot more to this than anyone is ever gonna tell us and it was a much bigger deal than anyone ever let it on to be? Don’t you see that as a reasonable conclusion?”

Roseman then pivoted to this: “If I was making a list of top five conspiracy theorists around the National Football League, you would be -- I don’t know that you would be one, I don’t want to appoint you as one -- but you would definitely be top five.”

He was deflecting. I told him that. He also was making a classic ad hominem attack, where instead of addressing the argument the response focuses in some way on the person making it, usually with some sort of an insult.

It became a thing for some of the sports blogs that apparently had nothing better to write about (and that apparently prefer unanswered questions to remain unanswered), and for some Eagles fans who viewed Roseman’s refusal to address the subject as stuffing me in a locker, or however else they described it.

Some in the media act as if they hear none of the noise. Some do it not to show they’re thick skinned but to create the subtle (or not) impression that they’re above paying attention to what the fans might have to say. I pay attention to plenty of it. Sometimes, people make good points. Lurking among the periodic crap can be constructive criticism that can help me do this job a little better, or perhaps not as badly.

And, yes, the whole “conspiracy theory” thing bothered me. It bothered me primarily because, in recent years, the term has become associated with some of the most unhinged, over-the-top, detached-from-reality, cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs narratives that have poisoned many minds and created much chaos in every segment of our society.

But then I thought about it. If I’m the NFL’s version of a conspiracy theorist, so be it. Someone needs to push back against the BS. I’ve been doing it for 22 years. I supposed it’s nice that Howie noticed.

Look around the NFL media landscape. Think of all the lies the league and the teams tell, on a regular basis. Look at the Jimmy Garoppolo situation. It’s now obvious (given our story from Saturday night) that the foot injury was a major issue, requiring a dramatic reworking of his contract.

But what did Garoppolo say when he was asked about the delay in the finalization of his deal, which pushed his introductory press conference to the next day?

“No worry,” Garoppolo said. “I mean, it was just honestly just talking, language, things like that. Both sides I think knew what we wanted to get done. It was very collaborative, actually. Just us coming together.”

Sure. Yep. Obviously. Honestly. And now, more than two months later, the full and honest truth comes out.

It happens consistently and repeatedly in matters regarding the NFL and its teams. People lie all the time, usually for strategic reasons. I’ve explained for years that the on-field rewards that flow from successful deception of the opponent (play-action pass, zone blitz, draw play, fake punt) applies to off-field dynamics from personnel strategies to anything and everything related to whatever a team is trying to do in an effort to win games. At times, it’s hard for people in the league to know where the line is between advancing the best interests of the team and flat-out lying.

It’s not just the teams that do it. The NFL’s position on the Saints bounty scandal of 2012 was based on misrepresentations and exaggerations and deliberate ignorance of a broader league-wide culture. The #Deflategate scandal was grossly overblown, with weird science used to work backward in an effort to cram a square peg of cheating into a round hole of reality, and then to bolster it by expunging subsequent PSI spot checks that might have proven the evidence against the Patriots was inconclusive, at best.

Then there’s the entire handling of Beth Wilkinson’s investigation of the Commanders, which the league stuffed under the nearest rug and then consistently explained -- somehow with a straight face -- that all of the information had to be concealed because some of the cooperating witnesses had requested that their names be left out of it. The league didn’t even want a written report from Wilkinson, because it knew Wilkinson’s report would have included a recommendation that owner Daniel Snyder be forced to sell.

The lying is constant. It’s pervasive. Some reporters accept it. Some will parrot the lies without scrutiny, making them complicit. Some will actively participate in the concealment of the truth from the audience. (I’d bet the farm that at least one major national insider knew about the Garoppolo contractual language but kept quiet about it as a favor to the player and/or his agent and/or the team.)

I realize it’s not easy for folks who have financial obligations and future aspirations to choose paths that will make it harder to pay the bills, to climb the ladder, or to maintain a spot on the top rung. Folks like Jim Trotter are rightfully championed for bravely breaking ranks and speaking truths because so few can or will.

As long as I own 100 percent of the equity of Football Talk, LCC (which despite our 14-years-and-counting deal with NBC I do), I’m in the unique position to be able to not take things at face value and to push back against whatever official story the league or a team hope will be reported and repeated. If that makes me a conspiracy theorist, then fine. I’m a conspiracy theorist.

It’s like when Andy Bernard called Dwight Schrute a Sasquatch. Dwight took it as a compliment, even if it wasn’t intended to be one.

I might as well do the same. Dwight is a Sasquatch. I’m a conspiracy theorist.

And on we go.