Reporting about candidates for teams’ coaching or executive positions can be tricky and controversial, as many of those candidates tend to have other jobs and tend to want to downplay rumors they’re leaving until it’s official. It’s rare to see it lead to direct conflict between media members, though, but that’s what happened in June when NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Chiefs had reached out to ESPN’s Louis Riddick to set up an interview for their GM job, and Riddick took to Twitter to dispute it.
The Kansas City Chiefs have not contacted me and there is no interview set up for this week. Source? Me.
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) June 25, 2017
It appears Riddick (who just signed an extension with ESPN, by the way, as Deitsch’s story predicted) still isn’t happy about that, as he called Rapoport’s reporting “deadass wrong” in an interview with Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch that was posted this weekend:
SI.com: You went on social media to emphatically deny an NFL Network report that you were contacted by Kansas City for the GM job. Do you stand by your response, and if you do, what did you make of being the center of a report which you emphatically denied was untrue?
Riddick: I 100 percent stand by my response. Look, there are is an element to reporting/news breaking that is strictly source-based/source-reliant. We all know it. We all get it. When you go on record and say “emphatically” that someone has been contacted by a team and that an interview is being set up/etc…, then you better make sure your sources are correct. That’s all. In this case, the reports from NFL Network were deadass wrong, and that is the long/short of it. Just be right about it. And, if all else fails, ask ME, since I am the best source.
While Riddick stands by that, NFL Network told The Big Lead’s Ryan Glasspiegel “We stand by Ian’s reporting on this story 100 percent.” So, there’s still a controversy here. And unlike some sourcing arguments where both sides can be true, one of these guys appears to be wrong on at least part of it; Riddick’s “there is no interview set up for this week” can coexist with Rapoport’s “reached out to set up an interview” (for example, if they contacted him, but he turned them down), but “have not contacted me” does not really jibe with “reached out.”
There is a real skinny middle ground here, of course. Perhaps the Chiefs reached out to Riddick’s agent and were shot down, and he’s using a very narrow definition of “contacted me,” or perhaps they did reach out but had the wrong contact information, but both of those seem pretty implausible. If it was an overture to his agent, it seems unlikely Riddick would be so vehement about this, and the idea of a NFL team not having the correct contact information for an established ESPN analyst they’re trying to hire seems relatively ridiculous. So, it seems most likely that either Rapoport or Riddick is in fact wrong.
Reporting errors do happen, especially in situations as fluid as who a team is interviewing. And while Riddick may have a point that Rapoport should perhaps have contacted him before reporting this, it’s also understandable why he wouldn’t. Many stories about ESPN personnel being interviewed for coaching or executive jobs have been broken by their own reporters, and if this was in fact true, Riddick might have tried to get the story to one of his ESPN colleagues to beat Rapoport’s scoop. So Rapoport’s reporting process here isn’t necessarily wrong; it can be questioned, but it’s defensible.
What’s particularly interesting about this situation is the way both sides seem to be sticking to their guns, though. If Rapoport was in fact wrong, or if his source misled him, the smart thing to do would be to admit it. Mistakes happen, especially on stories like this. But standing by this suggests he and his bosses are pretty confident it was correct.
On the other side, Riddick defending his rebuttal and sticking with that also doesn’t seem to make much sense unless he’s telling the truth; being contacted by a team doesn’t seem like something you’d want to downplay if it was true, as it reinforces there’s demand for you. So we don’t really know what happened here, but we know both sides believe different things. It is also worth considering what Riddick told Deitsch about the GM interview he did receive with San Francisco:
SI.com: How close were you to returning to an NFL job this year versus continuing at ESPN?
Riddick: I have always been honest with ESPN. I told [senior coordinating producer] Seth Markman specifically that I would not use my role as an analyst as a form of a job interview or vehicle to try and get back to the NFL. It’s very easy to pick up on when that’s taking place, whether it be the NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. Quite frankly, it makes for “captain obvious” insight that we could all figure out on our own without sitting down and watching it on TV. Anyone who has watched me on set can see that I tell it like it is, without being disrespectful. I am not trying to protect my own interests or exercise some kind of agenda. I’m very appreciative of the platform that ESPN has given me over the last couple of years. It has been a situation where I have earned every single thing that has come my way since I walked through the doors in Bristol, having had nothing given to me and nothing guaranteed when I initially began as it related to my role or the amount of exposure I’d ultimately receive.
That said, I have always been very interested in exploring certain opportunities as it related to a general manager position in the NFL should they arise and I did just that this past year. The interview experience with San Francisco back in January was fantastic, both from how much I enjoyed preparing for it to how much I enjoyed laying out my philosophy for the Niners hierarchy. Is being a GM still a goal? Absolutely. If the right situation comes up and there is interest, I will definitely explore it. But I must emphasize that it has to be something that works on many different levels, as I’m happy doing what I am doing at ESPN, and plan on trying to be the very best in the business.
So, we don’t know exactly what went down here, and it’s possible we never will. We do know that Riddick has interest in being a GM, that Rapoport reported the Chiefs wanted to interview him, and that Riddick denied it. Months after the report, both sides are sticking to those positions. It seems likely that one’s wrong, but we may never find out which one.