Ex-NFL exec Michael Lombardi (R) on "The Pat McAfee Show" on March 5, 2024. Ex-NFL exec Michael Lombardi (R) on “The Pat McAfee Show” on March 5, 2024. (Awful Announcing on Twitter.)

The last few years have seen a notable rise in prominence for NFL news aggregator social media accounts. One of the most prominent there is Dov Kleiman, who has 268,000 followers on Twitter/X. But Kleiman sometimes takes criticism for how he portrays particular takes. And the latest thing there came on The Pat McAfee Show Tuesday, with former NFL GM and current The GM Shuffle podcast host Michael Lombardi bashing the way Kleiman aggregated two different things he said about Las Vegas Raiders coach Antonio Pierce, and questioning Kleiman’s identity along the way:

Some key Lombardi quotes there in his discussion with McAfee about aggregators, a subject McAfee often likes to weigh in on as well:

“Who is he anyway? Is he just some strange cat somewhere in a basement in Israel? …I’m going to fight back, I’m going to fight back. I’m not going to let that guy put words in my mouth. I mean, he took two separate instances and combined them into one. And then somebody accused me of talking down to Pierce. If anybody reads The Daily Coach or listens to my podcast talk about leadership, that’s all I’m talking about.

“I think to me, any time you try to engage somebody who’s been beating you on a consistent basis, I’m not sure that’s a smart strategy. I mean, you can go back in time to Napoleon’s time when you want to make sure your enemy doesn’t know you’re coming. And to me, they don’t have a recipe for beating the Raiders, er, the Chiefs. They’ve won one game, you know? And that was great. But, like I was just saying to him, in a way, ‘Look, just keep it quiet, let them take you as nobody.'”

Some context is necessary here. The furor in this case started with a couple of different quotes from Lombardi about Pierce from Lombardi’s The GM Shuffle podcast. One of those was on how Pierce revealed a plan to defend against Patrick Mahomes on Raiders’ DE Maxx Crosby’s The Rush podcast, and one was on Pierce’s overall approach as the Raiders’ head coach so far. Here is a writeup of those quotes from Vincent Bonsignore of The Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Some took offense to the “Patrick Mahomes rules” Pierce laid out. He explained on Maxx Crosby’s “The Rush” podcast how the Raiders planned to defend the Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback aggressively like the Detroit Pistons once did with Michael Jordan.

Former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi, who worked for the Raiders from 1998 to 2006, was one person who didn’t like what Pierce had to say.

“This guy is driving me crazy,” Lombardi said on “The GM Shuffle” podcast. “Can he just shut up? Why won’t somebody in the Raiders tell him to shut up?”

Lombardi, whose son Mick was fired as the Raiders offensive coordinator in October, questioned the authenticity of Pierce’s understanding of the Raiders. Lombardi insinuated Pierce is using his Los Angeles-area upbringing as a fake grasp of the organization’s history.

“It’s so comical,” Lombardi said. “Because he’s from Compton, he thinks he knows the Raider way. It’s a joke.”

The full piece there is worth a read for the discussion of the two different things Lombardi said and how those were reacted to by Pierce and Raiders’ GM Tom Telesco (who both seemed generally nonplussed by the criticism). But the particular subject of discussion between Lombardi and McAfee here is how Kleiman aggregated those two separate quotes into one tweet. Here’s that tweet:

There are a couple of things worth discussing here. One is that Kleiman’s transcription was accurate as to Lombardi’s words. However, it was not technically accurate to present this as an uninterrupted quote. There was significant discussion in between those comments, including the “It’s so comical” Bonsignore included in his writeup. That writeup, unlike Kleiman’s, made it clear the Compton comments were separated from the “Can he just shut up?”, which is important. The “Can he just shut up?” was a criticism of Pierce revealing parts of his game plan, the Compton remarks were about Pierce’s supposed lack of understanding of “The Raider Way,” and tying “Can he just shut up?” into that (especially around remarks about Compton) led to racism allegations against Lombardi.

It would not have taken much for Kleiman’s transcription to be technically accurate, though. If he had just put an ellipsis (…) after “It’s a joke,” that would have fallen into accepted standards for quote transcription. But yes, including both of those, at least partly unrelated, comments in one tweet without a set-off (the way Bonsignore and others covering this did) could still have prompted racism allegations against Lombardi and criticism for Kleiman.

There’s certainly an argument that there were better ways to handle this, as in the writeups that made it clear that these were separate quotes. But there also are character limitations on X (formerly Twitter), and even beyond the hard limits (280 characters for normal users, 25,000 for X Blue subscribers like Kleiman), the service often rewards brevity.

So while a … from Kleiman with no further setoff would have drawn its own criticism, it would have been defensible. But without that ellipsis, Lombardi has a point with his criticisms here (which he also offered on his own podcast). It’s unclear how he’ll “fight back,” though; defamation suits in the United States face an incredible actual malice hurdle, and a missing ellipsis does not feel like sufficient cause to overcome that.

But where Lombardi goes wrong is in making this about Kleiman’s identity and perceived lack of NFL bona fides. As noted after past instances where more traditional media figures have questioned Kleiman’s identity, he is a real person. He lives in Israel, closely follows NFL news, and shares it with his followers on social media with particular aggregation strategies. And none of that is inherently wrong.

This ties back to some (mostly) longago debates about bloggers, anonymity, and “mothers’ basements.” There was a long-running movement from many more conventional media figures to go in on anyone gaining prominence by reporting or sharing sports news and commentary who didn’t work for a traditional media outlet. That has largely gone by the wayside these days, but attacks on Kleiman that center on just who he is and how he supposedly doesn’t have “credentials” to cover the NFL bring back memories of that. (And on the outsider front, it’s interesting that Mike Florio, who once took a lot of very similar criticisms, is playing up his reporting and insider sources now.)

Kleiman’s overall aggregation approach and particular aggregations can be discussed and criticized. But the discussions of his identity, and claims that that identity somehow invalidates him, are getting a bit old. And they’re not relevant to the discussion at hand. If Lombardi wants to bash Kleiman for his particular aggregation here, he should do so, but he should not try to claim Kleiman is wrong to do that just because he is not physically covering the NFL and lives in a different country.

And, conversely, Lombardi is perhaps unduly benefiting from the reverse of that. His past credentials give his takes more weight and attention than they deserve on their merits. Yes, while he has a notable history of NFL work, he hasn’t worked in the league since 2016, with those last three years being as an ‘assistant to the coaching staff” with the New England Patriots. His last actual GM role was with the Cleveland Browns in 2013-14, a full decade ago. And while he has been a very active media figure since leaving the NFL, that media work has come with a whole lot of hot takes and criticisms.

At this point, Lombardi and Kleiman are both people not actively in the NFL who are commenting on it. Yes, they have different backgrounds and relay their comments in different mediums. And yes, for those who care about decades-old resumes, Lombardi has done more work in the NFL than Kleiman has. But that doesn’t mean his insights are inherently better. (And as noted in Bonsignore’s writeup, Lombardi has at least some potential bias here, with his son Mick fired by the Raiders in the same moves last fall that elevated Pierce to interim head coach.)

The real takeaway here is that Lombardi lost this for himself. If he had stuck to criticisms of Kleiman’s particular aggregation of these comments, he would have won. Kleiman’s lack of an ellipsis here meant that his portrayal of Lombardi’s comments was not fully accurate (by widely accepted quotation standards). But Lombardi muddied the waters with a discussion of well-established facts on who Kleiman is and where he lives, two things which are largely irrelevant to this discussion. And he wound up not coming away from this looking great in his own right.

[Awful Announcing on Twitter/X]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.