The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for

Crossing the line


When Jeff Ireland asked Dez Bryant if his mother had been a prostitute, the interviewer was being more insecure than the interviewee.

Ireland works at the Miami Dolphins for Bill Parcells, this generation's ultimate football tough guy. So it's possible he was only doing what he thought his boss would want him to do by asking a thoroughly inappropriate (and possibly illegal) question.

Maybe that's unfair to Parcells, especially since I've known him to be soft and sentimental on a number of occasions. But Ireland is a Tuna protege and his mentor's persona always has been "tough guy'' -- he hangs out with baseball guys like Tony LaRussa and Lou Piniella, who affect a similar attitude.

Whatever he was doing, Ireland was way over the line.

If he was honestly trying to get information, he already had it. The NFL has thorough reports on players' backgrounds and that information would be there.

If he was trying to elicit a reaction from Bryant, who eventually was drafted by Dallas, it was silly. Who is going to end a job interview by walking out or punching the interviewer?

If the allegation was true, it has nothing to do with Bryant's abilities as a wide receiver.

Look, some (emphasis on "some'') football people are like some military people (ditto). They look at life as tough, hard, competitive and, most of all, Darwinian. Think Vince Lombardi through Parcells and some (not all) of his disciples. Think Gen. George Patton or any drill sergeant you've happened to encounter.

But not everyone in either profession is alike, so stigmatizing Ireland isn't stigmatizing football and stigmatizing Patton or your friendly local drill sergeant isn't stigmatizing the military. I give a lot more leeway to the military guys because their job is to prepare young folks to survive in war, not in a game.

There are a lot of silly questions in job interviews. But what we're hearing this year indicates football has mastered the most offensive ones.

Toby Gerhart, drafted last weekend by Minnesota in the second round, said he was asked several times if he thought he could cut it as a white running back in the NFL, a question verboten in business these days but still around in football. Myron Rolle, who left Florida State a year early to take a Rhodes Scholarship was asked if he had "deserted his teammates.'' He ended up going to Tennessee late in the sixth round.

Marcellus Wiley, an NFL defensive end for a decade, defended Ireland on ESPN Thursday afternoon by noting that before he signed with Dallas in 2004, Parcells asked him if he'd ever used drugs.

That's missing the point while making it.

Parcells asked Wiley a question asked thousands of times by hundreds of football people. But it was about HIMSELF, not a member of his family.

That's OK. Maybe even necessary. And a lot of people will take a positive answer to a drug-use question as an indication the player is being honest.

But what Ireland did is way out of bounds.

By Dave Goldberg  |  April 30, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Draft , Miami Dolphins , NFL , Tampa Bay Buccaneers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Context and tone | Next: Whistle blowing aspirations


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The single biggest reason that high draft picks fail is the Instant Millionaire Effect, we refer to as the IME factor. Your past, your family, your character and your previous actions offer clues as to what will happen when you get 10’s of millions of dollars. Was the question out of line? It depends on the context. My personal feeling was that the Dolphins did the right thing in taking Marshall for a second rounder and passing on Bryant. Bryant’s IME is flashing big time. His mother has a drug arrest and he has numerous other red flags. He invites those kinds of questions. And by the way, Vinny Cerrato’s track record or lack thereof in the draft makes his opinion worthless to me.

Posted by: jstarell | May 3, 2010 8:54 AM

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