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The whole world loves neophyte athletic tight end Jimmy Graham from Miami with the 95th pick. "Best pick in the draft,'' one AFC coach told me. "Give him time, and in that offense, he'll be better than [Jeremy] Shockey by the start of next year.''
“We know that no matter the adversity, be it the lockout, be it the suspension or be it a hurricane, our men will pull together and defend the honor of this city. We’ve shown we’ve been able to do that.” - Jabari Greer
We've given this matter due consideration. We've pondered. We've deliberated. We've (thanks in advance, Tiki) excogitated.
And we've received more than 600 e-mails from readers in little more than two hours on the topic.
We've decided to disclose the names of the persons involved in the Friday e-mail fiasco.
Here's why. In announcing the new Personal Conduct Policy last month, the NFL pointed out that non-players would be held to an even higher standard than those who wear the uniform: "The standard of socially responsible conduct for NFL employees will be higher. Club and league employees will be held to a higher standard than players. Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL will be subject to discipline, even if not criminal in nature." (Emphasis added.)
It's not for us to decide whether the underlying actions in this case (i.e., the forwarding of a "very hard-core," as one league source described it, pornographic video clip via a team's e-mail system) justifies punishment. But how will the personal conduct policy as applied to non-players have any meaning at all if the issue is ignored?
So in the interests of breaking from an apparent effort by the "real" media to brush this one under the rug in the hopes of scoring points with a new coaching regime, we believe it's fair and appropriate to disclose that (via at least three NFL sources) the e-mail in question was inadvertently sent to multiple high-level team employees and their secretaries by offensive line coach Larry Zierlein of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The e-mail message had been forwarded to him by Doug Whaley, the Steelers director of personnel. Whaley had received the video from someone outside of the organization, and Whaley forwarded it to multiple other persons, including Zierlein.
Again, it's not for us to decide whether this behavior runs afoul of the new personal conduct policy as applied to coaches and front office personnel. Assuming, however, that the NFL has a written policy regarding the use of company computer equipment for personal endeavors, the use of the steelers.com domain to forward the video in question surely was a violation.
There's also a strong strategic aspect at work here. As one source observed, if the ticket manager had done this, he'd already be out the door. With NFL-level offensive line coaches not readily available to be hired in late May, Zierlein will likely get a pass. Ditto for Whaley, a respected personnel exec and a key contributor to the success of the franchise over the past several years.
And we don't think it's a terminable offense, even though we're certain that other employers in other industries wouldn't think twice about firing someone for this.
With all that said, the case provides an excellent opportunity for the league to educate its employees as to what does (and what does not) amount to a violation of the revised conduct policy. If action is taken, then the conduct was over the line. If no action is taken, then this isn't the kind of stuff that falls within the scope of the murky standard of overall personal behavior.