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Raiders apparently blame unusual move on potential surprise pick

Mike Florio

On Friday, the Raiders took the highly unusual step of clearing the building of most scouts, telling them to stay home until after the draft. On Monday, the Raiders floated an excuse for sending employees home with pay.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Raiders may be planning a”surprise” pick with the fourth overall selection, necessitating complete and total secrecy.

That’s fine (actually, it’s won’t be fine if they opt for a “surprise” who becomes a bust), but a normally functioning football operation can achieve and maintain the necessary level of secrecy without sending people home. Most NFL front offices operate on a strictly need-to-know basis, with scouts who aren’t involved in setting the draft board knowing nothing about its contents. It’s a simple and easy application of the Patriots’ “do your job” mantra, where if it’s not critical to an employee’s job to know what the organization will do during the draft, the employee never knows that information.

In New England, the area scouts who have no need to know the manner in which coach Bill Belichick ranks the players are (wait for it) instead working on other things that are central to their jobs, whether it’s gathering information about next year’s prospects or being available to answer specific questions or to handle specific projects relating to the work they’ve done for the current draft. The Raiders have consciously surrendered the benefit of these employees’ efforts, due to a vague and perhaps irrational fear that one of them will spill the beans about something that they shouldn’t even know in the first place.

And here’s a fair question, given the manner in which a football operation should normally operate: Are the Raiders protecting coach Jon Gruden from himself? Specifically, is Gruden so impulsive and insecure that he can’t be trusted to refrain from bouncing his ideas about potential first-round picks off of scouts who in turn can’t be trusted to keep their own mouths shut?

Trust. It’s amazing to think that the Raiders suddenly can’t trust scouts that they necessarily have trusted for months. Trusted to do good work. Trusted to be discreet regarding anything they hear regarding the team’s plans. Trusted to show full loyalty to the entity who pays their salaries.

Either the Raiders suddenly decided that they can’t trust the scouts or they never trusted them in the first place, but did nothing about it until now. Neither explanation is satisfactory, and both make the Raiders look bad.

Indeed, the Raiders are hardly the first football operation to have a secret that they didn’t want to be compromised. But they are the first (at least in recent years) to pay people to not show up for work due to fears that someone who doesn’t need to know the secret may find out about it, and may blab.

It’s up to the leaders of the organization to ensure that people who aren’t trustworthy not be trusted with sensitive information. Which brings me back to the notion that the Raiders are essentially protecting Gruden from himself, by ensuring that Gruden doesn’t disclose the plans that Gruden and G.M. Mike Mayock are putting together for their three first-round picks, in an effort to feel more confident as Gruden embarks on a draft that will be critical to the manner in which his second stint with the Raiders ultimately goes.