WASHINGTON — Off-the-record quotes are key to the media industry, particularly sports. Without them, it would be impossible to report on the progress of deals or internal thinking until it was made public.
That said, reporters should use unnamed sources sparingly, and those sources should always represent their employers with class.
The San Francisco 49ers are in the middle of a regime search, hiring a head coach (presumed to be former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan) and a general manager.
Brian Gutekunst, the Green Bay Packers’ director of player personnel, is presumed to be one of the front-runners to fill this job. According to USA TODAY, he has a second interview with the 49ers’ brass.
In describing Gutekunst’s credentials, the unnamed 49ers source went with:
“It’s been Gutekunst for two weeks. He killed that interview. The owner says he’s Scot McCloughan without the drinking problem.”
It’s well known in league circles that McCloughan is a brilliant football mind who has had his demons with alcohol. The understanding when the Redskins hired him prior to the 2015 season is that he had found balance and moderation in his personal life.
Whether or not he has is of little concern to the team or league unless it affects his job, or runs him afoul of the law. By all accounts, so far, so good.
As for the unnamed source quoting owner Jed York, and the reporter who decided to run with it, this is an uncomfortable description. Even if this was intended to be a compliment to Gutekunst, it is unlikely to be received that way, and it detracts from the interview process.
It’s just a bad quote that reflects poorly on a 49ers organization that should be trying to rehabilitate its image.