Speculation Nation: Is Chris Simms Punking Grant Cohn?
The Internet is a miraculous place. With the swipe of a finger, videos, audio, hot takes, rumors, and news can spread faster than COVID19 at a spring break party. The convenience and popularity of the Internet has given rise to a new generation of journalists—writers and commentators who have access to a keyboard and Twitter, who can easily and deftly distribute their takes via reputations built on YouTube and Clubhouse. And in my experience, few places are more fertile with thought-provoking modern sports journalism than the 49ers Twittersphere.
Twitter has become the arena that most fans of the San Francisco 49ers turn to to find, share, and debate their favorite football team. And various 49ers-centric news outlets have sprouted up to meet the growing demand for quality daily content. And being the Internet, the sharper the hot take, the faster it goes viral.
49ers Twitter is a powerful tool for discourse and spreading information. I would estimate that without 49ers Twitter and YouTube, the 49ers organization would be solely in control of the news cycle through normal public relations. But because so many journalists have come forward with such dynamic tools and thoughtful speculation, ideas like "Jimmy G should be cut," have become prevalent. I'm sure this annoys Jed York, Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch, and Bob Lange to no end! Speculations become rumors, and rumors turn into bad PR which needs to be cleaned up. Modern NFL franchises now need to resort to new tactics to own the news-cycle and make sure the wrong stories don't spin out of control.
If you are obsessive about the 49ers like I am, it has been hard to avoid the endless online debates regarding the future of the 49ers quarterback position and whether or not Jimmy Garoppolo should continue to be the starting QB in Santa Clara. (I myself have recently written a blog post on the topic.) Jimmy Garoppolo is a polarizing figure amongst 49ers fans.
Most fans love handsome Jimmy with his win percentage and easy-going swagger. But a growing number of critical thinkers have poked holes in his Superman-like facade. This has led to countless online news cycles devoted to fans debating whether or not the 49ers should cut him or trade him, and who the 49ers should draft to replace him and why their pick is better or smarter than the next person's.
It is undeniable that the 49ers organization is hyper-aware of the impact online debates like these have on the zeitgeist of the fans. Remember, fans buy season tickets, jerseys, and bobble heads. Fan eat garlic fries and drink beer. Fans pay for parking and watch the TV commercials during live games. Fans read Twitter.
It is interesting to watch the organization struggle to seize control of the message cycle. To me, it seems, this era of citizen journalism has professional sports teams operating more like electoral political campaigns than sports franchises, with thousands of people agonizing over so-and-so's precise rhetorical analysis of the latest John Lynch radio interview, or deriving meaning from a years-old photo of Kyle Shanahan instructing a young quarterback prospect at his football camp.
As the NFL Draft approaches, and as it is becoming increasingly clear that the 49ers front office is less and less satisfied with the potential of Jimmy Garoppolo as the team's franchise quarterback, many online thought leaders are speculating who they think the Niners will and should draft. And as the last few weeks have gone by, the Twittersphere has circulated many rumors surrounding the 49ers QB position. First, it was "the Niners are gonna trade for Deshaun Watson!" Then it became "oh the 49ers are all in on Matt Stafford!" Now it is "the 49ers are gonna trade for Teddy Bridgewater?" The 49ers front office knows how important it is to stay ahead of the news cycle, and that has become so much harder in the age of digital media.
This brings me to the events of today, and the release of Chris Simms' 2021 quarterback draft rankings.
For the last two months, Grant Cohn, Sports Illustrated's 49ers beat writer, has been doing a film analysis series on his YouTube channel of all of the major QB draft prospects, fanning the flames of all that smoke surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo's injury-plagued tenure as franchise QB. While a consensus amongst 49ers twitter thought leaders has emerged that Justin Fields should be the quarterback the 49ers covet in the draft, Cohn, ever the contrarian has identified his favorite QB from this year's class to be Kellen Mond.
So it is interesting when Kyle Shanahan's best friend Chris Simms publishes a list of his quarterback rankings showing 49ers digital media darling Justin Fields farther down the list than they would prognosticate him to be.
I have a few takeaways from this list. First and foremost, Simms is trying to make some waves and generate good click traffic, as all sports journalists need to do. Ranking Zach Wilson ahead of Trevor Lawrence is a big deal, and many people in the greater NFL Twittersphere will debate this point. But what is more interesting to me is the way he has placed both Kellen Mond and Mac Jones ahead of Justin Fields to the chagrin of the thought leaders on 49ers Twitter.
Why would he do this? While it is possible, likely even, that Simms is just doing his thing trying to say which quarterback is the best, I think he is carrying some water for his bestie Kyle Shanahan, and trying to inject a sense of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) around the QB who he knows his best friend covets above all others.
YES, THIS IS A CONSPIRACY THEORY, SORRY NOT SORRY.
For ideas to be deemed credible, more than one source needs to have a similar opinion. Grant Cohn has gone on record saying he likes both Kellen Mond and Mac Jones as NFL prospects over Justin Fields which is consistent with Chris Simms' line of thought. Grant Cohn is also the chief gaslighter in the 49ers Twittersphere and can stir up heated debates more than any other Niners new media personality. This Chris Simms ranking will get a lot of play in the greater NFL and will no doubt be hotly contested online, which ultimately could help drive down Justin Fields' draft stock. Three days ago, no one other than Grant Cohn, would have ever mocked Justin Fields behind Mond! Could this be Chris Simms' working on behalf of his BFF Kyle to help Fields fall to the 12th pick in the draft where the 49ers could snatch him up?
One thing I do know is this Chris Simms ranking vindicates Grant Cohn in the eyes of many professional and amateur draft analysts alike. This draft board will lead to a few days of hefty debate and will be fun to watch online. But don't mind me over here while I spray paint my Reynolds Wrap red and gold and fashion it into a hat.
I hope what is going on here is Chris Simms trying to deflate Justin Fields' draft value while using Grant Cohn to do it!