Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Digging deeper on the Great Telephone Caper

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DANA POINT, Calif. -- By now, I'm sure most of you know the background of the Great Telephone Caper starring Minnesota quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and free agent receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

You can catch up at this link. Or, here is the Reader's Digest version, based on what I know: Houshmandzadeh was near an agreement to sign with Minnesota on March 1 but changed course after a brief telephone conversation with Jackson. The call, arranged by coach Brad Childress, apparently gave Houshmandzadeh the impression that Jackson was the team's likely starter as opposed to being a competitor with Sage Rosenfels for the job.

Wednesday, Childress spoke publicly about those events for the first time. He acknowledged that Jackson might have been a bit "groggy" during the conversation because it was early on a Sunday morning. Childress, however, couldn't say why Houshmandzadeh perceived Jackson as the likely starter.

"I'm not speaking for T.J. Houshmandzadeh," Childress said. "But I couldn't paint that conversation with that litmus."

Childress has said Rosenfels and Jackson would compete on a 50-50 basis for the starting job. If that was the case, I asked Childress, why didn't he also put Houshmandzadeh on the phone with Rosenfels? Childress said that Rosenfels was traveling and therefore wasn't available at the same time. He initially said the pair talked but later said it might have been via text message.

Here is Childress' full response:

"You know what? He talked to Sage at some point. He was traveling. His phone was getting blown up. Sage texted him, I think, that he was at a wedding in Miami. There was an attempt. How fast it got through, I don't know. Like I said, I know that I dialed [Jackson] and handed it to him. I can't tell you because Sage was in Miami."

I understand Childress' point of view, but I can't say it changed my mind on what this all means. If I'm a significant free agent receiver and a head coach hands me the phone to speak with a quarterback, I'm assuming that player is the starter. Rosenfels might well have been unavailable at the moment, but if he truly had a 50 percent chance of starting in 2009, it's safe to assume Childress would have pre-arranged a conversation with Houshmandzadeh at some point during the visit.

I still think Rosenfels and Jackson will split the snaps during training camp and carry on a traditional competition. I also believe Jackson will win the job unless he falls on his face, given the years of work Childress has already put into developing him. The Great Telephone Caper offers a measure of proof.