This article should not be construed as an indication that Coinbase has imminent plans to add support for Lightning. Rather, a few employees at the company simply found its potential compelling enough to research, write, and share.

A few employees discovered lightning exists and might be useful. Wow they are so clueless over there aren't they.

Is this some sort of insider play? Like some Coinbase devs want to build lightning support, but management won't listen, so the devs went over their head and made a public blog post?

Not the devs. This is a venture arm of Coinbase that gets paid to do research. That they published this was kind of interesting though, given Coinbase doesn't offer LN deposit / withdraws and the report shares the names of competitors who do.