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Russell Wilson To Take Over Jon Gruden’s QB Camp

Brandon Contes

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Jon Gruden’s departure from ESPN, after agreeing to return as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, also means he will no longer host the popular Jon Gruden QB Camp series.

For the last eight years Gruden has mentored more than 50 quarterbacks during the ESPN program. With the NFL draft around the corner, ESPN has partnered with Russell Wilson to host the show which will be renamed SportsCenter Special: QB2QB.

“Russell is an ideal mentor for these young players entering the NFL. He overcame a fair amount of skepticism when he joined the league and worked hard to become one of the NFL’s top players,” said ESPN Monday Night Football producer Jay Rothman. “Our QB Camp series with Jon Gruden highlighted the relationship between coach and quarterback; this new iteration of the series will now explore the mentoring relationship between NFL veteran and these soon-to-be rookie players.”

As part of the series, Wilson will sit down one-on-one with Baker Mayfield, Mason Rudolph, J.T. Barrett and running back Saquon Barkley. The Super Bowl winning quarterback will explore mental conditioning and share his career experiences with the pending draftees.

Russell Wilson expressed excitement for the opportunity saying, “Jon Gruden’s QB Camp was one of my favorite experiences of the NFL Draft process because it helped prepare me for some of the physical and mental demands of playing in the NFL. Now, I’m excited to have the opportunity to meet Baker, Saquon, Mason and J.T. to try to help them get ready for the next level as part of ESPN’s QB2QB. At the same time, I look forward to feeding off their energy and excitement as I prepare myself for the new experiences that await me this season.”

QB2QB will consist of four 30 minute episodes, each of which will debut on ESPN Tuesday, April 17th during prime time.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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