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Rodgers Hijacks The Draft And Douses A Dreamy Night

Dropping a poison pill on the NFL’s annual showcase, the superstar QB publicly demands a trade and takes over a show that should have belonged to Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance and the next class of stars.

Jay Mariotti

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Suddenly, almost suspiciously, the NFL Draft transformed into “Jeopardy!” With one strategic leak to ESPN, which not only was producing its own reality TV show but feeding it with ratings steroids, it no longer mattered as much that Trevor Lawrence doesn’t live to play football.

Or whether the 49ers were intentionally sparking prop-bet fever, in a league that now embraces gambling, by playing hide-and-seek with the No. 3 pick. And why they’d better be right, with a quarterback lineage of Montana and Young, in taking a tearful Trey Lance, who has played one mid-level college game since 2019 and couldn’t possibly have found that bow tie in North Dakota.

NFL Draft 2021 Day 1 results: 49ers take Trey Lance, Cardinals go for Zavon  Collins - Field Gulls

Or if Justin Fields was a victim of rival-agent sabotage as he slid to No. 11, where the Chicago Bears — whose all-time-best quarterback, Sid Luckman, played in a leather helmet — traded up so Fields can play in Soldier Field and lather a bitter fan base with more boom-or-bust hope. Or if the jewelry store that outfitted Mac Jones’ girlfriend thought her beau was going way earlier than No. 15, to New England, where he instantly inherits Bill Belichick’s wrath and becomes the Poor Dude Always Compared To Tom Brady.

“God’s good,” Jones said.

Is he sure?

All of which became infinitely less important Thursday night than a bigger game show.

The Category: Disgruntled Superstar Athletes.

The Question: Which NFL quarterback, hours before the Draft, went public with a trade demand and said he won’t return to his current team?

The Answer: Who is Aaron Rodgers?

This was the wiliest man in the sport, hijacking the opening night of the draft and the rest of the weekend by injecting the drug that intoxicates fans and media — yet, ever so troublingly, also poisons American sports in the 21st century. That would be the get-me-out-of-here pill. Once and for all, after a year of dropping cryptic hints, Rodgers let it be known definitively that he wants out of Green Bay. He made the news public when the Packers refused on Draft eve to deal with the 49ers, the first team on his wish list. During his successful two-week run as guest host of his favorite game show, I wondered if his public stumping for Alex Trebek’s gig was an indicator that he wouldn’t return to the Packers.

Now they’ve heard Rodgers, loud and clear, to the point team president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur have made several trips West to hear his concerns. Obviously, their efforts didn’t impress Rodgers, and if they are wise men, they will ship him soon to the suitor with the best offer. They prefer not to deal him to an NFC franchise, but also are on Rodgers’ list are the Broncos and Raiders. And when Denver chose cornerback Patrick Surtain II, it opened the possibility of Rodgers finishing his career at high altitude as Peyton Manning did. Oh, and did we mention that his fiancee, actress Shailene Woodley, lives in nearby Boulder? The Raiders claim they don’t have the money to pull off the deal, but they would if Derek Carr is sent to Green Bay.

Where he goes, who knows? If he doesn’t like the deal, he could retire and host “Jeopardy!” What we do know is Rodgers, like the NBA power freaks who started this pre-agency madness, won’t be completing his career with one team — just as Brett Favre, his predecessor, was shipped away. And much as these mega-stories excite America’s sports fandom — and Vegas, which, of course, has established odds on his destination — it isn’t healthy when a night designed for young men’s dreams becomes a leverage device for a future Hall of Famer who never is happy.

The Green Bay Packers stiffed Aaron Rodgers again and now divorce beckons |  Green Bay Packers | The Guardian

Dismiss anything the Packers say, such as Gutekunst’s comment to ESPN that there’s “zero chance” of a deal: “As we’ve stated since the season ended, we are committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond. Aaron has been a vital part of our success and we look forward to competing for another championship with him leading our team.” They don’t have the power here. He does. At least the Seahawks put an end to reports they’ll trade Russell Wilson, who apparently is content in Seattle for now. But with the prospect looming of a civil settlement between Deshaun Watson and the 22 women who’ve accused him of sexual misconduct, there’s a chance some godforsaken team will take a gamble on him, baggage and all, adding more drama to an offseason that never ends.

The three networks that broadcast the Draft, with hosting styles ranging from Mike Greenberg’s fanboyism on ESPN to RIch Eisen’s professionalism on the NFL Network, did their best to focus on the picks. That is, once the league got around to starting the festivities. It was 8:25 p.m. Eastern time, in a distressed country that doesn’t have patience to wait around for showtime, when Kings Of Leon — where have they been since “Sex On Fire” blew up? — finally stopped playing in the rain. This was long after Roger Goodell had implored the people of northeast Ohio, some actually wearing masks, to boo him louder than they already were.

“Come on. Come on, Cleveland!” the commissioner shouted. “I didn’t come out of my basement for nothing! Come on!”

When the booing subsided, Mel Kiper Jr. uttered the most dreaded word in the Lawrence household: “Generational.” Before taking his first snap for a Jaguars team that has gone 39-105 since 2012, he already is being compared with Manning, John Elway and Andrew Luck in the “can’t miss” pantheon. I might agree if three of the eight quarterbacks drafted first overall since 2010 weren’t named Jameis Winston, Sam Bradford, Jared Goff; and two of them, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, aren’t near the league elite. They are looking for a savior in Jacksonville, not only for the franchise but the city itself, and who’s to say Urban Meyer, an NFL rookie himself, is the right mentor?

“I’m just pumped. The best is yet to come,” Lawrence said. “I don’t know what the point is if you don’t expect to win every week. I’m going to bring the same mindset. … I’m super excited to be coming to Jacksonville.”

Is he sure?

Zach Wilson looks like a boy-band member. He’s from a small Utah town, Draper, and now he’s off to Don Draper’s city. “Is this the savior Jets fans have been searching for since Broadway Joe Namath?” Eisen said before popping one of the night’s clever puns: “Zach’s Fifth Avenue.” His highlights at BYU are magical, with dazzling throws and Mahomes-like arm angles, but New York will devour him if he’s another Sam Darnold or Daniel Jones. “I’ve heard from multiple sources how talented this team is, but maybe the pieces didn’t align,” Wilson said. “I’m just so excited to get in there and figure out what we can do to make it better.”

2021 NFL draft: BYU QB Zach Wilson picked by Jets with No. 2 selection -  Deseret News

Is he sure?

Then came Lance, who wore sunglasses at night. Depending on your view, he’s either one of the great stories in Draft history — ignored by major college programs, unearthed from North Dakota State — or one of the riskiest reaches. First, what happened with the Rodgers talks? “We inquired and it was a quick end to the conversation. It wasn’t happening,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “We’ve been excited (about Lance) for a long, long time. So we went right back to where we’ve been. That’s really excited about adding Trey Lance to the 49ers, and we’re thrilled about that.”

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan is viewed as a young genius, but he has left himself vulnerable after swinging and missing on a Rodgers deal, relinquishing a draft bundle to take Lance and angering incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo, who seethed when Shanahan sarcastically wouldn’t guarantee him a roster spot. Shanahan says he regrets the remark and wants Garoppolo on the roster, but Lance, a dual-threat operator in the mold of Patrick Mahomes and Watson, is the franchise now. And with Fields in Chicago and Jones in New England, the chances of trading Garoppolo are slimmer.

“Now we made this move, so it’s obvious what I hope and believe with this guy coming in,” Shanahan said of Lance. “But it would be a very tough situation if Jimmy is not on our team. I want Jimmy to be here. I want this kid to be brought along. I want to see how he does. And if it turns into a competition, it turns into a competition. I would be excited about that if he showed he was ready for it and stuff. But we know where Jimmy is at.”

A little loopy, Shanahan was so secretive about the Lance pick that he told few in the organization, including coaches and scouts. Only Lynch knew the truth when half the football world thought he was taking Jones. When he’s picking No. 3, and Lawrence and Wilson are locks at Nos. 1 and 2, why play spy games? “We have been very high on Trey since the very beginning, since Day One. Yes, the person everyone else is speculating about, we liked him, too,” said Shanahan, referring to Jones. “To go through this whole process where no one has known how John and I feel and felt this whole time, we do that because you don’t want to sway people in this building. You want everyone to work their butts off and give you their honest info. That’s why we don’t share at all how we felt.”

If that’s not curious, consider where Lance has been hanging out lately: at the southern California home of Colin Cowherd, whose 20-year-old daughter, Liv, has an Instagram-related friendship with Lance. “I think it’s the right pick,” Cowherd said. “I think he’s a bigger, stronger athlete than Mac Jones.”

Said Lance: “It was awesome getting to know coach Shanahan a little bit. He’s an awesome dude.”

Is he sure?

Somewhere in his home state of Georgia, Fields wasn’t pleased to slip out of the top 10. He and his family members actually departed their living room, leaving the TV shot with furniture and no humans. The pre-draft hatchet jobs had done damage, from a claim by ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky that Fields had work-ethic issues to insensitive comments about his epileptic condition. By night’s end, he seemed over the slight, though he’s joining a franchise where QBs go to die — and where the future of general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy depends on his rapid development.

“Blessed,” Fields tweeted about his new home.

Is he sure?

But by Friday, the talk shows will be all over Aaron Rodgers. Goodell can’t be thrilled about it, but with the league never more robust after completion of a new collective bargaining agreement and $113 billion in fresh broadcast money, he played the role of too-big-to-care diplomat. “I think that’s just where we are in the world,” Goodell said. “Our players, I have so much respect for them. They do have strong views. I want to hear that. It’s part of what we’re embracing here.”

He did make a fool of himself in an interview with Greenberg, saying he could do no COVID-related harm in resuming his traditional on-stage hugs with players. Last year, you’ll recall, Goodell conducted the Draft out of his home — in a recliner the league brought to Cleveland, where a different fan sat on stage as his or her team made a pick. “I’m vaccinated. There’s no concern for me or them,” the commissioner said. Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated people still have a small chance of contracting the coronavirus and spreading it to others.

Micah Parsons leaps into Goodell's arms after being selected No. 12 in NFL  draft - ESPN Video

But what does he care? Goodell will be remembered as the most successful commissioner, albeit polarizing, in U.S. history. As the rest of the sports world wobbles, the NFL is marketing 2021 as “THE BIGGEST SEASON EVER.” The frenzy only heightens when one of the greatest players ever demands a trade. So much for the baseball season. So much for the NBA playoffs.

And so much for the NFL Draft.

BSM Writers

Your Football Conversation Has To Be Different

I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.

Brian Noe

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Radio

Rejoice! Ball is back, baby. Life is just better when football season is included; am I right? (That was a rhetorical question because I know I’m right in this case.) Like many people in this country, I’m all about the pigskin. Outside of my family and friends, there aren’t many things in life that I love more than BALL.

With all of that being established, a simple question still exists: is there such a thing as talking too much football on a sports radio show?

I think it isn’t as much what you’re talking about; it’s how you’re talking about it. For instance, it isn’t good enough to lazily say, “Ehh, we’ll start off by talking about the game last night.” Well, how are you going to talk about it? Do you have anything original, interesting or entertaining to say? Or are you just gonna start riffing like you’re in a jam band hoping to accidentally stumble onto something cool after six minutes of nothing?

Talking about football is like opening a new burger joint. Hang with me on this one. There are so many options — Burger King, McDonald’s, Five Guys, Wendy’s, In-N-Out, etc. — that you can’t expect to have great success if you open a run-of-the-mill burger joint of your own. Having an inferior product is going to produce an inferior result.

It comes down to whether a topic or angle will cause the show to stand out or blend in. Going knee-deep on a national show about the competition at left guard between two Buffalo Bills offensive lineman doesn’t stand out. You’ll get lost in the shuffle that way.

A show needs to constantly be entertaining and engaging. One way to check that box is with unique viewpoints. Don’t say what other shows are saying. Your burger joint (aka football conversation) needs to be different than the competition. Otherwise, why are you special?

Another way to stand out is with personality. It’s impossible to have unique angles with every single topic that’s presented. A lot of hosts recently pointed out that the Dallas Cowboys committed 17 penalties in their first preseason game against the Denver Broncos. But Stephen A. Smith said it differently than everybody else. That’s what it comes down to; either say things that other shows aren’t saying, or say them differently.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh made a comment recently that too much of anything is a bad thing. So back to the original question, is there such a thing as too much football talk on a sports radio show?

Variety is the spice of life, but quality is the spice of sports radio. If a show provides quality, listeners will keep coming back. It’s really that simple. Sure, hosts will hear “talk more this, talk more that” from time to time, but you know what’s funny about that? It means the listeners haven’t left. The show is providing enough quality for them to stick around. If the quality goes away, so will the audience.

It’s smart for hosts and programmers to think, “What’s our strongest stuff?” If that happens to be a bunch of football topics, great, roll with it. I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.

Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said something interesting last week while visiting Atlanta’s training camp. Vick was asked which team’s offense he’d like to run if he was still playing today. “The offense Tom Brady is running in Tampa,” Vick said. “Pass first.”

The answer stood out to me because throwing the ball isn’t what made Vick special with the Falcons. He was a decent passer and a dynamic runner. The run/pass blend made Vick a problem. I totally understand wanting to prove doubters wrong, but there are a lot of athletes that get away from what they do best while relying on something else that isn’t their specialty.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is not an outside shooter. He’s brutal in that area. Yet Russ will keep firing threes at a 30% clip. Why? Attacking the rim and working the midrange is his game. You don’t see Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul bombing threes if they aren’t going in. He kills opponents with his midrange skills all day.

It’ll be interesting to see how Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa approaches this season. He’s received a steady diet of “can’t throw the deep ball.” Will he try to a fault to prove doubters wrong, or will he rely on what he does best? Beating defenders with timing and accuracy on shorter throws is where he finds the most success.

Working to improve your weaknesses makes sense, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of going away from your strengths. How is it any different in sports radio? If a host isn’t strong when it comes to talking basketball or baseball, it definitely makes sense to improve in those areas. But if that same host stands out by talking football, at some point it becomes like Westbrook jacking up threes if the host gets too far away from a bread-and-butter strength.

Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame that was unanimously elected. He relied on his cutter — a fastball that moved, a lot — about 85% of the time. Mo didn’t say, “Man, my four-seam fastball and changeup aren’t getting enough respect.” He rode that cutter all the way to Cooperstown and legendary status.

Rivera is a great example of how playing to your strengths is the best approach. He also shows that quality trumps variety every time. Let’s put it this way: if 85% of a sports radio show is football content, and the quality of that show is anywhere near Mo caliber, it’s destined to be a hit.

One of my buddies, Mike Zanchelli, has always been a hit with the ladies. I think he came out of the womb with at least 10 girls in the nursery showing interest in him. He had a simple dating philosophy: “Always. Leave them. Wanting. More.” That might work in dating, but I think it’s the opposite in sports radio. Most listeners don’t hear the entire show. If they’re in and out, wouldn’t you want them to hear your best stuff when they are tuned in?

That’s why I say screw variety. That’s why I wouldn’t worry about overserving your audience an all-you-can-eat BALL buffet. I think it’s much wiser to focus on producing a quality product regardless if it’s well rounded or not.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Has Gone From Playing Checkers to Chess In Two Years

Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different.

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In the days after the Big Ten news leaked regarding some of the details of their upcoming media deals, I was hankering for more information. I wanted more insight as to the “why”. Why did the Big Ten leave such a long-lasting and prosperous relationship with ESPN. I just couldn’t imagine it and it’s why I wrote about it last week.

It was in that pursuit of knowledge that I tuned into a podcast favorite of mine, The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. The show’s hosts are deep into the weeds of sports media with John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal and Andrew Marchand at the New York Post. It was Ourand who was dropping dimes of news on the Big Ten deal last week. I wanted to hear him dive deeper, and he did on the podcast. But it was a throwaway line that got my wheels churning.

“This is about the third or fourth deal in a row that ESPN, the free-spending ESPN, to me has shown some financial discipline” Ourand said. “They are showing a bit of financial discipline that I hadn’t seen certainly when John Skipper was there and pre-dating John Skipper.”

I had to keep digging and folks, it’s true. ESPN is essentially Jimmy Pitaro in the above quote, the Chairman of ESPN. Since taking the role in 2018, he was put into an interesting position of being in the middle of a lot of big money media rights deals that would be coming due for renegotiation soon. The rights fees for EVERYTHING were going to balloon wildly. But in the last two years, he has comfortably kept the astronomical rates somewhat within shouting distance.

The big one, the NFL media rights deal agreed to last March, saw ESPN pay a very strong 30% increase for the rights. However, other networks involved had to pay “double” as Ourand so succinctly put it. He also personally negotiated with FOX to bring in Troy Aikman and Joe Buck to make their Monday Night Football booth easily more recognizable and the best in the sport. ESPN in that deal, that did NOT include doubled rates, got more games, better games, and more schedule flexibility. ABC gets two Super Bowls in the deal too. Simply put, Jimmy Pitaro set up ESPN to get a Super Bowl itself, but for now his network will take full advantage of the ABC network broadcast when the time comes (2026, 2030).

The recent Big Ten deal was massive because the conference spent forty years with ESPN and decided to reward that loyalty with a massively overpriced mid-tier package. ESPN balked at the idea. In their back pocket lies a lot of college football media rights deals with a lot of conferences including one that will be a massively profitable venture, the SEC package. ESPN takes over the CBS package of the “top” conference game. Yes, it paid $3 billion for it, but it’s a scant $300 million annually. Sure, that’s over 5X what CBS was paying annually but CBS signed that deal in 1996! I need not tell you all of the advancements in our world since Bob Dole was a presidential nominee. ESPN now gets to cherry-pick the best game from the best conference and put the game anywhere they damn well please to maximize exposure.

The F1 media rights extension is massive because of two things: one, they got it cheap before the sport littered your timeline on weekend mornings and two, when they re-signed with F1 this summer they paid way less than other streaming networks were reportedly willing to pay. The brand, the savvy worked again. ESPN takes a small risk for a potentially exploding sport and much like CBS did with the SEC for 25 years, can make massive margins.

I can keep going, and I will with one more. Sports betting. The niche is growing like my lawn minutes after the summer rainstorm. Pitaro has said publicly that sports betting “has become a must-have” and he’s full-frontal correct. ESPN is in an odd spot with their clear lineage to Disney, but it’s obvious something massive is going to come soon with ESPN reportedly looking for a deal in the $3 billion neighborhood.

Pitaro has been positioning this company from a position of strength. He pays big money for big properties, but knows when he’s getting taken advantage of and most importantly, isn’t afraid to pull his brand’s name out of the deep end.

ESPN may have an issue with dwindling subscribers, but that’s an everyone problem. The difference is ESPN is constantly trying to get you from one network ship you think is sinking into another network life raft. If you want to leave cable or satellite and go streaming, you can. ESPN+ is there to pick up the pieces. Or Sling (with an ESPN bundle). Or YouTube TV (ESPN is there too). Or a myriad of other ways. They are positioned so well right now to be where you think you want to go. Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN have been amazing at doing whatever they can to keep you paying them monthly.

The network has been aggressive with media rights deals but these newer ones have been diligently maneuvered by Pitaro. It was a choice to essentially back the SEC for the next decade, and to put more money into the potential of F1. The effort was a conscious one to keep a tight-lipped mission to bolster Monday Night Football’s booth. It was an understated strategy to reinvest in the NHL. Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different. The old adage of “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered” may have applied to the network under different leadership, but these aren’t eating pigs. These are boars.

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BSM Writers

The Producers Podcast – Big Baby Dave, Jomboy Media

Brady Farkas

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Big Baby Dave has his hands in everything for Jomboy Media. He joins Brady Farkas to talk about how he brings a unique sound to each show he works with.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3A7FJ4a

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3bZ7NgG

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3dB4FrO

Google: https://buff.ly/3JVC5NG

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3STupzF

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