ESPN declined to comment to PFT about the public exchange between colleagues Kirk Herbstreit and Dan Orlovsky sparked by Orlovsky’s controversial comments about Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Orlovsky provided further comment regarding their comments, but not about Herbsteit’s reaction to them, to Peter King of Soccer morning in America.
Here’s the key paragraph from King’s column: “Orlovsky told me Saturday that people on a couple of teams questioned Fields’ work ethic, but regretted not having more ‘clarity and specificity’ in his comments. In other words, I should have said something like, This is not what I know firsthand, but when speaking to people I know in the league, two teams questioned Justin Fields’ work ethic, and that could be a concern. It’s important that Orlovsky has the freedom to pass on whatever information he thinks is credible, but it’s just as important to put that information in context. “
That is where I will continue to differ from Orlovsky. Just because you find comments “credible” doesn’t mean they are. The problem is that, by repeating them on a public platform, you make them credible, even if they are not.
Orlovsky, as an afterthought in the video he posted to respond to what he called a “firestorm” created by his appearance with Pat McAfee, acknowledged that “this is also a season where teams are trying to say things to potentially get a guy to approach them. “
Again, that’s the front-line reaction Orlovsky, and anyone else in the sports media, should have when someone on a team anonymously whispers criticism about any draft prospect, especially the most respected ones. Even if the team source who is saying negative things about a guy like Fields It seems credible, there is a possibility that the person has been deliberately misled internally by others at the top of the organization, others who are very adept at targeting the most talkative members of staff and creating a chain of “helpful idiots” who will listen to the things the coach says. or GM or other senior executive and, finding them credible, will parrot them to someone in the media who, finding them credible, will repeat them in public.
So what should Orlovsky have done? First, he should have had the most important line in his video – “this is a season where teams are trying to say things to get a guy closer to them” – in the front of his mind when he heard what he heard. Second, if he really felt that the information about Fields was credible enough to repeat it, he should have called others who knew Fields before, not after, to say what Orlovsky said. Third, it should have bounced back on information from others within ESPN who have previously struggled with how to deal with potentially sensitive issues in the past, because this is not the first time a draft analyst has faced a negative opinion about a quarterback. black field that dusted off some of the racial tropes that anyone in the business is or should be fully aware of.
That is ultimately the mistake Orlovsky made. He had a total lack of conscience. He lacked knowledge of how teams use figures of the media to feed potential draft slides that will cause a player to fall. He lacked awareness of what negative opinions he shared on a public platform would look like when addressed to a black quarterback.
He also lacked knowledge of the two most important objective tests that would go against anything someone might have been trying to manipulate him into saying: (1) Fields struggled to have a 2020 college football season; and (2) during the playoff game against Clemson, Fields received a devastating blow to the midsection that caught significant and obvious discomfort, and not only did he move on, but he also had one of the best games of his life.
Moving forward, everyone associated with these types of pre-draft strategies should be fully aware of the fact that teams that like a certain player will actively spread BS about him in the hope that he will slide. And that should always be the first reaction when things like this are said in private.