The NFL draft is tonight, and if you choose to watch it on ESPN instead of NFL Network, some of the people you normally see on that telecast will have vanished. ESPN is the midst of laying off dozens of on-air staffers in a continued and futile attempt to cut costs in the face of MASSIVE overspending on broadcast rights, especially the NFL. Every year, the network pays nearly $2 billion for the privilege of having Jon Gruden drool over basic power formations on Monday Night Football, so they could put a thousand Chris Bermans out to pasture and still hemorrhage profits.
This purge (or, as they call it, “content evolution”) goes back over a year and has already hit some of ESPN’s most insufferable talents—Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, Danny Kanell, Ray Lewis, etc.—but has affected a much greater number of people who do much better work, like Paul Kuharsky, Jayson Stark, Jane McManus, and dozens of others.
For months now, there’s been speculation as to who was going to get laid off in this round of cuts. This would have be an opportune moment for a sports-media reporter to break some heavy shit. But that reporter was never EVER gonna be Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch. If you don’t know who Deitsch is, that’s for the best. But if you DO know him, you know that he is the living prototype for every smarmy media insider who acts as ombudsman to the universe and has a side gig boring Columbia journalism students to death. Deitsch took to Facebook earlier this week to talk about the potential layoffs, and of course he had nothing to actually report, except how the layoffs would affect HIM, Richard Deitsch. It’s a post that oozes performative concern out of every orifice. Pop a Rolaids and see for yourself:
I’ve heard from people I trust that employees in Bristol will be informed as early as tomorrow. The numbers will be larger than previously reported. It is not a fun story to report.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the ESPN layoffs over the past few weeks since I first wrote about this on March 5. I’m asked on social media daily what names am I hearing. I don’t answer. Most of the questions are not asked maliciously, though the worst of the lot attaches a name to someone they hope loses their job.
As it stands now, my instinct is not to report any names I know before the person announces it themselves. I’ve struggled with coming to terms on whether that’s the right call, but I end up on the side, first and foremost, that you aim not to do harm in journalism. As someone smart in the field told me: Those affected deserve to hang on to the dignity of framing this in their terms and on their timetable. It’s the same I thing I attempted to do when FS1 went through layoffs in March 2016.
I will continue to report on what I know about total staffing deficits, the timing, and why and what the cuts mean. But the only names I’m going to mention are those who either mention it on their own terms, or grant me permission to do so either in print or audio form. Wanted to let you know. Thanks.
This post is gross not because Deitsch is withholding news out of sensitivity to the affected parties, but because he’s BROADCASTING his brave, agonized decision to not report shit to you, the reader. There’s also an obvious and cynical horse-trade going on here. By not reporting anything, Deitsch can preserve the prospect of snagging an exclusive interview or two with whoever gets canned. (Come to me, I’ll treat you classy.) If my head were on the block at ESPN, it wouldn’t exactly comfort me to know that Thirsty Dick here may know my fate before I do, and I sure as shit wouldn’t want him standing on a soapbox pretending he’s some courageous guardian protecting me from news of my demise, when he probably just wants me to come squawking to him after the fact. Shit, he even TEASED the layoffs by subcategory:
Yeah. Real fucking thoughtful, guy.
In all, this is weapons-grade smarm, and it’s been Deitsch’s M.O. ever since he joined SI two decades ago. Maybe he did have some of the names affected (or not), but his priority was positioning himself as FAR too classy to actually divulge them to you. This allows Deitsch to act like a qualified newsman while deftly avoiding the thorny ethical quandaries that affect normal, capable journalists on a daily basis. I have written profiles and stories that have caused the subject a great deal of irritation and distress. It is DEEPLY unpleasant, but sometimes it’s part of the job, and whatever anxiety it causes me is beside the point, both to the subject and to the reader. Who gives a fuck how I feel? But Deitsch thrives exclusively on this whole Mind Of The True Journalist horseshit.
Legend has it that another media outlet used to have a Slack channel devoted exclusively to how annoying he is, and I believe it. I myself started collecting bad tweets from Deitsch ages ago, because he’s just sucked that long. When our man isn’t busy bronzing his fart clouds and collecting “no comment”s from ESPN PR, he’s been throwing down forced pop-culture references that make absolutely no sense ...
... or trying to make hay out of his inability to get people on the phone …
... or offering up strong takes that only he thinks are strong ...
... or writing ESPN PR fan fiction.
In substance, Deitsch isn’t that different from ESPN business replicant Darren Rovell: using his platform to act as an unpaid PR consultant to people who never asked for his services. In fact, he may be even worse than Rovell, because he’ll gladly use any human interest story as a cudgel to differentiate himself:
Lauren Hill, if you will recall, was the college basketball player who played in four games before dying of terminal brain cancer in 2015. And the above tweet suggests a guy who’s very concerned with using her story to cultivate an outward sense of his own tastefulness and virtue. “Cool thing ... get you some goodwill”: You won’t find a better encapsulation of his appalling need to share stories so that they reflect well on the sharer. Deitsch functions less as a reporter and as a kind of deranged Twitter courier, ready to wring every bit of complexity out of someone else’s painstaking work in service of feeding it into the Oprahfication mill. He’s the guy, after all, who launched that “best moment of your life” campaign that shitted up your Twitter feed ages ago, and he has been very busy re-fashioning any story he can get his paws on into viral-friendly inspiro-porn ever since.
This affinity for highly processed smarm is how you end up with Thirsty Dick kissing brand ass just like Rovell does:
This guy is a professional critic, and he’s out there saluting fucking Wheaties? Fuck him. This is the sort of non-criticism you get from a seasoned fart-sniffer more concerned with form than substance, and this is how you end up with Deitsch filing a supposed “inside” story of the ESPN layoffs that includes exactly one word from a source. One.
This is also how you make it in the new media economy. The professional smarm maven now doesn’t have to do or say anything, so long as he can convince people that fluffing shit written by other people, taking up easily-defended consensus positions (Skip Bayless is bad; Darren Rovell is a hack), publicly wringing his hands over the ethics of divulging information he may or may not have, and generally posturing as a lonely defender of Quality Journalism are somehow remarkable acts of public service. The game now is to give off an air of nobility and earnest humanity, and Deitsch has that part down cold. Give the man some credit: He’s figured out how to make a career out of being the internet’s third wheel. I guess that’s a more secure gig these days than working for ESPN.
And with that said … IT’S TIME FOR THE FUCKING NFL DRAFT!!!!! WOOHOO! I’ve got a case of beer and no friends and I am ready to PARTY. Are you? Then let’s prepare, because FUN is on the clock.
All days in the draft are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Tonight: I honestly believe that Roger Goodell concocted the rumor that Cleveland is still undecided on whom to take with the #1 pick. This is the same guy who saw what happened to Laremy Tunsil last year and was like “WHAT COMPELLING TELEVISION CONTENT THAT MADE FOR,” so I see no reason why he wouldn’t start manufacturing his own pre-draft smokescreens to supplement all the standard horseshit that NFL teams leak out themselves this time of year. I know that’s what I would do if I were commish. I would jam my fist up Adam Schefter’s butt and start making him spew out rumors that Myles Garrett may or may not have been abducted by ISIS two hours before the Browns are officially on the clock. I put nothing past Goodell. IT’S ALL FAKE NEWS!
Also, any team that takes Mitch Cumstein over Deshaun Watson deserves what’s coming to them. That is my expert scouting report. This Watson kid just knows how to win.
Tomorrow night: Clemson wideout Mike Williams went on the Rich Eisen Show earlier this spring and Eisen asked him about the weirdest question he ever got during the Combine. And it’s a testament to how fraught the pre-draft process is for college players that Williams answered by telling a story about someone else he knew—someone who he insists is NOT Mike Williams—getting asked by scouts if he would kill someone using a knife or a gun:
By now, you’re used to this bizarre line of inquiry coming from NFL personnel execs. Jeff Ireland famously asked Dez Bryant if his mom was a whore. An Oregon defensive end was asked when he lost his virginity. O-lineman Willie Beavers was asked if he’d rather be a cat or a dog. It’s bad enough that NFL teams parade these guys out in Indianapolis to run drills and get measured down to the foreskin. But perhaps even more invasive is an interview process that attempts to plumb the depths of your mind and coax you into saying something you may not have meant to say, exposing hidden parts of your psyche for scouts to then further examine. It’s like a prison experiment.
What’s even stranger is WHY scouts do this. Before erstwhile Skins GM Scot McCloughan was unceremoniously fired this spring and then smeared on his way out the door, he had established himself as a respected personnel evaluator. And the way McCloughan garnered that reputation was by being a likable guy in a business chock full of assholes, and also because (feel free to chuckle) he was skilled at finding, in his words, FOOTBALL PLAYERS.
“The bottom line from my standpoint being the lead personnel guy is football players. Everybody says, ‘Well you need this, this, this and this,’ which I understand. You know, a lot of times in pro free agency, you can address those needs a little bit, but I learned from Ron Wolf early on, I learned from Ted Thompson early on, I learned from John Schneider, you can never have enough good football players on your team… I don’t need the biggest, the fastest, the prettiest – I want a football player.”
Uh huh. And what is a football player, and how is one different from, say, a football player?
“It’s a guy that shows up every day, is consistent, and coaches know exactly how to coach him and how they’re going to respond,” he said. “Maybe on the field, they’re going to do exactly what is asked of them. It comes down to competitiveness, toughness and passion. Then you add that to intelligence. I’ll take a lesser athlete that’s 6’4” and 200 lbs. as a receiver that runs 4.3, that’s an average football player, compared to a 6’ 200 lbs. guy that doesn’t show up every day and be the same guy.”
In the normal world, what McCloughan is describing is a professional. But more than that, what NFL scouts are looking are players who are utterly consumed by the sport of football. It’s nice if you can run and jump and throw, but all those head games that scouts play are designed to get at the nagging question of whether or not you are REALLY into playing a sport that could potentially kill you. Because you gotta really love it if you’re willing to risk life and limb, amigo.
On a morbid level, what NFL teams are really hunting for are sacrificial lambs. They don’t want you having outside interests. They don’t want you to care about money. They DEFINITELY don’t want you thinking about retiring early. They want you in a bare apartment, studying tape, thinking of Sundays and nothing else. Any sign of weakness in your fanaticism is a nonstarter. So that is what a “football player” is to McCloughan and every other scout out there, and they are becoming a lot harder to find now that ALL football players know what they’re getting into.
Saturday: No Berman the whole weekend, folks. Drink it in. I feel like I just got out of prison. Now let’s talk about some random crap:
—I would like people who list their places on AirBnb to NOT include themselves in the photos. I’m renting an apartment here. Why the fuck do I wanna see YOU hanging out in it? Gross. You are not as charming as you think you are. The second I see some prick drinking white wine in the listing, I’m out. Any owner who puts themselves in the AirBnb listing should be immediately tagged and studied.
—In case you were unaware, Dan McQuade reported that Philly is getting completely fucked by this draft. The people in charge want draftees to come running up the Rocky steps when their name is called, which meant shutting down areas of the city for a MONTH in order to set everything up. They even forced a school to close. This is lunacy. Someone should huck a Wawa sub at Goodell’s head tonight, then retrieve it and eat it anyway.
—My team does NOT have a first round pick tonight. That got shipped away for the right to watch Sam Bradford throw 37 hitch passes a game HOORAY. Normally, I am very much into the draft right up until my team picks, and then I give progressively less and less of a fuck. However, there is a certain freedom in the fact that I don’t have to watch them fuck up a pick tonight, or watch some other guy I want go off the board early, then watch my team pick some loser, and then quickly talk myself into that loser while they play the game tape. “Yeah sure, okay. Okay, I guess I get why they did that.” That’s always an awkward moment.
—This draft is loaded. Everything about this draft suggests that the good teams will be able to snag into a Pro Bowler down in the 20s and the bad teams will get no added value at all from being in the top of the round. I’m angry at the Patriots already.
—I’m getting sick of these draft ads that prominently feature Goodell giving draftees the bear hug. I bet he ordered those shots into the rough cut. No one is fooled by your manly hugs, you fucker. Probably stealing wallets when you pull that shit
Predraft Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Clandestiny,” by Mastodon. Oh, they are BACK, people. And they brought the old band logo and proggy synths with them. The last time I saw Mastodon live, I was stone sober because I had to drive all the way to Baltimore and didn’t want to get tagged for DUI. This sucked because it was the Crack The Skye tour, and the background scrim turned the album cover into a whole animated reel that would have completely blown my skull if I had been as stoned as the rest of the crowd. So when I see them closer to home a week or two from now, I’m taking an Uber and eating ALL the drugs. I’m gonna do this shit right.
Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week
It’s Mike Lombardi, who sucks. After writing arguably the worst draft analysis column of all time, Belichick’s parking valet is back with another one that almost as bad. Did I mention that Lombardi knows Bill Belichick? Don’t worry. He’ll fill you in:
Remember how angry Tommy gets in Goodfellas when Billy Batts tells him to get his shine box?
No. I don’t. Never seen it. What’s this shine box you speak of? I’m sorry but I only get pop culture references when they’ve been explicitly laid out and sucked dry of any potential cleverness.
Whenever I hear NFL draft commentators proclaim, “He’s a first-rounder” or “He’s not a great pick at 10, but he’d be better at 20,” I’m not even “a little bit” insulted — I’m just insulted. He’s a first-rounder? What does that even mean?
It means he’s talented enough to go in the first round.
Judging a pick by rounds or draft position doesn’t make sense. And yet, we hear it every year.
Oh, and I bet you have a better idea. “Folks, let’s stop evaluating players by round and use my patented WHO IS A BLUE CHIPPER model instead.”
My anger toward such backward thinking started in the early 1990s, when one experience in Cleveland’s draft room traumatized me forever. We had a seasoned scout (that’s code for “old”) who said little to nothing during draft meetings… Thank God that guy never told me to get my shine box; I’d probably be in jail.
A jail not unlike the one you might see in the film Goodfellas, which was about gangsters.
Thankfully, Bill Belichick and I were always on the same page.
MY BEST FRIEND FOREVER BILL BELICHICK! HE AND I GO WAY BACK, YOU KNOW! Why, Mike and Bill are so much on the same page that Mike doesn’t even need to work for him anymore.
When Bill joined the Browns in 1991, the two of us spent the better part of his first season designing our grading system.
We even slept on the same cot!
Our grading system became a language of its own; it proved to be effective enough that, even all these years later in Foxborough, little has changed.
How the fuck would YOU know?
Ever wonder why the Patriots always move backward in the draft?
Because amassing picks to get additional shots at landing a good player has been a proven draft strategy since 19-fucking-90?
Most times, their draft board features maybe 14 or 15 potential day-one starters — grades dictate everything. Why waste a first-round pick (and first-round money) on one of those 14–15 prospects if you believe you can land one later and land another asset?
That’s what made this assignment so difficult.
“Folks, it’s hard to arbitrarily single out a handful of potentially good draftees when I need to look like I’m picky. I am just a living block of ham.”
So I trusted my old boss Bill instead of my new boss Bill.
I’m giving you 14 day-one starters — five on offense, nine on defense. All 14 are sure things, regardless of where they actually land in the draft. I hope New Boss Bill doesn’t tell me to go get my shine box.
As Billy Batts did in the film Goodfellas, which is often on cable television!
I hate hearing crap like “You can’t draft a tight end in the top 10.” That’s nonsense.
Who says this?
True Y’s like (OJ) Howard are almost impossible to find.
Insiders like me know you always call the position by its trade name. A tight end is a Y. A defensive tackle is a 3-technique. A quarterback is a Frizzolo. Everyone knows this.
If they did the 2010 draft over again, would Gronk go in the top 10? I rest my case.
BOOM. If they did the draft all over again, would the arguably greatest tight end of all time go high? This is the kind of insight you can only get from someone who has spent years drying Belichick’s paper towels for him. Say, I wonder if Lombardi likes Christian McCaffrey!
Think of McCaffrey like a big-time point guard, someone who creates space for teammates and keeps getting to the rim.
So true. When I think of Christian McCaffrey, I think of someone who plays a position where you get to distribute the ball. He’d be a GREAT Frizzolo.
Worst-case NBA scenario: He’s Jeremy Lin. Best-case NBA scenario: He’s Kyrie Irving.
Where the fuck am I?
Please don’t think of McCaffrey as a bigger Danny Woodhead.
The more you watch, the more you fall in love.
[frantically sends 400 unanswered texts to Belichick]
Somehow I became the president of the Deshaun Watson Fan Club.
Indeed. No one else likes Watson at all.
Ever watch old episodes of Columbo? Columbo was an L.A. detective who often delivered his signature line after solving a case: “It stayed in my mind and bothered me.”
“That reminds me of the movie Maverick, which was about a guy named Maverick.”
As an aside, my friends ask me sometimes if teams evaluate players from respected academic universities (like Stanford) differently. Well, did you ever hear a mic’d-up Bill Parcells saying on the NFL Network, “We are too dumb to be any good”? Good teams always have smart players. Thomas is a smart player. Parcells would approve.
Two of Parcells’ greatest players were Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms, who have a combined IQ of six. My team drafted Toby Gerhart and Willie Howard and both of them were fucking terrible.
With all this time on our hands, we analyze and overanalyze every pick. Belichick always reduced…
You know what? No. No more. Eat shit. Take your framed photo of Belichick and stick it.
Nazi Shark’s Draft Lock Of The Week
Lots of sports sites, to demonstrate the arbitrary nature of gambling, like to have animals like monkeys pick games to see if they can outwit their human counterparts. There’s no reason we at Deadspin can’t also get in on the fun. So we’ve asked National Socialist German Workers’ Party member Rolf, who also happens to be a shark, to pick one game a week. Take it away, Nazi shark.
“I like Deshaun Watson to get drafted before the projected slot of 25.5. I’m very glad to be back prognosticating for this bucket of liberal chum poorly disguised as a sports website. OOOOH! OOOOH! OOOOH COLLEGE KIDS ARE BEING EXPLOITED! Yeah yeah, I feel real bad for Johnny Football getting a small stipend every month to drown in cheap beer and flawless tail. Real big fucking shark violin playing over here for guys like that. Also, please vote for Ursula The Sea Witch in our upcoming special Pacific election. Truly, she will make the sea great again.”
Fire This Asshole!
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2017 chopping block:
(*-potential midseason firing)
The fact that New Orleans signed Adrian Peterson means the Saints are gonna have one of those years where they go “all in” to win a title even though they really didn’t have the pieces in place to do so, and then go 6-10 as a result.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Max sends in this story I call ROMAN POOPIDAY:
I recently came back from my 10 day honeymoon with my wife in Italy. We had a great time, eating an absolute fuck-ton of cheese, pasta, and meat (we are generally healthy eaters at home), and of course putting down 1-2 bottles of wine a night. But I realized something was wrong when, the last 3 or 4 days of my trip, I hadn’t taken a dump. That Satan-spawn beast dump manifested itself at Rome’s Fiumicino airport for the worst pooping moment of my life.
I was lucky that we got to the airport as early as we did, as I ended up needing about 45 minutes to wrestle this bastard. My wife actually texted me to see if I was ok. I later determined (after conducting research) that I had fecal impaction - my shit was so dry and hard that it stayed stuck in my rectum and wouldn’t come out. I literally tried everything I could to get this fucker out - squatting, standing, different positions, trying to wipe up my ass to break it down, nothing worked. Sweat poured down my body and I fought it. I found myself asking aloud if I could die of my poop not coming out of my rectum. The only thing worse than my current experience was facing the reality of a 10 hour flight to JFK without getting this thing out or, worse, trying to get it out in an airplane bathroom. Eventually, I separated myself from the beast, which looked like a clenched fist followed by a human arm (plus some blood for good measure).
As I exited the stall, relieved, exhausted and still covered in sweat, I locked eyes with the cleaning lady - she had closed down the bathroom and was cleaning it, presumably waiting for me to leave so she could clean my stall. I have no idea how long she had been waiting for me. She looked at me with absolute horror and disgust, no doubt at how I looked as well as the formidable task she had ahead of her. I did my best to avoid eye contact with her, washed my hands, and promptly left the bathroom.
I couldn’t sit still for the flight because my ass hurt so much from my traumatic dump. It was the worst flying experience of my life. My asshole stayed sore for two days.
That kinda poop killed Elvis, you know.
Drafttime Snack Of The Week
Milanos! Are you ready to argue? I’m gonna rank Milanos. Try and stop me. Prepare to hate my guts:
1. Double Dark
6. Milk Chocolate
That’s it. That’s the list. The other flavors are N/A. I’m not putting the Pumpkin Spice ones here because fuck that.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
FAXE! From Denmark! Here’s Matt:
I spent Christmas through New Years in Berlin this year with my family. We took a train to Dresden for a day of sightseeing and upon getting ready to head back, my wife said I should get a single beer for the trip home. I found this at a convenience store inside the train station for 2,99 Euros. A full liter can of beer. The empty can itself was sturdy enough to make the return plane home in my carry-on baggage, where it now currently sits atop my shrine of various steins and glasses from other countries.
To show scale, this pic was taken next to the standard 12 oz. can of American lager. As far as cheap lager goes, I would take FAXE any day. Also included is a picture of my aunt (also to scale of a standard aunt) attempting to enjoy a drink from this very can on the train.
Look how big that fucking beer is! I MUST HAVE IT.
Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!
“People think hobos eat beans because they’re poor. But that ain’t it. The ‘oven’ part of ‘dutch oven’ is real. You can heat a sleeping bag all night with one can of Bush’s.”
Movie Of The Week For Browns Fans
The Lego Batman Movie, which was better than the original Lego movie. I know all the Lego movies are basically ads, but The Lego Movie was REALLY an ad. At least this one downplayed the whole “You can make Legos into ANYTHING!” message by, like, five percent. Anyway, I laughed so hard during this movie that my kid actively shushed me, so I must have sounded like Max Cady in the theater that day.
Also, I enjoyed this Batman more than pretty much any other Batman movie outside of Dark Knight. TRY AND DISPROVE IT.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“Uh oh, my heart stopped. Oh, there it goes.”
Enjoy the draft, everyone.