By pulling out of its partnership with Frontline, ESPN reminded us, yet again, where its newsroom stands. It's second fiddle to the company's business interests. So, let's show you what the flagship show of ESPN's newsroom does in lieu of participating in a documentary that the NFL is afraid of. It's a story that the NFL could only be thrilled with. Watch the video above and let's take you step-by-step through how ESPN contrives and then covers a story that doesn't even exist.
Step 1: Ron Jaworski goes on SportsCenter Wednesday at a little after noon and says something absolutely ridiculous: "I truly believe Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever."
Step 2: SportsCenter replays that clip less than an hour later. "Strong words from Jaws!"
Step 3: A reporter at 49ers camp asks Colin Kaepernick, "Ron Jaworski said today he thought you could be the greatest quarterback of all-time, the best quarterback ever. How do you deal with praise and stuff in this off-season and what not?" That full question—and Kaepernick's response—are later broadcast on SportsCenter.
Step 4: Steve Levy goes on the 11 p.m. SportsCenter and talks about what Jaworski had to say.
Step 5: Steve Young comes on SportsCenter to do a spot on Jaws's opinion.
Step 6: San Francisco's ABC affiliate does a segment dedicated to it. ABC and ESPN are both owned by Disney.
Step 7: SportsCenter replays Jaws's hot take several times overnight. SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman reports that Kaepernick is "humbly appreciative of all this greatest-ever talk." All this greatest-ever talk.
Step 9: ESPN picks up the AP story.
Step 10: ESPN puts the AP story on the front page of ESPN.com with the headline, "Jaworski praises Colin Kaepernick."
Step 11: ESPN Radio's Mike Golic plays the clip and dedicates one of his first segments to it on Thursday morning.
Step 12: A topic for the morning SportsCenter. "Jaws made a little bit of news yesterday!" Jaworski comes on with Adam Schefter to talk about what he said. And then Jaworski says that Kaepernick answered the question—that is, a question from the reporter about Jaworski's take—perfectly.
Step 13: Jaws goes on another edition of SportsCenter. "I'm going to stick to what I said!" he said, laughing hysterically.
Step 14: Jaworski goes on First Take to talk about it with Skip Bayless. "You put it on Tebow," Jaworski tells him.
This is the effect that ESPN has. This is the effect it has on the sports world. Create a meme, report it out, repeat it all day, and let the rest of the media world re-report it, which ESPN then re-re-reports. Wash, rinse, etc.
Let's consider the source here. Ron Jaworski is, occasionally, one of the good guys. He's an X's and O's dork. He knows football. But he's also a good company man. He gets caught up in this crap all the time due to the fact that he's a good company man. Two years ago, The New Yorker profiled Jaworski's then-boothmate Jon Gruden, and stumbled upon this:
When it was Jaworski's turn, he issued a stern proclamation. "Call me crazy, but I'm really excited for Tyler Palko tonight," he said, and a roomful of skeptical sports producers erupted in laughter. Jaworski had given himself the thankless task of building up the Chiefs, praising them as much as he could without putting his own credibility at risk. Perhaps viewers would buy into the idea, however far-fetched, that Palko would emerge as the night's underdog hero. Later that day, as Jaworski was making a cup of coffee in the ESPN bus, he tried the line again. "Call me crazy, but I'm excited about Tyler Palko," he said. He exhaled. "I've got to sell this," he said to himself.
What did Jaworski have to sell before Kaepernick? A month ago Jaworski released his "QB Countdown List." There was a big, long roll-out for it. He listed Kaepernick, the guy he thinks may become the greatest quarterback in NFL history, as the 11th best quarterback in the NFL. After he released Kaepernick's ranking, it became a talking point on First Take and Numbers Never Lie. Analysts were mad at him. Some thought he was unfairly exalting Kaepernick by ranking him where he did. Here's a transcript from First Take, via TVEyes. We can only presume this is Skip Bayless:
Before I answer this question, allow me to say to my friend Ron Jaworski, to borrow Stephen A. Smith's favorite word, it is blasphemy that you have ranked Colin Kaepernick above Robert Griffin III. It is blasphemy that you have Russell Wilson ahead of RG III.
Others thought Jaworski was trolling by putting him so low. Here's Jemele Hill on Numbers Never Lie:
Today Jaws reveals that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is 11th on the list. I try not to get too riled up about list, but Jaws trolled me. This will be his first full season as the starter, but you have to presume that Matt Schaub's ranked ahead of Kaepernick. That is brutal.
And again a couple of days later:
Ron Jaworski is probably going to to think I don't like him. Yes, I have taken issue with Jaws' quarterback rankings again. He slighted Colin Kaepernick, and he ranks Eli eighth on his list. I know there is no shame in being considered a top 10 quarterback. But there is something shameful that someone with one playoff win in Matt Ryan is ranked ahead of him.
So there you go. Colin Kaepernick is either a top 10 NFL quarterback, or not, or destined to be the greatest of all time.
H/T to Max O.