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Jason Garrett Has Work To Do If He Is Going To Be As Good As NBC Says He Is

“There had been plenty of hype around him. Maybe that upped my expectations.”

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The new edition of the USFL is another place where players can showcase their talent to hopefully impress an NFL team. This rebirth of the league is a place for broadcasters and analysts to showcase themselves for next-level jobs too. The stakes are relatively low, meaning the audience isn’t sitting around waiting for the USFL games like they would on an NFL Sunday. Mistakes can be made, made again, and then corrected. Just like for the players, the announcers are getting reps. 

Count former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett among the ones getting those precious reps. He and Jac Collinsworth make up the top broadcast team of the USFL on NBC. Garrett has seen it all in football. Coordinating producer Matt Marvin told The New York Post that he expects fans to like what Garrett has to say

“I think his passion and relatability came across during rehearsals,” Marvin said. “Jason has been a quarterback, head coach, coordinator and a position coach in the NFL, so his football knowledge is unparalleled, but he displayed the ability to put things in terms that we could all understand. He also has a tremendous energy that you can really pick up on. Football has been such a big part of his life and that is reflected in the way he calls the game.”

You’d think he has a unique perspective on the game, but does it translate to television? Well, early on, I’m not so sure. It’s not an easy move from the field to the booth, to say the least. It takes some work and work is needed in this case. 

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes into being an announcer. And obviously, I don’t have a ton of experience with that, but I was just trying to have some fun up there,“ Jason Garrett explained to 105.3 The Fan after the opening game of the USF season.

It’s true, not just anyone can hang up the coaching headset and trade it in for a broadcasting headset.

“There’s definitely a lot of mechanics to go with the rhythm and the timing to get comfortable with that,” he told 105.3 The Fan. “I do believe football sets up well and that you have a play-by-play guy who describes the actions then the color guy jumps in. Trying to get the feel for each other.”

He and Collinsworth had never worked together before. They did a couple of rehearsals in Stamford, Connecticut to get ready, but it’s hard to replicate the real thing in a studio. There is so much more that goes on in the booth and during a real telecast. Something not lost on Garrett now. 

“You got to get used to the producer talking to you. Got to get used to understanding where my eyes should go – to the field or the monitor or to the replay? All of that, and then hopefully being able to share something insightful for the viewer. So, you just kind of work through all those different mechanical things.”

With all that said, I watched the NBC telecast of the game between the New Orleans Breakers and Tampa Bay Bandits last weekend. I was not all that impressed. The production value is good. But there’s a lot going on. We hear random voices of coaches calling in plays to the quarterback, live mics on the field picking up trash talk and that’s on top of the play-by-play and commentary. 

Back to Garrett. He was like a fish out of water. He looked stiff during the open, was talking in very choppy sentences and seemed to be trying too hard and thinking too much.

I wasn’t sure why I would have expected better from a first-year guy. There had been plenty of hype around him. Maybe that upped my expectations. 

I get the fact that this is new to him. It’s also just the second real game he’s done with Collinsworth. To be honest, Collinsworth didn’t do Garrett many favors.

Early in the game the analyst barely spoke. He wasn’t jumping in when there were obvious spots for him to do so and it sounded weird. Collinsworth didn’t seem to be paying attention to it, even when Garrett wasn’t reacting to questions designed to bring him into the conversation.  We went through the lineups, first down, and second down without hearing the analyst. Finally, after the 2nd down play, Garrett chimed in for the first time. 

Fans of the Cowboys often said that Garrett spoke in clichés and never showed a ton of emotion while coaching. He clapped his hands a lot according to all the memes I saw when researching this column.

Why do I mention it? Because a lot of the early commentary offered very little insight. There wasn’t much that I couldn’t have found out by reading each team’s game notes.

It almost sounded like he was offering up coach speak at a press conference after a game. “3rd and 3 ain’t easy,” the Breakers’ quarterback was, “getting better each and every day,” oh and he was also playing “at a high level”. The Bandits’ secondary needed to “shore up their coverability”. Those were just a few of the cliches that Jason Garrett said during the broadcast.

He also had a nervous laugh throughout the broadcast. It wasn’t a full belly laugh; it was that type where you’re not exactly sure what is so funny. He also used “WOW!” several times. That’s not expert analysis.

I could see the play and think to myself “WOW!” but why was it a “WOW!” play? Give me a little something here. 

As the game went on, Garrett seemed to be warming up a bit. But he went from 0 to 60 faster than a Lamborghini. Starting in the 2nd quarter, Garrett started to feel it a bit and wasn’t waiting as long to jump in to fill those spaces he needed to fill. There was a little more emotion.

The only problem was that he started talking over things, like the referee’s calls and even over Jac Collinsworth. He worked both sides of the extreme in just a quarter of action. He was starting to feel more comfortable later in the 2nd half. He was getting wordy though.

Garrett was taking too long to make his point and was still talking about a replay when the telecast returned to live action. There has to be a good balance. Not all of it was Garrett’s fault completely. 

You could also tell that Jason Garrett was working with a less experienced play-by-play guy. Collinsworth, and the producer quite frankly, could have helped him early on. Set him up. Put him in positions where he doesn’t have to really think about what to say and just be natural. I’m not an advocate for the announcer interviewing his analyst, but sometimes that’s what it takes early on to get that analyst comfortable. Bring him in more early in the game. Get him into the flow in the first quarter and the rest will take care of itself. 

I would have liked to have heard much more about his perspectives on the game. How does he view it as a coach or even as a former player? There were a few times he started to go that direction when talking about New Orleans quarterback Kyle Sloter, who was playing with a groin injury. Jason Garrett started to talk about just how difficult that is for a QB. He told the audience how the injury affected his drop back and his side-to-side movement. He didn’t come back to that at all though. I understand overkill, but this was something he had experienced. Give me some insight! Teach me something! Give me a reason to be amazed at what Sloter was doing!

Garrett is a smart guy. He played quarterback at Princeton and Columbia. He suited up for four different NFL teams. He played in the World League of American Football and the Canadian Football League. Garrett was a head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He is the son of a football coach.

My point? There are plenty of experiences he could be drawing from. He’s probably forgotten more about football than most people watching the broadcast even don’t know that they don’t know. Garrett needs to use these experiences to better tell the story about what he is seeing on the field.

He’s not a coach right now, so there is no need for him to be buttoned-up in his commentary. There are no press conferences, he’s not making the decisions on the field. I’d like to see him loosen up a bit and have some fun. Coaches are used to wearing a loss. When they become broadcasters, they can put the headset down and go to dinner when a bad game is over. 

Jason Garrett has to find what works for him. There are a lot of examples of former coaches that have gotten into the broadcasting realm. He shouldn’t try to copy them, but figure out his niche. He doesn’t have the personality of Jon Gruden or John Madden, and that’s fine. Garrett should start with just being himself and using his knowledge of the game to bring the viewer some insight.

Once Garrett lets his guard down and lets himself get into the flow of the game he’ll be fine just telling the viewers what he is seeing. Until then, he’s just that persona he created as the former Cowboys coach – bland, speaking a lot and saying nothing. I hope that changes soon. 

BSM Writers

Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable

After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.

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Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.

Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.

The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)

OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.

What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY

Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.

This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.

I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.

I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.

What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.

I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.

“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”

Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.

“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “

“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”

OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.

However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on  YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.

“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of  his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.

“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”

Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.

That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.

Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”

I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.

I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.

I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.

By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”

Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:

Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”

If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 75

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A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.

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BSM Writers

Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM

Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.

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Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.

I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future. 

Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?

Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.

Bron Heussenstamm, CEO Bleav Podcast Network

How is advertising on Bleav different? 

We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content. 

What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see? 

The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space. 

SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like? 

We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide. 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?  

There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple. 

At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram. 

If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.

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