Bob Costas says it wasn’t his massive salary for little work that caused NBC to part ways with him. He says it was retaliation for his brave and bold stand against concussions in the NFL. Matthew Haag of the New York Times:
Bob Costas, the longtime sportscaster and prime-time host on NBC, alleged in an interview that aired on Sunday that the network’s executives abruptly removed him from covering last year’s Super Bowl after he criticized the violence in football and how the “game destroys people’s brains.”
His nearly 40-year relationship with NBC Sports, first as its boyish announcer and later as elder statesman, came crashing down over five days in November 2017. At a symposium that month with fellow journalists, Mr. Costas remarked on what he saw as the life-altering dangers of the sport, devastating consequences for its players and existential questions confronting the National Football League.
“The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains — not everyone’s, but a substantial number,” Mr. Costas told the crowd at the University of Maryland. “It’s not a small number, it’s a considerable number. It destroys their brains.”
His highly critical remarks, while in line with his past public comments about the link between playing football and head trauma, including an hourlong NBC special about it in 2013, quickly grabbed headlines and cast an uncomfortable spotlight on NBC Sports just months before it would broadcast the N.F.L.’s biggest and most lucrative event, the Super Bowl.
At the end of that week in November, Mr. Costas appeared on a CNN program in what he later described as an effort to soften the reaction to his remarks. He said that network executives had been well aware of his thoughts about football and that “NBC Sports deserves credit” for supporting him as he expressed his views.
Still, network executives were seething, according to Mr. Costas, setting in motion his removal from the network’s Super Bowl plan and his eventual departure from NBC. Mr. Costas spoke about the episode with ESPN last year for a story that aired Sunday on “Outside the Lines.”
Within an hour of his appearance on CNN, he said, he received a text message from Sam Flood, an executive producer at NBC. “I think the words were, ‘You’ve crossed the line,’” Mr. Costas told ESPN, adding that he no longer had the text message.
Mr. Costas told ESPN that he believed his remarks had cut too close to the delicate, multibillion-dollar business relationship between the N.F.L. and the networks that carry the games.
“Look, the N.F.L. isn’t just the most important sports property, it’s the single most important property in all of American television,” Mr. Costas said. “And it isn’t even close.”
An NBC Sports spokesman confirmed that Mr. Costas had been told that he had “crossed the line” but said it was not because he had discussed the topic of brain injuries and football. Instead, the spokesman said, it was because Mr. Costas had agreed after the University of Maryland symposium that he would no longer discuss the topic in interviews without prior approval from NBC Sports.
He had not sought approval for the CNN interview, the spokesman, Greg Hughes, said on Monday.
Shortly after the CNN appearance, Mr. Costas said, he was told he would not be part of NBC’s coverage of Super Bowl LII in February 2018. It was a sudden breakup between NBC and Mr. Costas, its longtime host of the Olympics and of “Football Night in America,” the network’s highly rated Sunday N.F.L. pregame show. Last year, he described the separation in public as “mutually agreeable.”
The parting was the culmination of Mr. Costas’s wavering commitment over many years to covering the N.F.L. He stepped away from NBC’s coverage in the 1990s, later saying the decision was because he “had ambivalent feelings about football.” Yet he was a host of HBO’s “Inside the N.F.L.” in the 2000s and then rejoined NBC’s coverage of the sport in the 2006-7 season, when the network started a $600 million-a-year deal with the league for Sunday night games. He continued hosting that program, “Sunday Night Football,” for the next decade, as awareness about the long-term effects of head injuries continued to rise.
During that time, Mr. Costas used the top-rated show’s platform to provide commentary on everything from guns to politics. In a halftime commentary in 2012, Mr. Costas called for “enlightened legislation and controls” on guns a day after a Kansas City Chiefs player shot and killed his girlfriend and then himself.
The network never received criticism or complaints from the N.F.L. about Mr. Costas’s coverage or commentary, including his remarks at the 2017 symposium, Mr. Hughes said.
By the time Mr. Costas appeared at that event, he had already taken a back seat in NBC’s coverage. He hosted the first “Football Night in America” of the 2017-18 football season but then handed off the remaining shows to Mike Tirico, who had moved over from ESPN to become NBC’s face of major sports events. When NBC eventually announced that Mr. Costas would not participate in the Super Bowl broadcast, he said that it would not have been fair to those who had been there the entire season.
“It wouldn’t be right for me to parachute in and do the Super Bowl,” he told The Associated Press weeks before the event. NBC and Mr. Costas officially parted ways last fall, when they agreed to end his contract early.
So, it was okay for Costas not to want the NFL, but not okay for NBC not to want Costas on the NFL.
Jay Rigdon of Awful Announcing is troubled:
The implications here are really quite something, because again, this is Bob Costas. If NBC is willing to sort of hang Bob Costas out to dry in order to please the NFL, what kind of message does that send to anyone else in broadcasting who might want to say something that offends the NFL? (The issue exists with other leagues and sports as well, of course, but the NFL is such a singularly valuable and influential property that it has a proportionally larger pull over networks.)
Of course, there’s the fact that ESPN is the outlet breaking this story. But this isn’t so much about the influence the NFL wields over an entire operation; ESPN is compartmentalized enough that their (often very good and important) reporting on the league is shielded a bit. If, say, Suzy Kolber (or whoever) wanted to go in on the league a la Costas at that Maryland forum, things would possibly be a bit different.
Bob Costas worked for NBC from 1979 through 2019, a career that spanned just about every sport and included a stretch from 1992-2016 wherein Costas was the primetime host for NBC’s Olympics coverage, as symbiotic as a sports broadcasting relationship can be. And that still wasn’t enough for NBC to stand up to the NFL on the Super Bowl coverage, because they spend billions to air NFL games and it’s the NFL that props NBC’s ratings up every year.
If it can happen to Costas, it can definitely happen to anyone else. That’s troubling for viewers who might be more interested in coverage that’s willing to push back on the NFL’s PR-friendly narratives on player safety and concussions and player protests and whatever the next issue to arise will be.
It’s official. QB KYLER MURRAY is all in on football – until he isn’t. Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA TODAY:
Kyler Murray is going all-in on his pursuit of an NFL career.
The former Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner announced Monday he was “firmly and fully committing my life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback.”
Murray was also the No. 9 pick by the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 MLB draft and was due to report to spring training on Friday. But now his focus will turn to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, which begins Feb. 26.
“Football has been my love and passion my entire life,” Murray wrote in a picture posted to Twitter. “I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating 100% of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships. I have started an extensive training program to further prepare myself for upcoming NFL workouts and interviews. I eagerly await the opportunity to continue to prove to NFL decision makers that I am the franchise QB in this draft.”
In opting for football instead of baseball, Murray will return $1.29 million of the $1.5 million signing bonus he received last year and forfeit the remaining $3.16 million, according to ESPN.
Oakland A’s president Billy Beane said earlier in the day that the team was holding out hope he would stay the course with baseball.
“Things have certainly changed since the (2018 MLB) draft, given his amazing football season,’’ Beane said. “It’s based on a historic college football season this young man had. To not recognize that would be somewhat foolish.
“He’s a Heisman Trophy winner. He’s projected to be an early pick. We’ve had ongoing conversations as it relates to the conversation and to Kyler’s future. Period. Not just with baseball but potentially with other sports.”
As a junior, Murray threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns while adding 1,001 rushing yards and 12 scores on the ground.
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Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout has this list of his top 50 prospects in the draft:
The Big Board is not a mock draft. No attention is paid to team needs. This is simply my personal ranking of the top 50 NFL prospects available for the 2019 NFL Draft (the version below is edited):
1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State, 6-4, 270, 4.76, junior
One shouldn’t blame Big Ten tackles or NFL scouts for confusing Nick with his older brother Joey as prior to suffering a core muscular injury that ultimately required surgery and ended his college career, Bosa lived up to his billing as one of the elite players in the country.
2. Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama, 6-3, 295, 4.96, redshirt sophomore
Simply put, Williams was the most dominant player in college football in 2019, exhibiting a combination of raw power and quickness that I haven’t seen from an interior defensive lineman since then-Nebraska star Ndamukong Suh went No. 2 overall (to Detroit) nearly a decade ago.
3. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston, 6-2, 275, 4.82, junior
While a sideline incident with then-Houston head coach Major Applewhite raised some concerns about Oliver’s maturity, there is no denying his talent. His ability to penetrate from the interior makes him a difference-maker against the pass and run, alike – a rarity among interior defensive linemen.
4. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson, 6-4, 260, 4.78, redshirt junior
Bosa, Williams and Oliver have earned most of the buzz (and for good reason), but Ferrell is essentially 1D on my board as the best combination of size, athleticism and consistency.
5. Andraez “Greedy” Williams, CB, LSU, 6-1, 182, 4.50, redshirt soph.
No program in the country has a more impressive track record when it comes to producing NFL defensive backs than LSU and insiders there suggest that Williams may be the best out of Baton Rouge since Patrick Peterson Embedded video
6. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan, 6-4, 281, 4.67, junior
Gary signed with Michigan as one of the most highly regarded preps in the entire country and lived up to his billing, standing out on a defense loaded with future NFL draft picks since his true freshman season. While perhaps lacking the elite burst and bend off the edge of this year’s top pass rushers, Gary can effectively harass the quarterback because of his prototypical blend of size, strength, awareness and refined technique.
7. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington, 5-11, 192, 4.45, redshirt sophomore
Boasting an almost unfair combination of agility, ball-skills and physicality that compares favorably to top-drafted cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward the past two years, Murphy ranks as one of the elite prospects of the 2019 draft despite the fact that he reportedly earned just a second round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.
8. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama, 6-5, 301, 5.02, junior
Alabama’s ability to control the line of scrimmage is the single “biggest” factor in the Crimson Tide’s remarkable success since Saban took over the helm. Like his predecessor, Cam Robinson (now the Jaguars’ starting left tackle), Williams possesses the blend of length, strength and light feet to remain a blindside protector in the NFL.
9. Josh Allen, DE/OLB, Kentucky, 6-4, 258, 4.59, senior
Too often overshadowed over his career by the “other” dominant defensive linemen in the SEC, Allen emerged as one of the elite players regardless of position in the power conference as a senior, taking home the conference’s Defensive MVP Award, as well as the Bronko Nagurski, Outland Trophy and Lott IMPACT as the nation’s top defender.
10. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson, 6-3, 300, 5.04, senior
Checking in just behind Allen among top seniors, is Wilkins, who in terms of his production, versatility and leadership, Wilkins might just be the most unique player in the 2019 draft. He is a proven difference-maker regardless of where has Clemson lined him up the past three seasons, showing shocking agility and energy (on and off the field) for a man of his size and seeing time at defensive tackle, defensive end and even fullback.
11. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State, 6-2, 220, 4.59, redshirt soph.
Haskins only started one season at Ohio State but what a year it was, guiding the Buckeyes to a whipping of rival Michigan and a Rose Bowl championship to send Urban Meyer off in style. Unlike most quarterbacks who starred under Meyer, Haskins is a classic drop-back passer. He shows good accuracy to all levels of the field, plenty of arm strength and poise in pressure situations – which is the single biggest factor why he checks in as my top-rated quarterback for the 2019 NFL draft.
12. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State, 6-3, 301, 4.98, junior
An easy mover with grown-man strength, Simmons would compete for top billing among defensive linemen in most drafts and the fact that he falls just outside of the top 10 is a reflection of this year’s extraordinary talent at the position, as well as the fact that he does come with significant enough off-field concerns that he was not invited to the NFL
13. Deionte Thompson, FS, Alabama, 6-1, 193, 4.45, redshirt junior
The Alabama pipeline to the NFL is going strong as ever with Thompson, who emerged as one of the elite prospects in all of college football in 2018.
14. Montez Sweat, DE/OLB, Mississippi State, 6-6, 252, 4.78, senior
With his rare length and massive 84.5” wingspan, Sweat casts an imposing shadow off the edge, terrorizing quarterbacks in the SEC and Big Ten, alike, over his career. Teams will want to investigate what led to Sweat’s transfer from Michigan State, which might be why he opted to compete at the Senior Bowl despite a dominant career in which 23.5 of his 30.5 career tackles for loss went for sacks. He was my top-rated prospect entering the week of practice in Mobile and only confirmed his top 15 standing with his performance there.
15. Devin White, ILB, LSU, 6-0, 240, 4.64, junior
White rivaled top 10 pick Roquan Smith (Chicago) as the top linebacker in the country last season and, not surprisingly, took the mantle as the Butkus Award winner in 2018. A battering ram with impressive closing speed and excellent strength to wrestle ball-carriers to the ground, White worked hard to prove that he is a full-service linebacker, recording a career-high six passes defensed in 2018
16. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi, 6-3, 230, 4.55 (est.), redshirt sophomore
In terms of upside, Metcalf is the most intriguing receiver in the 2019 NFL draft, boasting a prototypical combination of size, speed and leaping ability to project as a legitimate No. 1 target at the next level.
17. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia, 5-11, 180, 4.49, redshirt junior
Georgia’s front seven earned much of the credit on defense for the Bulldogs’ SEC crown a season ago but Baker got his due in 2018, taking home the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in part due to his instincts, physicality and penchant for making big plays against top opponents.
18. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa, 6-4, 250, 4.77, redshirt sophomore
Statistic-based analysts probably will not be as high on Hockenson as I am but that is because he and fellow Iowa pass-catcher Noah Fant split production in 2018 with neither generating the kind of numbers to earn lavish praise. Hockenson, in fact, opted to leave two years early for the NFL with just nine career touchdowns. His frame, soft hands and stellar blocking, however, suggest that he could follow in the footsteps of another former Iowa tight end – George Kittle – in saving his best play for the pro level.
19. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma, 5-10, 195, 4.42, redshirt junior
It is hard to discuss Murray and not venture into hyperbole. What he has already accomplished – winning the Heisman Trophy in his only season as a starting quarterback and being selected No. 9 overall in the 2018 Major League Baseball – already suggest that he is among the world’s best all-around athletes. Projecting him to the NFL as a franchise passer is more difficult, especially given his size. But make no mistake, besides a combination of elusiveness and speed similar to what Lamar Jackson offered a year ago, Murray also flashes rare accuracy.
20. Greg Little, OT, Mississippi, 6-5, 325, 5.23, junior
Little is anything but at a rock-solid 6-5, 325 pounds and possesses all of the other traits scouts are looking for in a potential left tackle — including light feet, balance, long arms and core strength. He is considerably less polished than Alabama’s Williams (8th on my board), but that isn’t surprising given that he has just two seasons as a full-time starter.
21. Dexter Lawrence, NG, Clemson, 6-3, 340, 5.27, junior
Given how the quick passing game has taken over the NFL, traditional run-stuffers like Lawrence do not hold the same value they once did. The NFL remains a big man’s game, however, and few boast Lawrence’s combination of size, power and athleticism.
22. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama, 5-09, 216, 4.49, junior
An explosive, powerful back with a wicked jump-cut and terrific burst, Jacobs is the only runner to crack my top 32 Big Board, earning this distinction despite the fact that he served as a backup virtually his entire college career.
23. Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware, 6-0, 195, 4.50, senior
Having scouted the Senior Bowl since 2001, I’ve learned patience when evaluating so-called small school prospects until getting a chance to evaluate them against elite competition. Often, non-FBS prospects struggle early with the jump in talent with some of the best showing signs of acclimating as the week goes on. It is rare that a small school prospect shines the way Adderley did this winter on the big stage, showcasing the range, instincts and ball-skills to project as an immediate starter at free safety, living up to the standard set forth by his cousin, Herb Adderley, a Hall of Fame cornerback for the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s.
24. N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State, 6-3, 216. 4.52, junior
Harry was a dominant force from the moment he joined the Sun Devils, beating up on smaller cornerbacks with his exciting blend of size, body control and sticky hands. Perhaps due to how he was used early in his career, Harry developed a reputation as more of a possession receiver than a true, all-around No. 1 type. In 2018, however, Harry showed improved agility to make defenders miss in tight quarters, including on a dazzling punt return against Southern California that showed off his underrated agility and speed.
25. Taylor Rapp, SS, Washington, 6-0, 212, 4.59, junior
Given all of its physical and mental requirements, safety is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate. Rapp, however, excels in two areas absolutely critical to success in the NFL at this position: producing turnovers and tackling in the open field. In a draft blessed with a lot of talented of defensive backs, Rapp might offer the highest floor.
26. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida, 6-5, 330, 5.35, junior
Teams looking for a dominant run blocking right tackle will certainly be intrigued by the massive Taylor, a three-year starter with experience playing both sides.
27. Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame, 6-6, 305, 5.02, senior
As physically imposing as it gets in a dominant class for defensive linemen, this long-armed Louisiana native wins with a combination of size, power and tenacity similar to former Notre Dame (and current Pittsburgh Steelers) standout Stephon Tuitt.
28. A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi, 6-1, 225, 4.50, junior
While speed is the trait most look for at wide receiver, I’m also a big believer in competitiveness, which has helped some NFL receivers who perhaps didn’t run so well for the stop-watch still enjoy plenty of success in the NFL. This is where Brown (like Keenan Allen and Anquan Boldin before him) excels, using his frame and physicality to badger smaller cornerbacks to get open or when generating yards after the catch.
29. Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State, 6-5, 305, 5.10, senior
Along with Adderley (ranked 23rd) no player on my top 32 board boosted his stock more at the Senior Bowl than Risner, who may well have been the most consistent performer in Mobile this year.
30. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri, 6-4, 223, 4.89, senior
Lock set an SEC-record with 44 passing touchdowns (against 13 interceptions) as a junior and some panicked when his scoring strikes slipped as a senior (28), despite the fact that his interceptions also dropped to just eight. When he feels comfortable in the pocket, Lock’s accuracy and competitive fire is undeniable, though his play can get frenetic when he’s taken some hits. It is a skill-set that reminds me a bit of current Oakland Raiders’ standout Derek Carr, keeping Lock as my top-rated senior quarterback all year long.
31. Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma, 6-3, 338, 5.30, redshirt junior
Ford started all 14 games at right tackle for the Sooners, pairing with fellow top 64 talent Dru Samia at guard to give the Sooners arguably the best right side in college football.
32. Amani Hooker, S, Iowa, 5-11, 210, 4.58, junior
One could make an argument for Duke quarterback Daniel Jones or even fellow Hawkeyes stars Fant or Anthony Nelson for this spot and it is quite possible they earn first round selections in the 2019 draft. Frankly, they were not as consistent in 2019 as Hooker, who emerged from the shadows to earn Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year accolades, showing not only the ball-skills that have helped his former teammates Desmond King and Josh Jackson succeed in the NFL but breath-taking closing speed as a slashing open-field tackler, as well.
Best of the Rest
Noah Fant, TE, Iowa, 6-4, 241, 4.60
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke, 6-5, 220, 4.68
Joe Jackson, DE, Miami, 6-5, 265, 4.83
Charles Omenihu, DE, Texas, 6-6, 274, 4.86
Jachai Polite, OLB/DE, Florida, 6-2, 242, 4.62
Devin Bush, OLB, Michigan, 5-11, 233, 4.67
Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State, 6-2, 286, 4.96
Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma, 5-10, 168, 4.34
Brian Burns, OLB/DE, Florida State, 6-4, 240, 4.65
Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington, 6-7, 321, 5.27
Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State, 6-2, 204, 4.55
Mack Wilson, ILB, Alabama, 6-1, 239, 4.73
Lonnie Johnson, Jr., CB, Kentucky, 6-2, 210, 4.55
Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State, 6-0, 208, 4.39
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, Florida, 6-0, 203, 4.55
Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State, 6-5, 310, 5.10
Kendall Sheffield, CB, Ohio State, 5-11, 190, 4.35
Trysten Hill, DT, Central Florida, 6-1, 315, 5.10