Steve Young recently admitted to lacking full commitment to his job as an ESPN NFL analyst. He also seemed to lack a full commitment to explaining that he truly has a full commitment to his job as a football analyst.
The situation emerged from a profile of Young penned by a non-sports publication.
“My wife hates football, and my kids don’t really care,” Young told Alex Sherman of Bloomberg Businessweek. “I see myself as a deal guy first. I’ve put football behind me. Roger Staubach once told me — and I’ll never forget it: ‘When you retire, run. Never look back.'”
Sherman explains that Young “may have quit ESPN years ago if not for his private equity partners, who like him to keep a high profile,” and that Young “spends no more than an hour or two at the stadium” preparing for what he’ll say on the air.
“Once the game starts, he barely watches the action,” Sherman writes.
It’s a horrible look for Young, and for the network that’s paying him to do more than the bare minimum — or to do something other than leverage a platform on ESPN to enhance the nine-figure dealmaking abilities of a private equity firm. It’s no surprise that Young is downplaying his words.
However, his effort to downplay his words isn’t very convincing.
“I participated in this story to encourage athletes to think about their futures because I want to inspire them to think this way,” Young told Michael McCarthy of SportingNews.com. “I have worked hard to build an expertise in two different fields, and I am proud of that. I have built one over the course of 35 years as a football player and analyst. The other, in private equity, I’ve established over 18 years. I’m focused on being excellent at both — and without sacrificing one for the other. Staying connected to the game and working for ESPN are very meaningful to me. In no way did I intend to suggest otherwise.”
Young may not have intended to suggest otherwise, but suggest otherwise he did. As to his claim that staying connected to the game and working for ESPN are meaningful to him, of course it is; as he told Bloomberg, Young’s business partners want him to keep a high profile.
ESPN executive Stephanie Druley vouched for Young’s overall work ethic and commitment, even though Young in his comments to Bloomberg didn’t.
“Steve is one of the most respected analysts in football and he remains committed to his job at ESPN,” Druley told McCarthy. “His producers and colleagues have noted his work ethic internally, his level of preparation and the effort he brings each week. In addition to analyzing Monday Night Football, he watches games, actively participates in production meetings and contributes weekly analysis to our studio shows using a camera that ESPN installed in his office. He is one of the veterans of our analyst team and he’s constantly making fans smarter about the game.”
That’s fine, but Young said what he said. To his credit, he didn’t try to suggest that he was misquoted or that his words were taken out of context. To his detriment, he comes off as the stereotypical former player who is above following the NFL like a fan.
Most of the former players who can’t or won’t follow the NFL like fans get exposed quickly. Young is smart enough to survive despite not being all in. The real question is whether and for how long his broadcasting career will survive his unforced error.