Tom Jackson’s curious explanation of his Jets-Pats pick

By now, many of you have heard about the explanation from ESPN’s Tom Jackson in defending his prediction that the Patriots would beat the Jets on Sunday.

For those of you who haven’t, here’s the background.

Jackson picked the Pats to win the game.  After the Jets won, linebacker Bart Scott came unhinged during an interview with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, specifically calling out Jackson and ESPN’s Keyshawn Johnson for predicting that the Jets would lose.  (UPDATE:  Apparently, Keyshawn picked the Jets.  We thought Bart was being sarcastic when he thanked Keyshawn for “having our backs.”)

Jackson explained his decision as a social experiment or sorts.

“I played a bit of a psychological game with the Jets,” Jackson said, via Yahoo! Sports.  “It’s something that I need to explain.  I thought that more important to the Jets than hearing another score of ’24-21, they have a chance to win,’ was that it was important that they have in their mind, ‘You got beat 45 to 3.  A large segment of the population believes that can happen to you again.’

“[The Jets] are all watching.  I wanted to further fuel and cement them in that bunker mentality of us against the world. . . .

“As a defensive player, I certainly knew that they had a chance to win and I thought that they certainly might win the game.  But I knew when they saw 30-10 that I think they would be reminded of what most people were feeling.  And I knew they needed to be a little angrier going on the field.”

Jackson is either telling the truth, or he isn’t.  If he isn’t, then he’s merely trying to cover up the fact that he blew the pick, offering up a cockamamie explanation aimed at allowing him to have it both ways.

If, instead, Jackson was being honest, he’s arguably abusing his position as a supposedly neutral observer of the game by trying to provide motivation to the team that he’s secretly rooting for.

Why would Jackson root for the Jets?  Think back to 2003, when Jackson announced after a season-opening 31-0 loss by the Pats to the Bills that the New England players “hate” coach Bill Belichick.  Since then, the relationship between Belichick and Jackson has been frosty, at best.

Though it’s not as obviously problematic for ESPN as calling a co-worker “sweet cakes” (or perhaps trying to grab the co-worker’s “sweet cakes” in the break room), Jackson’s explanation suggests that maybe ESPN should get out of the business of picking games.  If Jackson is right, then it means that he (and possibly others) have used the process of picking games as a tool for influencing players to play harder, by creating the perception that they’re disrespecting the team for which they’re secretly rooting.

It’s impossible to prove that such psychological exercises work.  But if Jackson wasn’t lying when he said that he was hoping to give the Jets a boost via the perception that he was disrespecting the Jets, it means that Jackson was lying to the audience when he said that he believes the Patriots would win the game.  (At a minimum, Jackson should have said, “I’m going to pick the Patriots, because I think it will motivate the Jets to win.”  Of course, honesty in that regard would have undermined the intended effect.)

Though his multi-decade tenure with ESPN surely will insulate Jackson from any employment consequences, it’s a safe bet that he’ll be reminded by someone fairly high on the organizational chart that, in the future, his picks should reflect his true beliefs — and that he should never, ever say anything to suggest that any picks-gone-poorly didn’t reflect his true beliefs.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see who he picks this week in the AFC title game.

We’re predicting that he’ll pick the Jets.

UPDATE:  Jackson has said that he indeed believed that the Pats would win, and that he offered up his alternative explanation only because he was stung by the fact that Scott had called Jackson out.

51 responses to “Tom Jackson’s curious explanation of his Jets-Pats pick

  1. Its called INTEGRITY Tom, being true to yourself and those around you.Try it, then along comes Mr.Credibilty.Its pretty simple.
    P.S.-Paula Abdul thinks You might want to get some help for that that “little problem” you have

  2. Actually Keyshawn picked the Jets and Scott thanked him for it in his rant. Get your facts straight oh I forgot this is PFT. Facts we don’t need no stinkin’ facts.

  3. “If, instead, Jackson was being honest, he’s arguably abusing his position as a supposedly neutral observer of the game by trying to provide motivation to the team that he’s secretly rooting for.”


    Since when have the ESPN goofballs been even remotely “neutral” about anything? I’ve been watching them for about 27 years, and this is the first I’ve ever heard them accused of being “supposedly neutral” – LOL

    Is that like PFT being “supposedly neutral”? Hilarious

  4. I thought Tom Jackson was lying, that he was seriously afraid of running into Bart Scott in person.

    C’mon man, you’re supposed to love your picks like you love your kids (credit: C.Cowherd) not throw them under the bus.

    TJ is either a wuss who won’t stand behind what he says, or a biased secret agent whose picks can’t be taken seriously.

  5. I was wondering when this story was going to hit nationally.

    This biased clown – whom you already referenced about that “players hate Belichick” BS years ago -went too far out on a limb this time. How in the hell does he even have a job today? Oh, that’s right, he works for the Every Stupid Person Network.

    He picks the Pats to win, like everyone else did. They lose, and Bart Scott tees off on him (okay, Bart Scott tees off on EVERYONE). Jackson then claims that he picked New England in order to spur the Jets on – this guy is basically admitting to trying to influence the outcome of a PLAYOFF game! – because, are you ready, HE’S A JET’S FAN!!!! What the hell happened to a reporter being “unbiased”?

    Then when the poop hits the fan, as it well should, Jackson says he was lying about that because Scott spooked him?

    1) Great journalistic integrity there, Tom Jackson, ADMITTING to having lied

    2) How many years does this clown have in the business, and he lets an athlete scare him into lying?

    Just what does someone have to do to get fired at ESPN? Hell, how long did it take that freak to get canned after doing the “Original Lorenzo”???

    ESPN has become the biggest joke in sports, and sadly no one in charge recognizes that and does a damn thing about it.

  6. seriously, who cares. the picks these guys do on the pregame shows are just meaningless meant to fill airtime. i bet most of them can’t even remember who they picked a few weeks back.
    even though they’re on espn, i think berman and jackson are the best at what they do.

  7. why do Tom Jackson and Cris Carter keep touching each others arm when they are talking to one another,its kinda freaking me out since i noticed it,they do it a lot.

  8. I believe he absolutely is telling the truth. Jackson, as is pointed out above, has not had a good relationship with the Patriots and has almost universally picked against them in almost every game of significance the last 7-8 years. I was surprised to see him pick new England over the Jets, but was even more so to see him pick them by nearly 3 touchdowns. And this article is absolutely correct – if what he is saying is true, it is a problem. We all know ESPN continues to blur the line between news and entertainment, and that everything at ESPN – from ESPN news to sportscenter, to, etc – exists for the sole purpose to promote the games ESPN makes its money from. But these pre-game shows are supposed to be news shows, there is supposed to be a line. And if Tom jackson has a rooting interest in a game – or if anyone does – they either need to do a better job at hiding it, or they need to stop being on programs that are supposed to be news broadcasts. Or just admit it completely – stop trying to pretend you are neutral and come out and say, “I don;t lke the Patriots, I don’t like Bill Belichick. I hope the Jets win, blah blah blah.” I’d have much less of a problem with that than with him trying to pretend to be neutral, but then trying to motivate an opposing team.

    In the end, the bottom line, is that ESPN is a joke.

  9. “Jackson is either telling the truth, or he isn’t.”

    Or option 3, HE WAS JOKING! Tom Jackson doesn’t have the world’s best sense of humor but when he said that during the broadcast I thought it was pretty obvious he was joking. Now, he didn’t smile when he said it, but that doesn’t mean anything, he never smiles.

  10. “If, instead, Jackson was being honest, he’s arguably abusing his position as a supposedly neutral observer of the game by trying to provide motivation to the team that he’s secretly rooting for.”

    This is rich, Mike. Apology or not, didn’t you (the ultimate Viking rube) do pretty much the same thing when you went off on Rodgers with your patently unfair, uninformed, rant?

    I said it out loud when I heard your blog had been promoted: “He’s too much of a Viking’s rube to be in this position. He can never be objective enough.” It didn’t take long for you to prove me right.

    And now you’re going after Jackson for doing what you did? You’re not doing yourself any favors here.

  11. Deadspin already had this yesterday and updated it yesterday with Jackson’s explanation that he was saying that to “jokingly” explain why he picked the Patriots to Bart Scott.

  12. Truth is that the NFL Network AND NBC Sunday Night football are BOTH doing a better job in the “pre AND postgame” programing (heck I would even watch Fox/CBS before BSPN).

    Berman and crew are trying to “recapture” the lost NFL PRIMETIME “magic” they used to have before the Sunday/Monday night football switch and are FAILING miserably at it.

    Really glad for the content that NBC and NFL Network are putting out on Gameday…BSPN still is and always will be a “heavyweight” in sports program, but in this rhelm they are rapidly becoming an afterthought.

    PS…And what’s up with that 300 million deal between BSPN and Texas?

  13. We does he need to explain his pick? Based on the evidence and recent history, he took his best shot at predicting the winner.

    Only thing he needed to say was “Hey they proved me wrong. Hats off to them.” If more elaboration was called for, he could key in on 1-2 things the Jets accomplished that he didn’t think would get done. Makes him a good analyst.

  14. No Tom, they hate you. The next time you have something relevent, accurate, or insightful to say, will be the first time. Tool!

  15. Why exactly is this news?

    NEWSFLASH: Tom Jackson is a TV personality, not a journalist. There are differences.

    Whether he was lying, telling the truth or joking, if you think it actually influenced the outcome of the game, you should step away from your computer and get some fresh air.

  16. OH how funny know PFT is gona say tom jackson is biased.
    This is a gorrilla who cried put his head in his hands when the raiders beat the broncos 52-3
    orwheatever the blow out was this year.
    Trent Dilfer was rubbin Jacksons back saying”its ok man fluke fluke” Almost like jackson just heard a family member died.
    This all went down on National TV!

    espn hates the raiders

  17. Floiro if you think TJ actually roots for the Jets each week then you are even more clueless than normal. He has showed his absolute disdain for the Jets brash ways for many weeks and has shown zero love for them. I understand as a Steelers fan you are sensitive to anyone picking the Jets this week but please do a little research before spewing this junk.

  18. Mikey, please stand by your opinion and don’t write a 10 page apology to Jackson like you did Muppet up there in Green Bay.

  19. Interesting way to look at it. Tom Jackson is pretty much a total liar anyway you look at it.

    I don’t see why he said anything. Almost everyone picked the Pats. Jets fans and Jet players can’t possibly be mad for everyone picking a team that beat them so badly the last time they played.

    When my (yes my, I own them) San Francisco Giants beat Philadelphia in the NLCS last year, a lot of Giant fans came out of the wood work saying “see! we told you!” but in reality, the smart money was betting against the Giants. I’m thrilled we won, but it isn’t as if I was so diluted to think “oh yeah, we got this” until the very last out.

  20. Umm, TJ already recanted and said his statement that he was motivating the Jets with his pick was untrue. He said it was an emotional response to Bart Scott’s comments. This story is very old.

  21. Ummmmm, it’s not that drastic really. No need to say the man lacks integrity. Whatever his reasoning, he picked a FOOTBALL GAME. Relax. I haven’t watched ESPN in a while but, Berman used to pick the Bills to win the Superbowl every year.

  22. Shocking a news source being biased, next you’re going to tell me that Fox news favors the republicans.

  23. The only thing dumber than Jackson’s explanation is you actually suggesting that Tom Jackson influenced the game.

    First of all, Jackson was lying and has already admitted it. So all of your indignation after the fact is based upon a false premise.

    Secondly, here we have you sadly returning to a topic that you have already spent way too much time on. That is the influence game announcers and analysts have upon the action on the field.

    It started when you got hysterical about Brian Billick announcing games coached by his brother-in-law, and continues here.

    Players and coaches think of these people as little more than clowns and fools, outsiders to be dealt with contemptuously.

    Especially a senile old coot like Tom Jackson. He may only be 59, but his football scrambled brain is at least 75.

    Bart Scott took a shot at him because that’s what Bart Scott does. It had nothing to do with his play on the field. Nothing an idiot talking head says on pre-game will ever, ever, influence what happens on the field.

    Please get that through your conspiracy-theory addled head.

  24. Why does anyone care who someone picks to win the game? When did picking someone else become disrespectful?

    I’m a diehard Packers fan, and I’m sure there are analysts out there that will pick the Bears. They’re giving an opinion based on the factors that they find important in a football game. I can’t imagine being upset with one of them for “disrespecting” my team, or one of the Packers players going crazy in an interview about how Mike Ditka “disrespected” them by picking the Bears.

  25. The “E” in ESPN stands for entertainment…not enlightened. Personally, I think his excuse of trying to motivate the Jets is a load of crap. He got one wrong…again, and wants to somehow save face and this is the best he could do. Sad.

  26. Who cares about this guy? No matter what they say every journalist has an opinion on every subject just like everyone else.

  27. how is this worthy of any type of discussion? when an expert picks a game, its for the fans, not the players. if anybody (especially a player), thinks that those picks influence a game is beyond dumb.

    jackson’s explanation is him reacting to being publicly attacked.


  28. ghostofgilchrist says:
    Jan 20, 2011 10:12 AM
    Why would anyone care who someone “picks”?

    You’re missing the point; Tom Jackson said he made the pick in the hopes that it would make the Jets angry and possibly play better.

    Now, Tom Jackson may have an inflated sense of self-importance where the Jets are concerned, but the fact remains that a person whose job is to remain neutral (pick who he thinks will win, because that’s who he honestly BELIEVES will win) instead tried to actually influence the outcome of a game.

    This makes him no better than Sal Alosi.

  29. What is this whole mentality of “disrespecting”? Are a lot of these player mental state that fragile that if someone even suggest that something might happen they take it personally? They have been playing sports their whole lives but some of these guys still act like they are 12.

  30. realitypolice says:
    Jan 20, 2011 11:33 AM
    The only thing dumber than Jackson’s explanation is you actually suggesting that Tom Jackson influenced the game.
    You too are missing the point.

    The fact that Bart Scott called him out after the game shows that Jackson had at least SOME influence in the outcome of this game.

    Not a sports reporters job.

  31. I must have missed this when i wasn’t watching their show. I don’t watch it because of this man. NFL Gameday has made all other pregame shows obsolete by focusing not on the dramatic element, but rather the game, the X’s and O’s.

  32. The big story here is despite sharing a set with Cris Carter, Jackson is the biggest idiot. Ditka is the only watchable part of this travishamockery.

  33. Jackson made a game pick, then spun an elaborate tale about how he was really experimenting to influence the game’s outcome. Now he says he made up that story … because he was scared of Bart Scott? 🙄

    Used to love Jackson. But noticed about five years ago he was stating his opinion as fact. He has a credibility problem, this incident just amplifies it.

  34. Espn should do the right thing and fire Tom Jackson like they did Joe Morgan in baseball. It’s time.

    Chris Berman too. He’s a caricature of himself now.

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