Breer pulls back curtain on working for NFL Network

Sports leagues and sports teams now commonly hire reporters to cover their own operations. Which raises an obvious question: How can a reporter behave independently when the reporter necessarily isn’t?

Appearing Friday on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show, NFL Network’s Albert Breer pulled back the curtain on working directly for a sports league.

“I’ve been there five-and-a-half years and it’s a very limiting place in a lot of different ways,” said Breer, who is leaving NFL Network to join TheMMQB.com. “The rules were one way when I got there, and they’re very, very different now. And there are a lot of stories that I haven’t been able to do that I will be able to do now. . . .

“I think when I got there, there was very clearly a wall between us and the league. It was one of the first questions I asked when I left the [BostonGlobe is, ‘Am I going to be able to do the job the way that I did at the Globe?’ And the people that were there at the time said, ‘Absolutely.’ And that held true for a little while. That wall’s now gone and it’s a big reason why, probably two, three months ago, I just decided we’re going to stop talking to them and we’re going to find somewhere else to go. I’m glad I found a really, really, really good place to go and hopefully we can do some real good stories there.”

Breer, who lives in Boston, hasn’t been able to do many stories about the Patriots since the “on to Cincinnati” press conference, where he pressed coach Bill Belichick on whether he has provided enough assistance to quarterback Tom Brady, which in turn helped cement the mantra.

After that press conference, NFL Network yanked Breer off the Patriots’ beat. He told Toucher & Rich that this doubled his travel burden. (That, in turn, resulted in needless travel expenses for NFL Network.)

“[Y]ou’re taught for all these years to challenge people, and that’s your job and everything else,” Breer said. “I think you guys got a first-hand look at what happened when I started challenging people. Over the last year-and-a-half, I don’t think that’s any secret. . . . I don’t think they can stop me now. I don’t know.”

The only way to stop him now would be for the league or the Patriots to refuse to credential him to attend press conferences or games, which would be shocking if it happened. But when Breer worked directly for the league and its 32 teams, the easy way to stop him was to simply not assign him to cover the team that resides down the street from where he is.

So where does this leave NFL Network, NFL.com, and the rest of the NFL Media conglomerate? On the surface, it may cause some to become defensive, chastising anyone who points out the problem. Some may act unfazed, repeating with a shrug the common explanation that everyone has someone to answer to. Some may try both approaches. However, at a deeper level, Breer is doing his soon-to-be (perhaps even sooner-to-be) former colleagues a huge favor.

By telling the truth about what goes on, maybe things will change. The practice of sports leagues and sports teams hiring reporters who cover those leagues and teams won’t be going away. But if folks like Breer are willing to point out how the inherent lack of independence actually manifests itself, maybe sports leagues and sports teams will work harder to ensure that a true firewall exists between the reporting arm and the business arm of the overall enterprise.

24 responses to “Breer pulls back curtain on working for NFL Network

  1. NFL Network has and is becoming more like espn every day. This treatment of Breer doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s the PC environment enphasized by Roger Goodell throughout every aspect of the league that eventually had to screw up the NFL Network at some point.

  2. I’ve stopped watching NFLN. As the earlier commenter said, it was just a matter of time before a decent thing was screwed up. I think I started tuning out when Rich Eisen was non-stop Johnny Manziel during that draft coverage.

  3. Turns out that “On to Cincinnati” presser was an instant classic that provided the NFLN talking heads with hours and hours of programming.

  4. “But if folks like Breer are willing to point out how the inherent lack of independence actually manifests itself…”

    As though we couldn’t plainly see that for ourselves. Anyone expecting anything other than pablum and the company line out of the NFLN or a team shill could never work for either.

  5. I am happy to hear that Bert Breer is out of the NFL Network. I very much enjoyed his writing when he was with the Globe. He had a talent for raising interesting issues and questions mostly but not exclusively about the Patriots.

    The most interesting questions are generally those that people in power would prefer they not be asked.

    So Belichick hated Breer.

    Belichick likes to keep full control of information coming out of the Pats and expects imperial deference from the press. But Breer would frequently ask insolent questions anyways.

    With the NFL becoming increasingly secretive and paranoid, those under their roof are going to be under pressure to keep things happy and light and deliver the league’s message.

    People like Peter King that have great access also have to be very careful about not offending people too much, balancing reports with the perspective from the other side, etc.

    This is a skill that Breer has not fully learned or, perhaps, one that he has willfully not fully embraced.

    Maybe now that he will be (somewhat) out of reach of The Shield’s thumb, he’ll be able to go back to asking more insolent questions.

  6. Albertt Breer in my mind is a great football reporter, all facts. The problem is that the common man puts coaches and players on a pedestal. They hate to listen to the questions from a person whose job is to inform the fans.Get of your high horses and accommodate the common people who enable you to live large.

  7. Breer is outstanding at what he does.
    The NFL front office is embarrassingly compromised and they could care less.

  8. breer sucks. his self importance and arrogance and badgering of bb is disgusting and unprofessional.

    he is a junior version of ron borges.

  9. So, maybe that’s why Ian “I’m NOT” Rappaport is consistently… to the point of looking ridiculous.. wrong on any news story he throws out there.

    C’mon. We know. That’s the fallacy of the NFL Network. When Jerrah Jones is on the channel, talking about “our network”… I change it to the Food Channel… or COPS…. Just enough reality there for my taste.

    Good on ya, Breer. Here’s hoping Peter King doesn’t hammer you too hard for mentioning any of the midwest teams… I mean, you’ll only have to write a couple of good things about NY/NE in one week… as opposed to every day.

    That’s got to be an improvement.. right? Right?

  10. Ignore the idiots that blame Goodell. Hopefully someday they will get sick of being wrong.
    As for ESPN, stopped watching most of it a long time ago. Only listen to Mel Jr during draft season. I watch NFLN unless Irvin and Faulk are on. Like Mayock except for all his annoying draft terms.

  11. stunned at any pats fans complimenting the entitled breer. the guy all but got fired from the globe because bb had no trust with whatever underhanded question he’d ask.

  12. I enjoy the NFLN studio show during the season, and they have the post game locker room and press conference stuff too. And, of course, Willie.

  13. I just turned off NFL Network right now to stop Michal Irvin screaming unintelligible non-sense.

    Good on Albert Breer for moving on because their programming has been going the wrong way for years.

    Over half of those guys on the network do not put in time on their craft. They got rid of NFL Playbook that broke down All 22 film and brought in a show where guys are playing Madden and Ike Taylor/MJD are ranking players outfits. Come on..

  14. This isn’t about Breer… Since BB came to NE … “the media” is an all encompassing entity. He treats everyone the same… The beat guys are manged and the best one’s have learned what they will get and what they won’t.

    As far as the League goes… the inherent conflict of interest will never go away…

    I don’t watch anymore league TV. I don’t watch ESPN.

  15. The NFL Network is a pro sports version of FOX News. It’s an agenda-driven script dictated by whatever spin Goodell and his lackeys believe supports the league’s business interests.

    If you get all of your news from the NFL network, you’re among the most misinformed fans on the planet.

    Don’t be surprised if a the league comes out with its own Real Housewives show during next year’s off-season.

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