The debut of the new Sunday NFL Countdown featured factual misstatements regarding the rules and goofy hyperbole (Charles Woodson thinks Terrelle Pryor will generate 1,800 receiving yards this year) and some surprisingly strong comments from an ESPN analyst with a clear connection to the 49ers.
“No matter how passionate you are, no matter how much of a burden you have for a social issue, you don’t let it get in the way of the team,” Trent Dilfer said, via 49erswebzone.com. “And the big thing that hit me through all of this was this is a backup quarterback whose job is to be quiet and sit in the shadows and get the starter ready to play Week One. Yet, he chose a time when he became the center of attention. And it has disrupted that organization. It has caused friction and torn the fabric of the team.
“Although I respect what he’s doing and I respect the passion and burden he has for this issue, a massive issue, I do not respect the fact that he put himself and his stance above the team because he’s not the only one who’s passionate about big social issues.”
Dilfer’s words drew a dirty look from colleague Randy Moss and a public rebuke from 49ers linebacker Eli Harold, who told Dilfer that he “is an idiot” and that he “really pissed me off” on Twitter.
Dilfer’s words don’t represent the random views of someone with no link to the team. Earlier this year, when he was looking for work beyond ESPN, rumors emerged of Dilfer possibly going to work for the 49ers. And for good reason.
As noted by Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, Dilfer possibly was sharing the views of 49ers G.M. Trent Baalke.
“He’s carrying Baalke’s water, and Baalke is increasingly alone in that franchise, so maybe Baalke’s people are getting more desperate,” Kawakami writes, pointing out that Dilfer and Baalke have gone to at least one San Jose Sharks game together and that they are long-time friends.
As one league source put it to PFT, “If Baalke is drinking water then Dilfer can’t talk.”
If Dilfer’s views mesh with Baalke’s, or if Dilfer was in any way speaking on Baalke’s behalf, it’s a glaring split from the team’s official position on Kaepernick and other players sitting or kneeling for the national anthem. At a minimum, Dilfer should have acknowledged his friendship with Baalke and pointed out these are Dilfer’s views only.
Although the disclosure would have raised eyebrows, the existing knowledge regarding the Dilfer-Baalke friendship raises them even higher, especially without Dilfer revealing the link and explaining that it had no influence over his words.
As it stands, it’s fair to wonder whether Baalke’s information and opinions come from his friend. Given that Dilfer knows Baalke, it’s fair to conclude that Baalke wouldn’t have made such strong comments without first running them by Baalke.