ESPN defends Trent Dilfer, feigns outrage over those who point out links to Trent Baalke

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ESPN wants its analysts to say things that attract attention. When the things they say attract scrutiny, ESPN will defend them, #asexpected.

That’s precisely what has happened in the aftermath of Week One’s debut from the new Sunday NFL Countdown crew, which featured filibusters from Randy Moss, Charles Woodson, and Trent Dilfer regarding the Colin Kaepernick-sparked anthem protests. Dilfer opined that backup quarterbacks should be quiet generally, but then Dilfer seemed to do something more concrete than express an opinion about the impact of Kaepernick’s gesture on the 49ers.

“[I]t has disrupted that organization,” Dilfer declared. “It has caused friction and torn the fabric of the team.”

That’s definitely not a statement of opinion. And it sparked multiple members of the Bay Area media (including Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News) to opine that these apparent statements of fact were coming from 49ers G.M. Trent Baalke, a friend of Dilfer’s, and that Dilfer was either speaking on Baalke’s behalf or simply spouting off what he’d heard from his friend without prompting.

I think it is absolutely insulting,” ESPN producer Seth Markman told Richard Deitsch of “It is insulting to Trent. I think it is insulting to all of us here. This man has been an analyst for nine years now — one of the top analysts in the business. When he speaks, it is from his heart. His opinions are his own. The guy knows his credibility is always going to be on the line. He would never jeopardize that in any kind of a situation. I have always thought he was one of our most direct analysts. He speaks with conviction. I have seen people over the years say things that they don’t necessarily believe themselves, but it’s just for good TV. Trent would never, ever do that. To ever think that he would be a mouthpiece or carry the water for a front office guy on any team is ridiculous.”

Again, Dilfer expressed not only opinions but facts, facts he quite possibly obtained from Baalke. Markman, the man responsible for holding one card and asking the dealer for four fresh ones on the network’s marquee NFL studio show, danced around this possibility.

“I honestly could not tell you what kind of relationship they have versus his relationship with others in the league but I will tell you criticizing or going after Trent’s integrity is ridiculous,” Markman told Deitsch. “Even if he had a friendship with someone, it would not stop him from saying what he believed.”

But Dilfer likely believed that Kaepernick’s behavior “disrupted that organization,” “caused friction,” and “tor[e] the fabric of the team” because someone Dilfer trusted told him it happened. Someone like Baalke.

As to the reaction to Dilfer’s opinions/facts/whatever — which included Kaepernick calling Dilfer’s words “one of the most ridiculous comments I’ve heard” — Markman tried to create the impression that ESPN doesn’t do something that it absolutely does.

“Look, we don’t like to become part of the story,” Markman told Deitsch. “Generally, that is not something we are looking to be. As long as the comments are made by our analysts are fair and based on fact or experience, we are not going to be able to control how people react to it.”

Of course ESPN likes to become part of the story. ESPN loves to become part of the story. From leveraging Ron Jaworski’s hyperbolic declarations about Kaepernick from 2013 into a multi-day news-cycle churn to doing lengthy features not about newsmakers but about ESPN employees to cajoling people like Stephen A. Smith into constantly spouting off over-the-top opinions so that they will be noticed to, most recently, having an interviewer put down the microphone and pick up a shotgun for some skeet shooting with an Olympian, ESPN wants to blur the line between telling the story and being the story, injecting its personalities into the fray whenever and wherever possible.

Unless criticism flows from the blurring of the lines. When that happens, ESPN will say, “Wait a minute. It’s not about us.”

Meanwhile, the feigned outrage regarding the suggestion that Dilfer’s factual statements trace to Baalke has prompted Kawakami to consider posting on Twitter every day for a year a link to a story in which Dilfer predicted after the firing of Baalke nemesis Jim Harbaugh that “I’ll be shocked if next year’s 49ers team isn’t better than this year’s team,” that “you will hear a lot of stories coming out of the 49ers building of players feeling like they weren’t developed,” and that “[owner] Jed [York] and Trent [Baalke] can’t say this.”

Similarly, Baalke couldn’t say that Kaepernick’s conduct “disrupted” the organization and “tor[e] the fabric of the team.” Dilfer could, and Dilfer did. Not as opinion, but as fact. There’s nothing insulting about those who (unlike Markman, supposedly) understand the tentacles of the relationships pointing them out.

That said, when an ESPN personality makes himself or herself part of the story and gets called out for it, ESPN has to defend them. Otherwise, those personalities may be reluctant to make themselves part of the story in the future, which apparently wouldn’t be good for business.

53 responses to “ESPN defends Trent Dilfer, feigns outrage over those who point out links to Trent Baalke

  1. This just in, ESPN analyst reports on knowledge gained from team source. Viewers aghast at heretofore unrecorded display of “journalism”.

  2. .
    Is the Dilfer – 49ers relationship similar to the Chris Mortenson – Indianapolis Colts relationship?

    Weren’t 11-12 balls AFC Championship game balls more than 2 lbs underweight? And didn’t Dilfer go off the deep end defending Goodell et al.

  3. Difer is absolutely correct! Kaepernick is toxic, and has not only hurt the 49er locker room, but he has stabbed in the back an American institution that actually promotes positive race interaction, and is a bastion for good race relations: the NFL.

  4. You are mad at athletes kneeling yet make excuses for gunning down unarmed minorities.
    Did you know the military pays the NFL to make players join on the star spangled banner? They never used to prior to 2009.

  5. There is a ton of speculation being masqueraded as fact in this article too.
    The dots are connected rather well, and ESPN does do that, but it’s not like regular media doesn’t do the same, see: Crowley, Candy – CNN (Romney/Obama debate – 2012). This, of course, is just an example as there are tons more especially from CNN.

  6. Dilfer has always sounded like he’s on the 49ers’ payroll, or would like to be. I’ve actually thought many times that he was after Baalke’s job. Dilfer would fit in good with a lot of current GMs. He sounds smart to people who know very little about football (owners). Dilfer doesn’t have to get information from inside the building. He just makes it up as he goes. It sure doesn’t look like a team that’s divided.

  7. Well, maybe that was too harsh, because I can at least understand the words Trent speaks. There are times when I cannot quite understand what Michael Irvin is saying.

  8. This man has been an analyst for nine years now — one of the top analysts in the business.
    Trent Dilfer? Uh, no.

  9. Trent Baalke is perhaps the worst GM in the League (drafting 7 undersized DB in the last 3 drafts) who only retains his job due to the fact that he’s the biggest sycophant in Jed York’s brain trust (followed closely by Paarag Marathe).

    He airs out the Niners dirty laundry for York, remember when the Harbaugh firing rumors began and Deon said “my sources wear suits and ties”, in order to subvert players or personnel they have a grudge with. He pretends to care but even that comes off as disingenuous.

    In essence no one running the Niner organization has the experience or testicular fortitude to command such a valuable enterprise.

  10. There is an obvious divide on the 49er team. After Vance McDonald scored a 75 yard touchdown aided by a block from Quinton Patton on Luke Kuechly trying to catch McDonald around the 10 yard line, all the black players in the area rushed to congratulate Patton for his block, while McDonald had to wait for Gabbert and the white linemen Staley, Kilgore, and Beadles to come all the way down the field to congratulate him.
    At least that’s what I saw on film. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  11. It took this long for you to realize ESPN doesn’t hire journalists?
    Besides, pot kettle black.

  12. Just seeing an NFL analyst name mentioned on PFT, the haters always come out full force. Trent is a decent analysts everyone here knows this but hating & trolling is so much easier.

  13. udontknowjaq says:
    Sep 20, 2016 7:03 PM

    Just seeing an NFL analyst name mentioned on PFT, the haters always come out full force. Trent is a decent analysts everyone here knows this but hating & trolling is so much easier.

    Trent Dilfer could be the Walter Cronkite of sports journalism (he isn’t), but that doesn’t take away from the hilarity of ESPN’s hypocritical position on the veracity of sports reporting, and the fact that they are NFL shills.

  14. Im at a loss for why ESPN is acting like morons. No wonder all their analysts have frowns on their faces. BSPN must be a miserable place to work.

    First of all if it came from Baalke who gives a rats behind. Reporters have “unnamed sources” all the time.

    I fail to see why this a big deal. Its the 49ers. Its not like they are relevant

  15. abninf says:
    Sep 20, 2016 7:23 PM

    I support Dilfer. I do not support Kaepernick and his racist Black Power buddies.

    Yeah, yeah. And you also believe that “Reefer Madness” was a documentary.

    Thanks for your opinion.

  16. Sorry, Florio. It looks like most of your readers (or at least, commenters) don’t get the main point you are making. That’s OK, most Americans don’t understand the difference between making a factual claim and expressing an opinion – not even journalists. The same people who think that “both sides of the story need to be told” regarding the safety of vaccines or GMOs when one side is based upon scientifically established and verifiable fact claims and the other side is based upon anecdote, opinions and incredible hypotheticals. In the same way, people don’t recognize that the way Dilfer justified his opinions were with previously undisclosed nuggets of information that weren’t opinion – things that are either factually correct, or not.

    Your problem is that you assume he didn’t make up those factual claims. Since he has an obvious potential source of information, you assume he must have obtained the factual claims from that source. Of course, he could have fabricated the information to justify his controversial opinion. But, assuming he didn’t, you correctly identify that he has gone beyond expressing his own opinion and presented new information he claims to be accurate.

    It is true that he was only expressing his own opinion, and I’ll take ESPN at their word that he believed everything he said. But ESPN deflected the greater point that his opinion is CLEARLY based upon information from inside the organization, and he as much as says so. His friendship with Baalke makes it likely that he is expressing his own opinion about a friend’s troubles. And THAT is why you are correct to suggest that he has inserted himself into the story.

  17. The worldwide joke of sportscasting.

    What’s insulting is you think the fan are stupid enough to think there is a single valid thing coming out of your bottom feeding awful network these days.

    bspn has not been on my tv for almost 10 years now, with the sole exception of when they have a Pats game. And then I watch with the sound down.

  18. 11 out of 12 fans know what ESPN stands for


    No credibility whatsoever

    If they protest then you know it’s true

    Heck – they still haven’t retracted their “11 of 12 footballs deflated” story and you’ve got various semi-literate “logicalvoices” here on PFT who still regurgitate that back as fact

  19. The Glorious 49r Ship Of Fools on the Red Sky morning

    Boy Jed and backend kisser Baalke are riding on Googles newest self sailing ship of destruction, USS No Captian Ti-Tanking 9er

    Where’s that cabin boy Trent to give all warning of the ice berg Levi?

    ….oh he is still mixing the magic Gatorade for the PSL season ticket holders stuck in bay area traffic trying to unload their tickets.

  20. Well, at least there’s one backup QB with a big mouth and not much for brains who’s disliked as much as Akbarnick. Unfortunately one of them will end up seeming right.

  21. Still waiting to hear what Colin has to say about the African American man shot by the African American police officer in Charlotte…he could have stuck around after the game for the protests.

  22. Actually what makes Dilfers comments so so stupid,is every other reporter has gone into very big specifics. Of how Kap has actually brought the team closer. So it has not stopped the team or hurt the locker room. According to the reporters I trust and think know the niners way better then Dilfer have talked how this united them. So Dilfer is so stupid in so many ways. Plus I gotta agree with the other comment that I thought Dilfer contract was over and he left or something like that.

  23. I’m glad Dilfer said what he said. It showed the world that Randy Moss has matured and even though you KNOW he wanted to rip his flesh off, he remained calm with the best – BEST – bad ass look on his face I’ve ever seen.

  24. “…one of the top analysts in the business.” Same guy who said, “You can’t lose football games and still win.” Yup, same guy

  25. The same country that allows Kaepernick the right to freely protest also affords Dilfer that right.

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