Kirk Herbstreit fires back at Dan Orlovsky’s comments on Justin Fields

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There’s an unwritten rule among network colleagues to not call coworkers out publicly. (Some in the business would say that this also applies to employees at competing networks.) Recently, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit deviated from that convention regarding comments made by ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky about Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

It started when Orlovsky shared with Pat McAfee some things Orlovsky had been hearing in an effort to explain the perception that Fields’ draft stock is sliding. Said Orlovsky, via Jeremy Layton of the New York Post: “One, I have heard that he is a last-guy-in, first-guy-out type of quarterback. Like, not the maniacal work ethic. I’ve even heard it compared to Justin Herbert, where it was like, ‘Dude, when Justin Herbert showed up, he was like a psychopath when it came to working and get ready for the draft.’ Or even at school, like, ‘Give me more, I want to work non-stop.’ And I’ve heard that there are issues with Justin Fields’ work ethic. . . . The second thing is . . . where is his desire to go be a great quarterback? I think that there’s a desire to be a big-time athlete, from what is expressed to me, but where is his desire to be a great quarterback? And to be great, you gotta be willing to find the things that you are not good at and just freaking grind on them.”

Orlovsky faced a backlash for the racial stereotypes embedded within his comments. He posted a video on Thursday aimed at putting out the fire by passing along positive opinions on Fields that Orlovsky subsequently secured from an assistant coach at Ohio State and from former NFL quarterback John Beck, who’s helping Fields prepare for the draft.

Still, Orlovsky reiterated the negative opinions: “The reality is that I have heard those things from teams. And they might feel that way.”

Herbstreit wasn’t buying any of it. “Absolutely RIDICULOUS,” Herbstreit tweeted in response to the video, via Jimmy Traina of “Even if YOU aren’t saying it… to pass that along from ‘people in the know’ is reckless and absurd!! Embarrassing!!”

Herbstreit, who’ll serve as one of the analysts for ABC’s coverage of the draft, is right. In many respects, the pre-draft mumbo-jumbo has evolved to the point where most people who get paid to talk about it should realize that there’s an abundance of bullshit. Teams that secretly love a player will push negative narratives and opinions under the cover of anonymity in order to fuel a free fall that will cause the player to be available when the team is on the clock.

As Dwight Scrute would say, “It’s like Machiavelli meets . . . football.”

Orlovsky eventually mentions that dynamic as an oh-by-the-way in his cleanup video. It’s hardly a collateral point. Scouts and coaches actively prey on naive and/or recklessly ambitious media members with platforms for the purposes of lighting these fuses. That dynamic should never be a P.S.; it should always be the lede.

Indeed, that’s what Orlovsky should have said when McAfee asked why Fields seems to be falling.

“Well, Pat, here’s what happens this time of year,” Orlovsky should have explained. “Teams that love a player will try to create the impression that the player is falling, by spreading unflattering views about him. They actually do it so that the player will be available when they’re on the clock. So it’s best to treat any opinions that come from anonymous scouts and sources with teams — especially negative ones — as bogus and unreliable. Besides, unless we know what all 32 teams are thinking, we never know which team will be the one to draft a guy in a much higher spot than anyone would have expected, like the 49ers will do be by trading from No. 12 to No. 3 to get Mac Jones, Trey Lance, or maybe Fields.”

All of us who cover the NFL in the weeks leading up to the draft need to understand this, and we need to refuse to be manipulated in the name of satisfying producers/editors or seeming to be “in the know.” Put simply, if a scout or a coach or any other team employee refuses to attach a name to a negative opinion about a player in the weeks prior to the draft, we shouldn’t repeat it — even with the caveat that it may have originated with the goal of sparking a slide. (This doesn’t mean the sources are consciously lying. Some coaches and General Managers surely say things like that in the presence of subordinates who have a reputation for being chatty, hopeful that those employees will spread to the media the phony assessment in a way that will be true, as far as the source knows.)

Whether Orlovsky has cause to be miffed at Herbstreit for taking their squabble public is a different issue. ESPN surely prefers that everyone with a Mickey Mouse logo on their paychecks behave among each other like Chip and Dale. But even if Herbstreit was out of line, Orlovsky’s failure to realize that he quite possibly had been played by someone who wants to see Fields fall is the major teachable moment that comes from this incident.

22 responses to “Kirk Herbstreit fires back at Dan Orlovsky’s comments on Justin Fields

  1. For sure there’s teams prolly spreading negativity because they want his stock to fall so they can draft him and get him cheaper. My eyes tell me he’s got skills obviously, but I don’t think this guy is going to be a star qb in the NFL. I don’t want the Patriots to go after this guy, Jones either for that matter. Qbs of course are the most sought after, but there is no for sure thing when it comes to qbs and spending all your draft capital and money on a potential average qb or worse yet, a miss…..just makes zero sense to me. Maybe it pans out for the Niners but I think they were stupid to give up all that they did.

  2. Fields will be a bigger bust than Herbstreit was, did Herbie even make the NFL?

  3. When people like Orlovsky have a job in media or a job at all, it’s just proof that we’re failing as a society. He’s like Skip Bayless with only a brain stem. And Skip is the worst…was the worst

  4. People should start wondering why every year the black quarterbacks get tagged this way unless you are just stupid and think it’s true to confirm your own biases. I mean it never fails. Yet we never hear it about players that actually were that way like Ryan Leaf and Ben Roethlisberger leading up to the draft process.

  5. Dan Orlovsky the third string bum QB who was so scared when he finally got a chance to play that he ran out of the back of the end zone and got a safety hahaha? Even if Justin Fields is a complete bust he will be way better than that loser ever was.

  6. Whoever drafts him needs to hit him with the old Jamarcus Russell trick, and give him a blank CD and tell him there’s film on it and see if he claims to watch it. That might be my favorite story in the history of football.

  7. Just remember Dan is the QB in the NFL that ran out the back of an end zone and didn’t know it was a safety. Only one worse was Tim Hasslebeck talking about not throwing a ball better considering He had more INT’s in a game 5, than completions 4 out of 25 throws for a zero, point,zero QB rating. Why are they even on TV?

  8. We’re at the point where any criticism is now considered “embedded racism”. Whatever that means.

  9. I like Herbstreit but this isn’t acceptable. He is in the wrong. Stop making everything racial.

  10. Yet herbstreit the self proclaimed bengals fan wouldn’t trade Burrow for Fields, I guarantee that.

  11. It’s completely weird to me how people don’t understand why Dan was wrong for doing what he did. But I said it last year, yesterday and now today: people of the world today are generally unconcerned with any kind of injustice unless 1.) the victims are related to them 2.) the victims look like them 3.) the optics make sense for them to act offended.

    The same people who say “What if Fields is actually lazy?” or “whatever” or similar would have much more to say if Mac Jones’ two DUI’s and his beer belly were suddenly brought forward as proof of his lack of dedication, or if the media dug more into why Zach Wilson was not a captain.

    I know this to be true, because i tried it on twitter and I had a lot of predictable feedback. One comedian replied “it’s not like [Mac Jones] had 4 DUIs” but the general response was “He’s young, leave him alone!”

    Yeah, lets leave Mac Jones alone and leave Zach Wilson alone, but Justin Fields??

    Anyway. Let’s all reconvene at the end of next season.

  12. I dislike what the world is quickly becoming..ppl can’t have an opinion without some how being twisted and becoming somehow racial…

  13. A lot of what you’re hearing from someone else, is actually something that person heard from someone else. And you wonder why the QB’s rarely seem to get drafted in the correct order. It’s a QB league. If you’re in the football business, or even the media covering football, it’s in your best interest to know the QB’s coming out every year. There’s plenty of tape available to anyone who wants to watch it.

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