Dan Orlovsky regrets not having more “clarity and specificity” in his Justin Fields comments

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ESPN declined comment to PFT regarding the public back-and-forth between colleagues Kirk Herbstreit and Dan Orlovsky sparked by Orlovsky’s controversial remarks regarding Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Orlovsky provided further comment regarding his remarks, but not about Herbsteit’s reaction to them, to Peter King of Football Morning in America.

Here’s the key paragraph from King’s column: “Orlovsky told me Saturday that people from a couple of teams did question Fields’ work ethic, but he regrets not having more ‘clarity and specificity’ in his comments. In other words, he should have said something like, This is not what I know first-hand, but in talking to people I know in the league, two teams questioned Justin Fields’ work ethic, and that could be a concern. It’s important that Orlovsky be free to pass along information he finds credible, but it’s equally important to put that information in context.”

That’s where I’ll continue to differ with Orlovsky. Just because he finds the comments “credible” doesn’t mean they are. The problem is that, by repeating them on a public platform, he makes them credible, even if they aren’t.

Orlovsky, as an afterthought in the video he posted to respond to what he called a “firestorm” created by his appearance with Pat McAfee, acknowledged that “this is also a season where teams are trying to say things to potentially get a guy to drop to them.”

Again, that’s the front-line reaction that Orlovsky, and anyone else in sports media, should have when someone from a team is anonymously whispering criticism about any draft prospect, especially the highly-regarded ones. Even if the source with the team who is saying negative things about a guy like Fields seems credible, there’s a chance that person deliberately has been misled internally by others higher up in the organization — others who are very skilled in targeting the more talkative members of the staff and creating a chain of “useful idiots” who will hear things said by coach or G.M. or other high-level executive and, deeming them credible, will parrot them to someone in the media who, deeming them credible, will repeat them in public.

So what should Orlovsky have done? First, he should have had the most important line from his video — “this is a season where teams are trying to say things to potentially get a guy to drop to them” — at the front of his mind when he heard what he heard. Second, if he truly deemed the information about Fields credible enough to repeat, he should have called others who know Fields before, not after, saying what Orlovsky said. Third, he should have bounced the information off others within ESPN who previously have wrestled with how to deal with such potentially sensitive issues in the past, because this is hardly the first time that a draft analyst was confronted with negative opinion about a Black quarterback that dusted off some of the racial tropes of which anyone in the business is or should be fully aware.

That’s ultimately the mistake Orlovsky made. He had a total lack of awareness. He lacked awareness regarding the manner in which teams use media figures to fuel potential draft slides that will cause a player to fall. He lacked awareness regarding the manner in which the negative opinions he shared on a public platform would be viewed when directed at a Black quarterback.

He also lacked awareness of the two most important objective pieces of evidence that would cut against whatever someone may have been trying to manipulate him to say: (1) Fields fought to have a 2020 college football season; and (2) during the playoff game against Clemson, Fields took a devastating hit to the midsection that caught significant and obvious discomfort, and he not only kept going but also had one of the best games of his life.

Moving forward, everyone associated with these kinds of pre-draft strategies should be fully aware of the fact that teams who like a given player will actively spread BS about him in the hopes he’ll slide. And that should always be the first reaction when things like this are privately said.

13 responses to “Dan Orlovsky regrets not having more “clarity and specificity” in his Justin Fields comments

  1. I don’t have any knowledge or opinion of the kid. But staying in the game after a tough hit while the lights and cameras are on? That doesn’t have anything to do with work ethic. Work ethic is about what you choose to do when there are no cameras and nobody is watching.

  2. Since everyone knows tis the season for misleading info on draft prospects, why does Orlovsky need to reiterate that?

  3. Questioning Justin Fields work ethic?….Look no further than Dwayne Haskins. Ohio state QBs have always been questionable.

  4. I didnt perceive any of his comments at all being racist or different than anything because it was directed at a black quarterback. I heard the same info being kicked around aboud other white draft prospects all of the time.

  5. Orlovsky and “lack of awareness”? You don’t say! His lack of awareness has been burned into our brains since the infamous “safety” in the back of his own endzone.

  6. Lost in all the fury is the truth that Fields’ work ethic is either lacking or acceptable. We know it’s not outstanding or it would have been long ago thrown out as one of his positive traits.

  7. Here is an area that is wrong with our culture – if you make an opinion stand by it- if you are wrong apologize but don’t walk back the comment with phrases like ” I didn’t specify it correctly, it was misunderstood, I didn’t know the meaning of the word I was using ” – walking back comments or trying to distort what was said is manipulation – trying to form a distorted reality after the fact — make a statement stand by it fully or apologize for it – don’t weasel around it if it offended someone

  8. After reading the King column, I appreciate that Orlovsky admitted he’s wrong and called Fields to apologize. It’s refreshing at a time when everyone seems to double down when they’re wrong.

  9. If you go back and listen to the original Orlovsky exchange, it sounded like it was someone at Ohio State who was saying Fields had questionable work ethic. He could have said it was NFL teams that were concerned about him but there was nothing specific to back that up. I think the hint that it came from inside Ohio State is what made it worse.

  10. Orlovsky heard something and repeated it without vetting it. Even if it did come from a TOSU teammate. Allegedly.

  11. Orlovsky is a punk. He is trying to brand himself as a shock jock, but his puppy face belies it. He is a smart kid that knows what he is saying and the effect it’ll have. He is no dummy. But, in the long run, he will become a pariah if he continues on this road. A sub-par QB at best, he is trying to make it on TV as an analyst, but he needs to stay away from being a controversy magnet. I don’t think he is a racist, but he is a guy that knows how to endear himself to those that are.

  12. PFT comments section is undefeated when it comes to tone deaf casually racist opinion.

    The point is, for those that don’t get it – what is the EVIDENCE that he’s not a hard worker? There is none.

    This is a case of repeating the same thing over and over again based on (racist) biases until everyone says its true.

    This isn’t about Orlovsky not sticking to his opinion or what he reported. It’s that there was never any known basis for it.

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