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Rodgers, Watson And The QB Drama Inferno

Franchise-hopscotching that first boomed with NBA superstars, and continued with Tom Brady, is now the NFL’s hottest and most divisive story — and we can thank 21st-century athlete entitlement for that.

Jay Mariotti

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From the day he slings his first touchdown pass in Pop Warner ball, the quarterback is a pampered, fussed-over golden child. The path leads him to high school, where college coaches bribe him, classmates worship him, girls slide into his DMs and analysts project him as a pro prospect before he learns to drive. This 24/7 stroking eventually brings riches, fame, power … and, too often, an ego bordering on megalomania.

And when that ego is insulted and bruised, while the TV pundits scream that he’s underachieving and not worth his money, the golden child summons all the clout in his life portfolio to demand a trade and protect his legacy.

5 NFL Star Players Who Could Be Traded Next This Offseason

Only now, the NFL’s escape hatch is more crowded than a rogue vaccine site, thanks to an unprecedented barrage of get-me-out-of-here-ism that isn’t a good look for some of football’s biggest names. At the front of the line is Aaron Rodgers, whose considerable self-esteem again has regressed into pouty finger-pointing after dropping to 1-4 in NFC championship games. In itself, this is a stunning and potentially historic development, the idea that Rodgers, going on 38, would demand a trade and seek bigger success in San Francisco, Los Angeles or Las Vegas. But it’s even more astonishing when he’s joined on the upward-mobility train by two quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford, who also are likely to wear gold Hall of Fame jackets someday.

At the most important and glamorous position in team sports, never has the possible activity been more volatile. Already, numerous franchises are plotting deals, which is catnip for commentators and columnists who won’t be spending Super Bowl week in Tampa during this pandemic postseason and need fodder extending beyond Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. Nothing tantalizes sports fans more than trade rumors involving superstars. Thus, with so many QB situations in flux throughout the league, the blast furnace is burning about Rodgers maneuvering his way to the 49ers or Rams or Raiders, or Watson forcing a trade to the Jets or Patriots or Saints. Hell, think of all the other teams that need QB upgrades now or in the near future: Colts, Bears, Steelers, Broncos, Panthers, Washington, Falcons. Do the Eagles really think a head coaching change, Doug Pederson to the obscure Nick Sirianni, can fix Carson Wentz? And what about the Packers, Texans and Lions if Rodgers, Watson and Stafford are gone?

Suddenly, no one cares about the NBA, the NHL, college basketball, the endangered start of baseball spring training or, at least until late next week, Super Bowl LV. It’s all about who gets Rodgers and Watson, and, to a lesser extent, where the less-demonstrative Stafford lands along with other QBs on the move. Oh, the fake news soon to be disseminated by agents and front offices alike — hold your nose, America.

Rodgers becomes more polarizing by the minute. The man is never happy, even after a presumptive MVP season when he seemed to forge a relationship with coach Matt LaFleur. Ten maddening seasons since his only Super Bowl victory, he was going to be distraught if the ending didn’t include a cigar and the Vince Lombardi Trophy. So when his offensive line broke down against Tampa Bay’s fearsome rush and some of his weapons were shrinking violets, sure, he was going to be upset — especially when losing to Brady, who, in his first NFC season, has as many conference titles as Rodgers.

But where Rodgers lost me was in his post-game Zoom conference. Rather than accepting defeat like a dignified grown man, he spilled more of the whine that sometimes makes him unlikable. Yes, LaFleur blew it Sunday — as pointed out here and pretty much everywhere — when he snubbed Rodgers on 4th-and-goal at the enemy 8-yard-line, preferring a field goal with 2:09 left instead of trying to tie the score with the MVP. Brady ran out the clock on a 31-26 victory, and next thing you knew, Rodgers was all but singing about his native state, “California dreamin’. On such a winter’s day …”

“It’s a good question,” he said when asked what was next. “I don’t know, I really don’t. There’s a lot of unknowns going into this offseason now. I’m going to have to take some time away, for sure, and clear my head and just kind of see what’s going on with everything. But it’s pretty tough right now, especially thinking about the guys that may or may not be here next year. There’s always change. That’s the only constant in this business. It’s a grind just to get to this point. And that makes the finality of it all kind of hit you like a ton of bricks. That’s why it’s a gutting feeling in your stomach.”

Rodgers laments Pack's uncertain future: 'Myself included' | WLUK

He soon shifted the tone from frustration to sadness. “(The Packers have) a lot of guys’ futures that are uncertain — myself included. That’s what’s sad about it most, getting this far,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, it’s going to be an end at some point, whether we make it past this one or not, but just the uncertainty’s tough and finality of it all.”

Does this sound like a man who wants to finish his career with LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst, the general manager who drafted a quarterback, Jordan Love, in the first round last spring? Or a man who soon was on the phone with his agent, discussing immediate possibilities beyond Green Bay? Rodgers feels he doesn’t get proper love from management — meaning, he wants more control over the roster and his offensive weapons. The bosses think his $134-million extension, which he signed in 2018 and extends through 2023, is ample respect. They dealt with his moods last year, when he voiced resentment about Love. It’s safe to assume they don’t want another offseason of misery, though, at this point, they only can kiss his ring … his only ring.

When asked if Rodgers will return next season, LaFleur said, “I sure as hell hope so. I mean, the guy’s the MVP of this league. He’s the heart and soul of our football team. So, hell yeah, he better be back here. He’s our leader, and you know, just so appreciative of him buying into what we’re trying to get done around here and leading that group. His voice carries a lot of weight in that locker room and just, you know, I feel for him. Him being in this situation and for us not to get it done, man, it hurts.”

Also, it’s not as simple as the Packers striking a quick deal. They could send Rodgers to the 49ers for some combination of draft picks and Jimmy Garoppolo; or to the Rams, who have soured on Jared Goff; or to the Saints, who must replace the retiring Drew Brees. But if Rodgers leaves now, Green Bay is stuck with $31.5 million in salary-cap dead money. If he demands a trade with a retirement threat, they’d have to cede to his wishes and eat the money. In cities throughout the league, fans are urging their teams to acquire Rodgers. “Hasn’t he always been a Hollywood QB? With the Malibu house? And the actresses and Danica Patrick?” they’re asking in L.A. “Shouldn’t he come home for his final years?” they’re asking in northern California, where he grew up in Chico and played at Cal.

The excitement about Watson might be more palpable. Only 25, he has a good decade ahead of him as a dual-threat machine. And unlike Rodgers, his complaints in Houston are greeted with more sympathy. No pro franchise in American sports is more chaotic than the Texans, and Watson has left zero doubt: He wants out. He’s disgusted that owner Cal McNair views him as the help and has allowed the mysterious Jack Easterby to wreak organizational havoc, such as blocking Watson from voicing his opinion about the general manager vacancy, filled by Bill Belichick-disciple Nick Caserio. Even if the Texans do the right thing with their head coaching vacancy and hire Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy — a Mahomes whisperer who’d mesh ideally with Watson — reports say Watson wants no part of a Houston future regardless of the coaching hire.

The New York media, devastated when the Jets won just enough games to lose presumptive top draft pick Trevor Lawrence, are pushing the Jets to land their first superstar QB since Joe Namath (the 2008 Brett Favre experiment was ill-fated). A better trade partner for the Texans might be Miami, which could offer Tua Tagovailoa and picks. Or the 49ers, who have eyed Stafford, he of the eight 4,000-yard passing seasons, but know how Watson could thrive in a Kyle Shanahan system.

“You can’t say anything with certainty,” Shanahan said when asked about his QB outlook. “You don’t sit here and make promises on anything.”

It could be Watson ends up in New York, Stafford in Indianapolis and Rodgers in Vegas, where Jon Gruden could ship Derek Carr to Green Bay while Love develops. Or, maybe Rodgers makes amends with the Packers and tries again. Or, knowing his whims, maybe he retires as a big-game loser who is mocked in memes. The Cheeseheads have had the good fortune of watching Rodgers for 13 starting seasons after watching Favre for 16 seasons, yet they’ve also suffered as both wobbled through drama in their late 30s. So far, Rodgers’ problems haven’t approach the spectacle level of Favre. But if he keeps losing in the playoffs, who knows how ugly this becomes?

Brett Favre's take? Packers 'burned a bridge' with Aaron Rodgers by  drafting Jordan Love | Pro football | madison.com

Of course, Brady launched the Great Quarterback Exodus when he waited out Belichick and left New England, seeing a better life with the Buccaneers. Now that he has proved his point, Rodgers and Watson are right behind him. In the bigger picture, this is the latest installment of the ongoing 21st-century series, “The Business Entitlement Of The Corporate Athlete.” If LeBron James and Kevin Durant could bounce around to better situations, for their careers and lives, why not elite NFL quarterbacks?

Sometimes, you wonder if this rampant get-me-out-of-here-ism has become a bigger deal than the championship seasons themselves. I would say none of it is good for football or sports, but would the blinking banks of talk-show callers on hold agree with me?

Probably not.

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Chris Broussard Is No Longer Just A ‘Basketball Guy’

“There’s no doubt that gets attached to you and that can be good because you’re seen as an ‘expert’ in one sport which is great.”

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After embarking on a career in sports, Chris Broussard made a name for himself as a writer, specifically as it pertains to covering the NBA. Whether it was covering the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Akron Beacon Journal, covering the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets for The New York Times, or doing television hits for ESPN, Broussard had always, whether it was justified or not, been pigeon-holed as a “basketball guy”.

That was the perception then, but today, the reality is different.

“There’s no doubt that gets attached to you and that can be good because you’re seen as an ‘expert’ in one sport which is great,” said Broussard, the co-host of First Things First on FS1 and the co-host of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio. 

“But what was good for me was that at ESPN, I had done First Take with Skip Bayless a lot.  There were a few years where it was a rotation and I was in that rotation. That enabled me to at least do the other sports.” 

Broussard has certainly made a seamless transition from print to electronic media.

After joining The New York Times in 1998, Broussard started to get television exposure doing local hits and then appearances on the various ESPN platforms would soon follow. He joined ESPN full-time in 2004 as a writer for ESPN The Magazine, but that also included regular guest appearances and fill-in hosting opportunities on shows like First Take and the opportunity to be a co-host for NBA Countdown for the 2010-11 season.

With that gig came the opportunity to work with Michael Wilbon, Jon Barry, and his childhood hero Magic Johnson.

“I think that may be have been the pinnacle because Magic is Magic,” said Broussard. “He was my favorite player until Jordan came along and (with Wilbon and Barry), we just had great chemistry.”

After one season, Broussard and Barry were replaced by Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose. A few years later, Broussard would make the move that would bring him to the next chapter of his career.

In 2016, Broussard left what amounted to being just a reporters role at ESPN for a new opportunity at FS1 where he would also be an analyst as well as a regular panelist for shows like Undisputed, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, First Things First and Lock It In.  In 2018, he began co-hosting The Odd Couple radio show with Rob Parker on FOX Sports Radio.

And then in August of 2021, Broussard was named the full-time co-host of First Things First, something that almost had happened when the network first launched.

“When they asked me to come on as a full-time co-host, it was great and maybe a long time coming,” said Broussard. “I know when Jamie Horowitz first brought all the people over from ESPN to be on FS1 in 2016, he was considering doing a show where Nick Wright and I were the co-hosts.”

Broussard now co-hosts the show with Wright and Kevin Wildes.

“I thought that I really just fit right in with the chemistry and it’s just been a great trio,” said Broussard. 

Born in Baton Rouge, Broussard and his family also lived in Cincinnati, Indiana, Syracuse, Iowa, and Cleveland.  He was a star football and basketball player for Holy Name High School in Parma Heights, Ohio and went on to play basketball for Oberlin College, an NCAA Division III school in Ohio.

Believe it or not, his first love was not basketball.

“My favorite sport growing up was football,” said Broussard. “I played football through high school. I played basketball at Oberlin College but they recruited for me football and basketball. I even played baseball up until I was about 16 years old.” 

So much for being just a basketball guy, right?

After college, Broussard had a decision to make. He knew he wanted to be a sports reporter but wasn’t sure if it was going to be print or electronic media. When he was an intern at The Indianapolis Star, he spoke to people in the know about which direction to go.

“I was told that it’s just easier and there are more spots in print journalism than there are in television and radio,” said Broussard. “I chose print because I thought I had more opportunities.”

Broussard’s first taste of covering pro sports was in 1995 at the Akron Beacon Journal when he was a backup writer covering the Cleveland Indians who would go to the World Series for the first time since 1954. He shifted to covering the Cavaliers and then it was off to New York and a bit of culture shock for Broussard.

During his 2 ½ years covering the Cavaliers, Broussard typically wore a rugby shirt, jeans and sneakers at games. But he noticed that when the Knicks and Nets would come to Cleveland or when Broussard travelled to New York and New Jersey when the Cavaliers visited the Knicks and Nets, that the New York writers would typically wear suits and ties when covering the games.

So, when he interviewed for the job with The New York Times, Broussard had an important question for his future editor.

“I asked him when I was being interviewed for the job do they require that your writers dress up,” said Broussard. “He said no but they do generally in New York because they know television opportunities are there. So, when I started working at The New York Times, I started dressing up wearing a suit and tie or sportscoat and tie whenever I would cover games.  Ultimately that led to television.”

And the rest is history.

This coming week, Broussard will be busy co-hosting his shows from the Super Bowl in Arizona. It’s one thing to host a radio show or a television show from a studio but it’s really something special to do it from a live event, especially on the giant stage of the Super Bowl.

And this week, Broussard will be center stage in front of a lot of ears and eyeballs.

“It’s always great,” said Broussard. “FOX Sports Radio always has one of the biggest and best platforms on radio row. It’s always fun when you’re doing these live shows at the big events and you’ve got an audience, it really can kind of bring out the best in you. I’m excited about it both for TV and radio.”

Chris Broussard has certainly come a long way in his career in sports. 

From his days as an athlete in high school in college to getting his start as a write to a transformation into a radio and television personality, Broussard has worked hard to get to where he is today.

“I haven’t written a word since I went to Fox,” said Broussard. “I do feel fortunate that I’ve been able from morph from a writer into TV and radio. What you want to do in this business is stay relevant and you want an audience and a platform. There’s not that many people who get that opportunity to do it.”

He’s no longer just a “basketball guy”. He’s a “sports guy”.

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BSM Writers

Radio Row Is One of The Worst Weeks For Our Listeners

Radio Row is a great opportunity for hosts, PDs, and executives. But it isn’t an inherently great opportunity for your listeners.

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From strictly a listener’s perspective, sports radio the week of Super Bowl’s Radio Row is one of the worst weeks.

Before I was a sports radio programmer, I was a sports radio listener. And while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was listening to sports radio with a programmer’s mindset. And every year, I would spend the entire week listening to shows produced live — or pretending to be live — from Radio Row at the Super Bowl. And each year, I would wonder “What the hell is the point of this?”

And now, as a former sports radio programmer, I will sit this week and listen to shows produced live — or pretending to be live — from Radio Row at the Super Bowl. And each day, I will wonder “What the hell is the point of this?”

Who does it serve? Let’s take an in-depth look at that question.

It serves the NFL. Hundreds of media professionals are stationed at its largest event, talking about it, ensuring it stays at the forefront of the public consciousness and providing millions in value for its sponsors.

It serves NFL players. Both past and present. Dozens of current and former stars will flock to Radio Row to record dozens of interviews. They’ll be paid thousands of dollars to pitch their wares as often as possible while expanding their brands outside the cities in which they currently or formerly played.

It serves the sponsors of NFL players. Radio Row provides a one-stop-shop for sponsors to send their endorsers down a line of interviews to continually get in front of new audiences. Scale, baby!

It serves the hosts, PDs, and executives. You get a working vacation! It’s awesome! I live in the Midwest, and yesterday was one of a handful of days I’ve seen the sun since November. Being in Arizona in early February is phenomenal! Plus, you get to hob knob with celebrities, get your photos taken, go to awesome parties with extravagant hor dourves and open bars, and it’s fantastic. You deserve the little break Radio Row provides; better yet, it’s all on the company dime. You get some bonding with your co-workers, you get to network, and it really is an awesome opportunity.

But you know who isn’t served? Your listeners. At least, the vast majority of them. Because here’s the reality: While it’s really cool that you’re hanging out with other radio folks, and you’ll have a plethora of former and current players swinging by for interviews, your listeners really don’t care. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s the truth. While there’s a subset of listeners who are living vicariously through you — and that can’t be completely shortchanged, it’s a big deal — the overwhelming majority couldn’t be less invested in your Radio Row interviews.

Think of it from a listener’s viewpoint: Outside of the Bay Area, do you think anyone has thought “Man, I wonder who Kyle Juszczyk thinks is gonna win the Super Bowl?” I’ll tell you that, no, they haven’t thought that, and they don’t particularly care what he thinks. Furthermore, they definitely don’t care that he’s sponsored by Old Spice, which gives him the P-P-P-Power!™

And it would be fine if there was one interview here or there, but there are some shows — both local and national — that will completely fill out their rundowns with interviews with people your listeners don’t especially care about, ask questions that your listeners don’t especially care about, and end the interview by asking who they think wins Sunday, why they think that way, and allow them to pitch their boner pills or whatever else they’re schlepping. Every day. For five straight days. For two, three, four, or even five hours.

It stinks.

Self-serving isn’t bad as long as you recognize it’s self-serving. And that could be potentially the biggest issue. Now and then, you’ll get a host that is sanctimonious and pretends they’re doing the listener a favor by spending a week away from their family in a warm weather destination, rubbing elbows with some of the greatest players — both past and present — in the game. You’re not. You’re spending a week eating all the free food you can find, drinking all the free beer you can find, and taking pictures to post on your Instagram. And that’s fine, but don’t pretend like it’s something it isn’t. You can talk yourself into its importance, but it’s important to you.

Radio Row is a great opportunity for hosts, PDs, and executives. But it isn’t an inherently great opportunity for your listeners. You can turn it into one with thoughtful questions, a unique spin on the traditional interview, or avoiding the same boring questions your subject has been asked 1,000 times during the day, but you’ve gotta go the extra mile to accomplish that. And I hope that’s not something you lose sight of this week.

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What Are The Right Social Media Answers For Sports Radio?

“What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any?”

Demetri Ravanos

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Social media does not stand still. The platforms that matter today can fall out of favor with the general public in the blink of an eye. Conversely, the right feature or attention from the right people can catapult a site’s importance in the social pecking order.

How does a radio company determine what matters? Are all formats received similarly on social media or is sports radio such a unique animal that brands have to be much more deliberate in how resources are allocated? To answer these questions, I turned to some experts. 

Tom Izzo doesn’t exclude any platform when he is plotting WFAN’s social strategy. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter may each attract a different type of sports fan, but they all matter in building and serving the larger audience.

“There is sports radio audience on every social media platform, you just have to talk to them differently depending where you are,” he told me. “The language and audience on Twitter is different than the language and audience on Facebook, but there is audience everywhere.”

Audience is everywhere. That’s what is at the heart of the conundrum. How do you best utilize your assets in a landscape that isn’t just constantly changing? It’s also constantly growing!

Lori Lewis has overseen social media strategy at an executive level for Cumulus, Westwood One, Jacobs Media and iHeart among others. Now she coaches companies on creating great content with her own company, Lori Lewis Media

She told me that the key for not just sports stations, but for any brand, is understanding what their audience prioritizes. That doesn’t mean it should be the brand’s only focus though.

“Obviously, for sports radio, it’s Twitter. But don’t sleep on short-form vertical video,” she said in an email. “When done right, you’ll see success (meaning converting views into new fans) with YouTube Shorts and/or Instagram Reels as well as playback videos on Facebook (those are visual replays from the audio show).”

Converting views into new fans was taken to a bit of an extreme in Nashville. 104.5 The Zone launched Zone TV in 2021. Will Boling took the lead in creating the product. He says that launching a proprietary video stream was never about moving away from other social platforms. It was about giving listeners more access to better content in more places.

“Our video platform affects a lot of our social strategy,” he said. “On Twitter, we don’t want to just be seen as a radio station, but as a media company. Our Twitter stream allows us to react to breaking news while also sharing our broadcast at the same time. And with Twitch’s video producer, we can create featured clips from shows whenever we want. That allows us to push video out of featured guests, funny callers and anything in between to promote our podcasts from each show too.”

Video matters so much more than ever before. It does not matter who you talk to or what platform it is you are talking about. The answer always comes back to using video to attract more eyeballs.

TikTok, our most controversial social video platform, is trying to figure out what its reach could be without the visuals. Last month the company announced that it would experiment with its version of podcasts – a mode on the app that would allow users to experience TikTok content as audio-only entertainment.

I asked all three of my experts what their initial impression of the story is. Only Izzo expressed reservations.

“Probably no need for us to be first anywhere if there isn’t any particular benefit to doing that,” he said. “We’ll watch and see what happens and if it turns out that people like consuming podcasts on TikTok we will certainly address that.”

That doesn’t mean WFAN hosts and bosses won’t keep a keen eye on the feature. I would anticipate that there may be some experimental posts that either don’t receive much of a push or perhaps never see the light of day at all.

Boling is adamant that any use of TikTok is a wise one for stations. He says anything set up with an algorithm that rewards creators for posting content the audience connects with is an asset that cannot be ignored.

“We use social media to push listeners to our YouTube channel because it’s an algorithm based platform. If we get someone to click on our page once, then our channel will get recommended to them the next time they get on YouTube. TikTok helps radio companies accomplish that and own every space in the digital market right now.”

Unsurprisingly, it’s Lori Lewis that approaches the feature in the most scientific way. Do TikTok podcasts represent a sort of new frontier for audio brands? Sure, but just like Grogu and the Mandalorian, you have to go there and poke around before you can figure out how it will work best for you.

“If TikTok expands to audio, how might you complement the mothership (The FM/AM stick) and build on the trust you’ve earned from your show? What’s a unique way to tap into new features? As social media evolves, so should our approach.”

What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any? Since the onset of the pandemic, so much listening has shifted from terrestrial signals to digital streams. We have totally rethought what we are. Why should it stop with how our audience consumes our content? 

I asked Lewis if we are too narrow in thinking about how social media can serve us. Are we so focused on what is that we have not considered what could be? Can a brand have one identity on air and use social media to create something that does not mirror it, but instead compliments it?

“Depends on why you’re using social media,” she answered. “If you’re leveraging social media for increased awareness and building trust to drive more engagement during your show, it might not make sense to be different on social than on-air. But, if you’re a vanilla brand limited to creativity on-air, why not? Throw yourself out there. Show your real, relatable self (assuming it’s legal and appropriate, ha-ha). Relatability wins every time.”

Do we have to be deliberate in sports radio with how we allocate our social media resources? Yes, but that doesn’t mean there is a single correct answer. 

Strategy matters on air. It’s no different on social media. But in order to figure out the best strategy, you have to be open-minded and eager to play around with new offerings to determine what works.

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