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Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo Has No Plans of Slowing Down

“19 years for Mike and the Mad Dog and around 13 with Sirius. It’s hard to believe. I knew I would be at Sirius a long time and I wasn’t going back to FAN, but it’s definitely surprising.”

Brandon Contes

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Pick one voice to hear repeatedly for 30 years, you’ll probably select a sound more soothing than Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo.

But here we are after 30 years, and there aren’t many voices I’ve listened to more than his. And if you’re reading this interview, it either means you similarly spent thousands of hours listening to Russo, or he helped pave a career path for you in some way.

His show intro takes close to two minutes, his greeting alone takes about eight seconds, “Annnndddd good afternoon everybody!” Sports radio and its program directors are built to demand instant content, Russo opens his show doing the exact opposite, but that’s the benefit a host has when he IS the format.

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With Mike Francesa, Russo helped build the concept of sports radio. Creating a successful format that suits your talent is enough of a career success, but Russo still had a Part Two left.

Taking a character from one successful show and attempting to build something new doesn’t always work. Following Cheers with Frasier is rare. But after nearly two decades with Francesa, Russo is still going strong with his own show, his own channel and his own audience 13 years later.

Brandon Contes: You’ve been with SiriusXM for 12 and a half years now, it’s going on almost 13 years since you last hosted an afternoon show with Mike Francesa on WFAN. Is that jarring?

Chris Russo: It sure is. It’s almost like you forget you did Mike and The Mad Dog for such a long period of time. 19 years for Mike and the Mad Dog and around 13 with Sirius. It’s hard to believe. I knew I would be at Sirius a long time and I wasn’t going back to FAN, but it’s definitely surprising. And Mike retiring while I’m still working is odd too. You do your talk show every day, but when you think about it – yes, strange.

BC: Has one portion of your career been more fulfilling than the other? Helping to create the sports radio format with Mike, or launching your own brand and channel with Sirius?

CR: It would be hard to ever top 19 years of Mike and the Mad Dog, especially considering we were the first to do a two-person, five-hour afternoon show in the format. There were individual shows in different cities, but there weren’t 24-hour sports stations. The fact that Mike and I started afternoon drive on an all-sports station, hard to top that.

SiriusXM is a different accomplishment, but when you’re the first to do something in a genre, that’s hard to beat. It was New York City, it was the first radio station to do all sports, it was 1:00 – 6:30pm, 50,000 watts. That sticks. Going to Sirius was more about me trying to do a national show, find a new audience, and put a station on the map. But with Mike, we created the format.

BC: Was there a point during the summer of 2008, that Mike, Chernoff or anyone at WFAN could have said something to get you to stay?

CR: [Long Pause] I don’t know. I think I was probably looking for a break after 19 years at the same place. SiriusXM gave me a channel, I wanted something different, I liked the flexibility of getting away from the New York teams. Probably not. I think Mike and I wore each other out a bit. Money wasn’t going to do it, there was a limited number of that. It was time to make a change, Mel Karmazin wanted me and he offered me my own channel with Sirius. At 48-years-old, I wasn’t getting that offer again.

They already had Howard and he set the precedent for a person to leave a big New York station for Sirius. You had confidence in the company, and we had a lot of trouble those first six or eight months during the economic crisis, but I trusted Mel that we would figure out a way and he did. So I don’t know if there’s anything Mark or Mike could have said in June of 2008. I think I was going to go.

BC: When Imus left in 2007, how serious were you about wanting the morning show?

CR: It was something I thought about. It was a new challenge, I liked the idea of getting home at 11 in the morning. I don’t know if I would consider it serious but thank God it didn’t happen because I would have done mostly all sports talk and that might not have fit morning radio. There was a thought about putting both of us in mornings, although I don’t think Mike wanted to get up. And there was a thought about splitting us up, but it never got that serious. It’s nice to get home at 11am, especially in the summer, having nice weather and the whole day, and I think I liked it from that aspect more than the actual dynamic of hosting a morning sports show. As it turns out, it was the best thing for me not to get that show.

BC: Do you miss the competition of terrestrial radio and the ratings battle? Did it ever bother you to see Francesa and Michael Kay on the back page of the newspaper?

CR: No. What I do miss is the give and take I had with Mike. The discourse between the two of us couldn’t be topped because Mike knew every sport. Most hosts know one or two, but Mike and I knew something about all of them.

Mike & The Mad Dog may finally be ready to get back together?

I also miss the hometown teams. On a slow day, you could always rely on the local teams to get through a show. On Sirius, from February through August, there are days where you might not have a topic to grab everyone. A local station can always turn to the home teams, I don’t have that with Sirius. I can’t break down Julius Randle for 45 minutes because a listener in Phoenix might not even know who he is. You have to find something that grabs everyone.

BC: How long did you do your Saturday show on FAN?

CR: For about 19 years. I did Saturdays and Sundays in the late-80s before they put me and Mike together. I gravitated to Saturdays around ’90 and did it for about nine months every year. I loved it. Just like Mike loved his Sunday NFL show, it was a break in the routine for us.

BC: That show was my introduction to sports radio. I would sometimes go to work with my dad on Saturday mornings and FAN would play on the way home. And as a seven- or eight-year-old, the voice and laugh caught my attention and once I realized you were talking about the Knicks and Mets, I was hooked. Did you feel a different connection with the Saturday audience?

CR: Definitely. The Saturday audience is different. Even if it’s the same group of people, it had a different feel. There was more give and take with the calls because you have more time as a solo host, and it had more of a wide-open tableau. You could talk about anything because Friday night isn’t a big sports night so I was able to keep it different from the topics during the week or from Mike on Sunday.

BC: Were you a Stern listener at any point before going to Sirius?

CR: No, I definitely was not. I drove to work about 10:30, 11:00 o’clock so he was already off-air. And if I was focused on anything in the morning, it would have been Imus. I usually don’t listen to the radio too much. I always wanted my own fresh opinions, I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone else. But based on my life at that point, it just didn’t fit into my schedule. So I really didn’t listen to Stern until I got to Sirius.

BC: Have you enjoyed your interactions with him and going on his show occasionally?

CR: Absolutely. Five times total. I’ve been totally into it. But it’s almost like when he gets Mike from Mahopac (Sour Shoes), he feels like he had Chris Russo on, so it’s been awhile, but I love going in there. He makes a sanitation worker sound interesting, a jewelry salesman sound interesting, he could make my father sound interesting! No matter who he’s talking to, he has the ability to be engaged. He used to like talking about anything going on with Mike and me, I also loved talking about Imus with him. I haven’t been on in a couple years, but I really enjoy it.

BC: What about going on Letterman? How many times did you do that?

CR: I think it was 37 times. The first was February of ’91 and the last time was about two weeks before he retired in 2015. I loved doing that show. And I’ll give you one story. They used to put me on in the third segment, 12:20am. Twice within a month in 2003, I was bumped. Once for Demi Moore and the other for Courtney Love. A week later, I’m driving into work and he calls my cell to apologize. I said, ‘Dave what are you doing calling me? This is ridiculous, don’t worry about it.’ He told me ‘it won’t happen again, if you’ll give us a break we’ll have you on again.’ Since then, every time I was on, I was the second guest and they gave me two segments.

BC: Did you enjoy the live audience aspect with Letterman? Because you were always good at feeding off the energy at remotes.

CR: I did, absolutely. There’s more pressure. You have to make them laugh, you have to be funny. The reason Dave liked having me on is because he knew I could carry the segment for nine or ten minutes. He could set me up and I could talk, it wasn’t pulling teeth. He put me on the first time because he heard me on-air and was making fun of the way I spoke, but it ended up being a long-lasting relationship.

BC: Francesa was complimentary of Pat McAfee when he got started in radio, it’s interesting now to see him on your channel. He’s very different from your brand of radio, but he generates interest.  

CR: The sports talk genre has changed. Most hosts, anywhere you look, TV or radio, it’s 80% football even in the offseason and then they sprinkle in other topics. I never did football 12 months a year and in New York you don’t have to, but hosts today don’t do baseball, golf or tennis, they’re not even breaking down the NCAA Tournament. They spend most of their time on the NFL and they’ll mix in the NBA.

Pat is the new breed. He’s a big personality, but he uses the NFL to get his point across, a little wrestling too of course because he’s a wrestler. Now do I love the cursing? Probably not. But I appreciate that the genre has changed from what it was in 1989 when Mike and I started. The NFL is bigger and baseball is not as big. A lot of the younger people on-air didn’t grow up on baseball. It’s really an NFL dominated genre right now and Pat does a superb job of appealing to the younger audience who are into fantasy football and DraftKings, while that’s not where I grew up. There’s going to be a time where my show won’t be able to survive, but for the moment, I can still hang in there without doing 12 months of football.

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BC: What about Morning Men, you’re an old school sports historian and then you have a polar opposite in Mike Babchik on your channel, but the rabid following of FALs he and Evan Cohen built is incredible.

CR: Babchik does a wonderful job. I love Babchik, and Evan’s a great sports talk host. Morning Men I look at a little differently because you can’t do a ton of sports in the morning and they have to compete with Stern on the same platform, that’s not easy. It’s a tricky spot, but they’ve done a tremendous job of finding a niche for themselves, and that’s not easy to do on Sirius where you can get lost with a million shows and channels. But Babchik and Evan haven’t, and they deserve a lot of credit for that.

BC: Why do you think you’re okay with Morning Men bits and more willing to play along, be the butt of a joke, but you weren’t as forgiving when it was Craig Carton doing it at WFAN back in 2007?

CR: That’s a good point. I think it has something to do with Imus because we were loyal to him and Craig was his replacement. I know the Carton and Mike relationship never warmed up, Carton and I have warmed up some. But you’re right. I don’t know what the reason was, we gave Carton a much harder time than I’ve ever given Babchik. Maybe in hindsight, I regret that.

Maybe I should’ve let it go, not say anything, just let them do their show and get established. I don’t think it was as bad as everybody makes it out to be. But there is a feeling that Mike and I didn’t give Boomer and Carton any support when they started. If they feel that strongly about it, there must be some truth to it, and I have to own that.

BC: Last year you were very critical of WFAN and what the station became, what about today with Craig and Evan Roberts in afternoons, is it more stable?

CR: I don’t listen much, but they’ve done pretty well in the ratings and now they have a simulcast with SNY coming, so give them credit for that. But I’m not up to date with what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis. Evan’s had to change his role and I think he’s done that, and Carton’s had to change a little because there’s more sports in afternoons than mornings. Gio has done a good job with Boomer in mornings. Give Malusis and Maggie credit for hanging in there. I just don’t know exactly where FAN is as a channel and a station if I’m being honest. I don’t know enough. One thing I will say is, Evan’s done a good job of letting Craig get his feet wet and reestablished.

BC: Are you surprised Mark Chernoff is retiring?

CR: Yea, he loves to work, radio is his life and he’s a routine guy. He gets up in the morning, goes on a run, has a catch with his kid when he gets to see him. But coming into the radio station at 6am, he’s always had that routine and he doesn’t have a ton of hobbies. He doesn’t play golf or tennis, so I am a little surprised to see him leave.

BC: Did you program Mad Dog Radio at the beginning?

CR: I did. I had a lot of help, but I programmed it. With Sirius, there’s a big chain of command, so I couldn’t just pick anyone I wanted and hire them. We’ve evolved a million different ways over the last 13 years. They still try to run things by me, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but I’m busy with the TV show, my radio show and now podcasts, there’s a lot going on. I know what’s happening with the channel, but I’m not involved in the decision-making process.

BC: Did you enjoy being part of the decision-making process?

CR: I did, but I learned I’m better on-air than off-air. It’s not easy to hire people, fire people, get approval, listen to tapes. There was a period in ’08 and ’09, I was doing a five-hour show, with no commercials. To juggle all that work was very tricky. They kind of put me out of my misery five years in and it’s been a plus.

BC: 61 years old and you’re not subtracting at all from your career, you have a daily TV show, a daily radio show and now you’ve even recently added a podcast series, Digging Up The Past. Why enter that medium?

CR: SiriusXM owns some podcast companies and they need content, that’s the biggest reason. In my last deal I said I would do it and I didn’t quite realize the involvement with it. I did one in the fall about Thanksgiving Day football, and now I have a four-part NCAA podcast that we did 22 interviews for. It’s the kind of stuff I like, it’s historical and most of the young talk-show hosts today, they’re grasp of history goes back to the mid ‘90s. They don’t go back to 1961, they don’t know who Jerry Lucas is. You can’t give me a normal podcast to do with an interview that I already do on the radio, so that’s where this idea came from where we have long-form episodes and it’s fun. It’s time consuming, 22 interviews plus narration takes time, but it’s good quality and I’ll always make sure my audience knows it’s worth the time to listen.

BC: What does the podcast allow you to do that your radio show doesn’t?

Chris Mad Dog Russo on Twitter: "Check out Digging Up the Past! We will  look at the evolution of the Thanksgiving games from its origins to classic  games to becoming the day's

CR: I can get any one of these guests on my radio show, but you can’t get 22 of them together on one show because their schedules will never line up. But for a podcast, you can schedule it around them and piece it together, so it helps to complete a story.

BC: I think Francesa was 62 when he announced his first retirement, when does Chris Russo start to think about it?

CR: Not until my youngest gets out of high school and he’s a sophomore. What am I going to do if I retire and he’s still in school in Connecticut? I can’t go anywhere, I can’t move to Florida and play golf, so until he finishes high school there’s nothing to think about. When he goes off to college and it’s just my wife and I left in the house, then I could see taking a step back, but not for another couple years, minimum.

BC: Would you cut TV or radio first?

CR: I think I’ll always do radio in some capacity. Some sort of radio format.

BC: Is the flexible schedule that podcasting offers enticing as a post-retirement option?

CR: Yea, that’s appealing, it gets you out of the daily grind. Doing a show everyday for 49 or 50 weeks a year, it’s a lot. There will be a time that I won’t want to do that, but we’re not there yet.

BC: Last thing, because this made the rounds on social media in the last couple weeks. Were you made aware that there is a Tom Izzo who works at WFAN? It was not the basketball coach commenting on you blowing your nose.

CR: What happened was, my son who’s a senior at Tampa texted me and said, ‘look at this dad, Tom Izzo’s wondering if you farted.’ He thought it was the Michigan State Tom Izzo, so I did too. He wasn’t aware there was a Tom Izzo at WFAN, nor was I. And after I said it on-air, that’s when we found out it was a different Tom Izzo at FAN.

But that day I was just blowing my nose all day for whatever reason. That’s another adjustment we’ve had to make in the last year, TV at home, radio at home, you don’t get a break in-between where you’re in the city and feel the energy. I’m doing one show in the basement, the other on the third floor. It’s strange.

BC: Are you going back to the studio?

CR: Undetermined, but I would think so. It depends on SiriusXM and MLB opening their studios. Maybe by the summertime, but who knows.

BC: Is the ability to work from home a benefit to prolonging your career?

CR: You hit it right on the head. I do like the city, but it’s 17 hours a week that I spend commuting on a train, walking and driving. It’s a lot. Especially in the summer when you want to be home by six every night. You work harder at home, 17 hours of commuting is now 17 hours working, but overall, not commuting is a big plus. 

BSM Writers

Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers

Jason Barrett

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Sportsbooks are creating their own media now, and no company is doing that using more guys that have made their names on sports radio than BetRivers. Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt talk about the strategy behind that decision for today and for the future.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3nTJC5K 

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3z9hErM

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3oyi0U0

Google: https://buff.ly/3vh7Tqu

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3w9hqAh

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BSM Writers

Joe Rogan Betting Admission Reveals Gray Area

Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not.

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Joe Rogan

For nearly a decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the football and basketball programs for the University of Kentucky in some form or fashion. Whether writing for blogs or working with ESPN Louisville as co-host of the post-game show, I’ve gotten to know people around the program I grew up supporting, and other individuals in the media doing the same. I’ve made some terrific friendships and cultivated quite a few relationships that provide me with “inside information” about the teams.

As an avid sports bettor, that information has sometimes put me into some difficult personal situations. There have been times when I’ve been alerted to player news that wasn’t public, such as a player dealing with an injury or suspension. It’s often been told to me off-the-record, and I’ve never put that information out publicly or given it to others.

I wish I could also say I’ve never placed a wager based on that information, but that would be a lie. While it’s been a long time since I’ve done so, I’ve ventured into that ethical gray area of betting on a team that I’m covering. I’ve long felt uncomfortable doing so, and I’d say it’s been a few years since I last did it.

At least I know I’m not alone. On his latest episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan told guest Bert Kreischer that earlier in his UFC broadcasting career he regularly bet on fights. He claims to have won nearly 85% of the time (which I highly doubt but that’s another discussion for another time), either via bets he made or ones he gave to a business partner to place on his behalf.

From his comments, Rogan doesn’t seem to have been using sensitive information to gain an edge with the books, but he also didn’t state that he didn’t. He indicates that much of his success stemmed from knowing quite a bit more about fighters coming from overseas, and he said he “knew who they were and I would gamble on them.”

But Rogan undoubtedly has long been in a position where he knows which fighters might be dealing with a slight injury, or who are struggling in camp with a specific fighting style. It’s unavoidable for someone whose job puts him into contact with individuals who tell him things off-the-record and divulge details without perhaps even realizing it.

But let’s say Rogan did get that information, and did use it, and was still doing so today. The fact is…there’s nothing illegal about it, not in the United States at least. While it’s against the rules of some entities — the NFL, for example, has stated they could suspend or ban for life individuals who use inside information or provide it to others — it’s not against any established legal doctrine. Unlike playing the stock market, insider betting is not regulated by any central body or by the government.

However, Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not. Many of the after-the-fact actions that have been taken in the realm of legalized sports betting in this country, or those being discussed currently (such as advertising limitations), fall in line with changes made in Great Britain following their legalization.

One of their big changes was making it illegal to utilize insider information, with very specific definitions about the “misuse of information” and what steps the Gambling Commission may take. It lays out what information can be used, the punishments that may be levied, and at what point it might venture into criminality.

Sportsbooks do have recourse in some instances to recoup money on insider betting, but not many. If they can prove that a wage was influenced, they can cancel the bet or sue for the money. The most well-known instance is the individual who bet $50,000 at +750 odds that someone would streak on the field during Super Bowl LV –which he did– and then was denied the payout when he bragged about his exploits. But unless someone foolishly tells the books that they’ve taken them with information that the public wasn’t privy to, they have little to no chance of doing anything about it.

There are ramifications to insider betting that raise truly ethical dilemmas. Just like stock trading, information can be immeasurably valuable to those with stakes large enough to change prices. If I’m placing a $20 prop bet with the knowledge that a team’s starting running back might be out for a game, or dealing with an ankle injury, I’m not going to harm anybody else playing that line. But if I give that information to a shark, who places a $20,000 wager on that same line, I’ve now enabled someone to move a line and impact other bettors.

Online sports betting in this country continues to grow, and every day we are reminded that there are still aspects of the space that can feel like the wild west. As individuals in the media, we have to decide personally what our ethical stances are in situations like this. We also have to keep in mind the impact that betting can have on our biases–especially if we’ve bet using inside information. A prime example is Kirk Herbstreit, who won’t even make a pick on College Gameday for games he is going to be doing color commentary for lest he possibly appears biased on the call.

At one end of the spectrum, you have someone like Herbstreit, and on the other end, you have folks like Rogan who, while he no longer does so, was more than happy to not only wager on fights himself but gave the information to others. And in the middle, you have hundreds of people in similar situations, who might lean one way or another or who, like me, may have found themselves on either side of that ethical line.

There is no black or white answer here, nor am I saying there’s necessarily a right or wrong stance for anybody in the sports media industry to take. I would say that each person has to take stock of what they’re comfortable doing, and how they feel about insider information being used. Rogan didn’t break any rules or laws by gambling on the UFC, but his admission to doing so might be the catalyst towards it no longer being accepted.

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BSM Writers

Grading How the Networks Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion

Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.

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The major story going into the bulk of Week 4’s NFL action on Sunday was the concussion suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Thursday’s game versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Amazon’s Thursday Night Football telecast, particularly its halftime show, faced heavy criticism for neglecting to mention that Tagovailoa had been tested for a concussion in his previous game just four days earlier. Additionally, the NFL Players Association called for an investigation into whether or not the league’s concussion protocols were followed properly in evaluating Tagovailoa.

In light of that, how would the Sunday NFL pregame shows address the Tagovailoa concussion situation? Would they better inform viewers by covering the full story, including the Week 3 controversy over whether or not proper protocols were followed?

We watched each of the four prominent pregame shows — ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Fox NFL Sunday, CBS’s The NFL Today, and NBC’s Football Night in America — to compare how the Tagovailoa story was covered. With the benefit of two extra days to research and report, did the Sunday shows do a better job of informing and engaging viewers?

Here’s how the pregame studio crews performed with what could be the most important NFL story of the year:

Sunday NFL Countdown – ESPN

ESPN’s pregame show is the first to hit the air each Sunday, broadcasting at 10 a.m. ET. So the Sunday NFL Countdown crew had the opportunity to lead the conversation for the day. With a longer, three-hour show and more resources to utilize in covering a story like this, ESPN took full advantage of its position.

The show did not lead off with the Tagovailoa story, opting to lay out Sunday’s schedule, which included an early game in London between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. But the Countdown crew eventually got to issue on everyone’s minds approximately 28 minutes into the program.

Insider Adam Schefter provided the latest on the NFL and NFLPA’s investigation into the matter, particularly the “gross motor instability” Tagovailoa displayed in stumbling on the field and how the Dolphins initially announced that the quarterback had suffered a head injury, but later changed his condition to a back injury.

Schefter added that the NFL and NFLPA were expected to interview Tagovailoa and pass new guidelines for concussion protocols, including that no player displaying “gross motor instability” will be allowed to play. Those new rules could go into effect as early as Week 5.

“This is an epic fail by the NFL,” said Matt Hasselbeck to begin the commentary. “This is an epic fail by the medical staff, epic fail by everybody! Let’s learn from it!”

Perhaps the strongest remarks came from Rex Ryan, who said coaches sometimes need to protect players from themselves.

“I had a simple philosophy as a coach: I treated every player like my son,” Ryan said. “Would you put your son back in that game after you saw that?

“Forget this ‘back and ankle’ BS that we heard about! This is clearly from head trauma! That’s it. I know what it looks like. We all know what it looks like.”

Where Sunday NFL Countdown‘s coverage may have stood out the most was by bringing injury analyst Stephania Bell into the discussion. Bell took a wider view of the story, explaining that concussions had to be treated in the long-term and short-term. Science needs to advance; a definitive diagnostic tool for brain injury doesn’t currently exist. Until then, a more conservative approach has to be taken, holding players out of action more often.

Grade: A. Countdown covered the story thoroughly. But to be fair, it had the most time.

The NFL Today – CBS

CBS’s pregame show led off with the Tagovailoa story, going right to insider Jonathan Jones to report. He cited the key phrase “gross motor instability” as a significant indication of a concussion.

Jones also clarified that the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who helped evaluate Tagovailoa made “several mistakes” in consulting with the Dolphins’ team doctor, leading to his dismissal by the NFL and NFLPA.

The most pointed remarks came from Boomer Esiason, who said any insinuation that the Dolphins, head coach Mike McDaniel, or the team medical staff put Tagovailoa back in the game in order to win was “off-base.” Phil Simms added that the concussion experts he spoke with indicated that Tagovailoa could miss four to six weeks with this injury.

Grade: B-. The opinions from the analysts were largely bland. Jones’s reporting stood out.

Fox NFL Sunday

The Fox NFL pregame show also led off with the Tagovailoa story, reviewing the questions surrounding how the quarterback was treated in Week 3 before recapping his injury during Week 4’s game.

Jay Glazer reported on the NFL’s investigation, focusing on whether or not Tagovailoa suffered a concussion in Week 3. And if he did, why was he allowed to play in Week 4? Glazer noted that Tagovailoa could seek a second, maybe a third medical opinion on his injury.

Jimmy Johnson provided the most compelling commentary, sharing his perspective from the coaching side of the situation. He pointed out that when an injured player comes off the field, the coach has no contact with him. The medical team provides an update on whether or not the player can return. In Johnson’s view, Mike McDaniel did nothing wrong in his handling of the matter. He has to trust his medical staff.

Grade: B. Each of the analysts shared stronger opinions, particularly in saying a player failing “the eyeball test” with concussion symptoms should be treated seriously.

Football Night in America – NBC

Sunday Night Football was in a different setting than the other pregame shows, with Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison broadcasting on-site from Tampa Bay. With that, the show led off by covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, its effects on the Tampa area, and how the Buccaneers dealt with the situation during the week.

But after 20 minutes, the show got into the Tagovailoa story with Mike Florio reporting what his peers told viewers earlier in the day regarding pending changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol and “gross motor instability” being used as a major indicator.

Florio emphasized that the NFLPA would ask how Tagovailoa was examined and treated. Was he actually examined for a back injury in Week 3? And if he indeed suffered a back injury, why was he still allowed to play?

When the conversation went back to the on-site crew, Dungy admitted that playing Thursday night games always concerned him when he was a coach. He disclosed that teams playing a Thursday game needed to have a bye the previous week so they didn’t have to deal with a quick, four-day turnaround. That scheduling needs to be addressed for player safety.

But Harrison had the most engaging reaction to the story, coming from his experience as a player. He admitted telling doctors that he was fine when suffering concussion symptoms because he wanted to get back in the game. Knowing that was wrong, Harrison pleaded with current players to stay on the sidelines when hurt because “CTE takes you to a dark place.”

“It’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself,” said Harrison. “Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”

Grade: B+. Dungy and Harrison’s views of the matter from their perspective as a coach and player were very compelling.

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