Once again, NFL Network drops the ball in breaking a major football story – at least on its air.
They strived to make up for it, but given the circumstances, there was just no excuse for this one.
On Sunday morning, Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman issued a statement informing that Garrett Reid, the oldest son of Eagles head coach Andy Reid, had been found dead hours earlier at the team’s training camp facility in Lehigh.
Here you have, straight from the source, a confirmed report of the tragic death of the son of the head coach of the Eagles. Multiple sources almost immediately tweeted news of Garrett’s death.
On TV, ESPN wasted no time presenting this breaking news story to viewers.
NFL Network, on the other hand? They were showing the tail end of “NFL Total Access” prerecorded from Saturday night. An interview with newly inducted Hall of Famer Curtis Martin had aired when news of Garrett Reid’s death broke.
When the clock struck 10 AM ET – still nothing on NFL Network. A rerun of the video version of “The Rich Eisen Podcast” ran as scheduled. Not even a “breaking news” item on the NFL ticker at the bottom of the screen. The top Eagles story at that point was the team signing a defensive end from the Arena Football League.
Yet it was only after the first commercial break on “Eisen” – at 10:08 AM ET – that anchor Jamie Maggio broke news of Garrett Reid’s death to viewers. After that brief update, it was back to “The Rich Eisen Podcast” and an interview with actor Dax Shepard.
I’m all for “better late than never,” but when you have explicit confirmation from the general manager of a football team – a highly credible source, mind you – of a stunning news item involving the team, it should not take twenty minutes to deliver news of such nature to viewers. Maggio was clearly situated at the NFLN newsroom moments before the news of Garrett’s death was made public.
And here’s a stunner: Maggio reported the news of Garrett’s passing on her own personal Twitter account fifteen minutes before she reported it on her own network. In fact, she had actually tweeted twice about the death within a single minute!
Something is not right here. How can the network operated by the National Football League hesitate to break a valid, authentic news story such as the death of Garrett Reid, fifteen to twenty minutes after the Eagles’ own general manager confirmed the news to the media? Is it that important to run a pre-recorded interview with the almighty Dax Shepard?
As I mentioned, this is not the first time NFL Network was tardy in reporting a breaking story on their air. Back in April, it took them a whole day to report about Saints general manager Mickey Loomis eavesdropping on play calls from opposing teams (Loomis claims he was listening to the radio calls of Saints games). A month prior to that, NFLN was late to the party in reporting that Peyton Manning would be released by the Indianapolis Colts.
In fairness to the league, there was an item on NFL.com originally posted at 9:21 AM ET, which at first mostly addressed Andy Reid’s absence from Eagles training camp. By the top of the hour, it had been transformed into an item on Garrett Reid’s death.
By the way, if you’re keeping score at home, it took NFL Network about twenty-five minutes (10:11 AM ET, to be precise) to include an item in their bottom-of-the-screen ticker on Garrett’s death: “HC Andy Reid absent from start of Eagles’ walkthrough practice at Lehigh University Sunday morning, Philadelphia Inquirer reports. GM Howie Roseman announces at press conference that Reid’s son, Garrett Reid, had been found dead in his room at Lehigh University. For the latest news and analysis, keep watching NFL Network and go to NFL.com.” By 10:21, the first item regarding Reid’s absence had been removed.
As the 10 AM ET hour progressed, NFLN started to devote more time to this breaking story. At 10:36 AM, they led out of the first segment of a “Sound FX” rerun with another live segment from the network’s newsroom, and Maggio speaking to NFL Network reporter Michael Lombardi. When NFLN returned from commercials at 10:42 AM, it was not back to “Sound FX,” but back to the newsroom, where Maggio welcomed in NFLN analyst Brian Baldinger, whom Maggio noted “is actually headed to Lehigh University on a redeye flight this evening.” (Baldinger also co-hosts the late-midday show alongside Harry Mayes on WPEN/”97.5 The Fanatic” in Philadelphia.) Following Baldinger’s phoner, Maggio read a team statement from the Eagles regarding Garrett’s passing. After that breaking news update, it was another commercial break followed by the “Sound FX” rerun in progress.
At the top of the 11 AM ET hour, NFLN led with another news update, and brought on Inquirer columnist Jeff McLane, who, as Maggio noted to viewers, was “one of the first to tweet about the news [and] notice that Andy Reid was not in attendance” at Eagles camp. It was an informative four-minute phone interview, with the key point being McLane “knew something was up” when he saw Eagles players in a prayer huddle. Following that update, they started their regularly scheduled program, “Top 100 Players Of 2012: 50-41” at five minutes past the hour. They also led off a commercial break at 11:32 AM with an update featuring a replay of Roseman’s comments from the press conference earlier.
At 12 Noon ET, Maggio anchored an update with another replay of Roseman, followed by the reading of a few tweets from Eagles players past and present, reacting to the news. At 12:07 PM, after the first segment of “Top 100 Players Of 2012: 40-31”, Maggio welcomed NFLN analyst Brian Billick, a classmate of Reid’s at Brigham Young University. Billick, who joined NFLN via video relay, spoke of his experiences as a head coach of training camp being “a 24/7 job,” forcing said coach to be away from his family. “And he had to be just elated to have Garrett… with him there in training camp,” said Billick. “To have Garrett there with him had to be a very special time, and makes this even that much more tragic.”
When you compare NFL Network’s coverage on this story to “SportsCenter’s” coverage over on ESPN, it was virtually no contest. There were news updates at the top and bottom of the hours, and Sage Steele asked ESPN NFL analyst Damien Woody how NFL teams cope with tragedies. Woody noted the tragic death of Patriots quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein at age 45 due to a heart condition, as Woody was a member of that New England team. And at the top of the 11 AM ET hour, David Lloyd brought on Tim McManus, Eagles beat reporter for 97.5 The Fanatic – an ESPN Radio affiliate – though in fairness, he was also live at Roseman’s presser and broke the news of Garrett Reid’s death on Twitter at the first possible moment. Otherwise, ESPN spent a majority of the two-hour “SportsCenter” on Michael Phelps and the London Olympics, baseball highlights, and NFL Hall of Fame player inductions; plus, a live interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. live from Pocono Raceway (live in the 10 AM ET hour and replayed in the 11 AM ET hour; by the by, ESPN would be carrying that race), and presented a piece on amputee athlete Bree McMahon. Surprisingly, not a whole lot about Tim Tebow and the New York Jets this morning. But as I’ve long argued, when you’re a major sports network responsible for providing balanced coverage of several sports, what ESPN presented Sunday morning on “SportsCenter” should be the norm every single day of the week.
Despite being hindered by canned programming, albeit programming that was eventually broken into, NFL Network still provided comprehensive coverage of Garrett Reid’s death.
If only they could work on breaking the news to viewers sooner.