There’s a pattern emerging. When an ESPN personality leaves the network and latches on to another one, he or she voices his or her displeasure in the Worldwide Leader’s fixation with one Tim Tebow.
It happened late this summer when Erin Andrews, now a Fox employee, disclosed to another former ESPN employee, NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, on his podcast that “ESPN’s really fascinated by him,” and got the impression that their “cameras are always on him.”
Indeed, when the New York Jets held training camp, ESPN was in tow as Tebow and the rest of the team held practices. It was as if the network was holding its own version of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” – even Rex Ryan admitted as much.
On Wednesday, Doug Gottlieb, who’s set to join a daily CBS Sports Radio lineup that at this point consists of Jim Rome and Scott Ferrall (and perhaps at some point, Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton), appeared on the radio show of yet another former ESPN employee Dan Patrick (whose own show may very well end up being on NBC Sports Radio). Anyway, the first thing Gottlieb confirmed was that ESPN forbid him from appearing on Patrick’s show while George Bodenheimer was signing his paychecks. “You can’t do anything not ESPN,” he quoted management as telling him, “and you’re [Patrick] not ESPN.”
There was another nugget from “Mothership” management that Gottlieb relayed to Patrick. It was an edict regarding everybody’s favorite second-string quarterback.
It all started when Patrick mentioned him in passing during a rant about his former employer – and Gottlieb took it from there.
Below is a partial transcript of the interview (the audio is located here; the Tebow talk starts around six minutes in). Basically, the general consensus is that ESPN used Tebow to manufacture news (much like they’ve been doing this week as the Jets play the undefeated Houston Texans on their “Monday Night Football” franchise). And at one point later in the interview, Gottlieb had dropped the name of former colleague Michael Wilbon, in the vein of having “power” to “violate” something… Must be that Tebow edict.
DAN PATRICK: They should be bigger than a lot of the things that they do. I think they feel like they’re still that fraternity, when we first started. They’re not. They’re not the underdog. They run the sports world. It’s like, you know, when we criticize them for going Tebow 24/7, well, they get sensitive about it. And I’m like, well, yeah, it’s part of it. We criticize you if it’s bad.
DOUG GOTTLIEB: Yeah, I would embrace it. I mean, I — look, I was told specifically, “you can’t talk enough Tebow.” Like, “you cannot — “… And so, I would just, I would jokingly throw it into a segment… “I gotta find… fifteen seconds here to talk about Tebow. All right, let’s move on to Major League Baseball.” I actually want Tebow to play this weekend, or Monday night.
PATRICK: Well, so do I. And so does ESPN.
GOTTLIEB: I want it because, it’s going to be over. Like I think he’ll be out of football by the end of the year, or at the end of next year. Hey, look, there’s only two teams that wanted him. There’s 32 teams with a starting quarterback, he led his team to a playoff win, and only two teams wanted him for the price of a fourth-round draft pick. You put him out there against the Houston Texans with no one to throw to, and not a good enough offensive line, and the defense without their best player? He’ll get eviscerated.
GOTTLIEB: You almost feel like, “All right, let’s just prove the point, put him out there, get it over with, and then, we can move on and talk about football.”
PATRICK: I don’t know if — there’s always going to be people that want to give him a chance because they’re gonna know what he brings with him. He was brought to the Jets for publicity. For no other reason. You know, you can say, “well, the Wildcat…”
GOTTLIEB: No, they — when they had Brad Smith, they were the best wildcat team in the league.
PATRICK: But Brad Smith had no chance of starting.
GOTTLIEB: I don’t think he has a chance — the only reason he’s going to start is because they’re a complete and utter disaster…
PATRICK: But Brad Smith didn’t think he was going to be — he didn’t compete for the job. Tebow wants the job. Brad Smith knew he wasn’t getting the job… but the wildcat doesn’t work.
GOTTLIEB: Of course, it doesn’t work… You know, the thing in Denver didn’t actually work. They didn’t move the football. The defense won him the game, the kicking game, the altitude, and the fact that he made a couple of plays late winning the game. But the point is that that doesn’t allow you to be sensible and reasonable with people who think that he’s going to succeed. But back to your Tebow thing, yes, I mean, is it ridiculous how much you have to talk about Tebow? Yeah, but for whatever reason, people can’t get enough of that story, and they just, you know, they just kinda stoke the fire. That’s kinda what ESPN does.
PATRICK: But is ESPN creating news, or are they covering news?
GOTTLIEB: Both. Both, and that’s — I think that’s the constant, you know, when you’re entertainment and sports, and you’re trying to also operate around the auspice that, “Hey, look, we’re a credible news organization.” That’s disgust, I think. You were in those meetings.
PATRICK: Yes. I thought they lost that credibility, a large portion of the credibility of covering news. I think that’s it’s now, what’s trending, focus groups, that — you know, you’re trying to create things there. Bernie Fine story at Syracuse, where’s that? Ugh, the New Orleans story with the Saints, where’s that with Mickey Loomis?
GOTTLIEB: That they were wiretapping?
PATRICK: But where is that story? Where are those stories? Those were big stories that you guys created. You were late on the Joe Paterno story… I think it’s just different mindset with what they’re doing and how they’re covering it, and they always fall back on, “well, Bob Ley covers the serious news stories.” And “SportsCenter” should be covering sports. They should be covering the news. I think they created it with Tebow when… ESPN embarrassed themselves and spent, you know, a week out there at Jets camp… If Tebow went to Jacksonville, would they have spent a week in Jacksonville?
GOTTLIEB: I don’t know.
PATRICK: No, they wouldn’t… It’s New York, and it’s Tebow.