Chiefs, Dolphins, Tyreek Hill, John Clayton and the sad state of how we talk about sports (thanks ESPN)
There was a big trade in the NFL on Wednesday, so the Worldwide Leader rolled out an 'analyst' to yell at us about it … It's all just so dumb
This isn’t really about the trade that sent Tyreek Hill from Kansas City to Miami, but if it makes the Dolphins relevant again, my oldest and best friend, Chris Bright, who cares nothing about sports any more, yet loved the Dolphins as a kid, will probably think it’s cool, so that’s something.
Nor is it about what the Chiefs got for him: five picks over the next two drafts, a first-rounder in the first of them, and the roster maneuverability inherent in letting go of a star.
It’s not even about the contract Hill’s getting from Miami, making him the highest paid receiver in the game.
In all, it’s $52.35 million up front, $72.2 million guaranteed and, should the Dolphins keep him for the duration, $120 million over four seasons, all of this according to what Hill’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN on Wednesday.
It is, though, kind of about what ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark, who played 13 years in the league after leaving LSU in 2001, said about it on SportsCenter Wednesday night.
“The Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins have done it. Tyreke Hill is no longer in Kansas City and he is a paid man.
“If you’re Tua Tagovailoa, this is what you want … but you better be explosive. You better be explosive early and win, because if you don’t, there will be a new man under center and Teddy Bridgewater could be the beneficiary of that.
“If you’re the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes it is time to show that you can do it with whatever wide receivers you have. You now have a ton of draft capital. You obviously have a huge contract.
“Andy Reid is about to earn his money. But if there's anyone who can understand how to use these draft picks and the business of the NFL to make plays, it's Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“This could be exciting for both teams. We'll see who fares best in 2022.”
What this is mostly about is the regrettable way sports are covered, consumed and talked about, because it’s just so dumb, a topic I’ve been thinking more about since hearing of the passing of John Clayton, NFL reporter extraordinaire, who died a week ago at 67, about five years after being let go of by ESPN, where he went following a career in newspapers.
Here’s a picture of Clayton, though it’s possible you remember him best from this SportsCenter commercial, a classic.
But let’s start with the inanity of what Clark had to say about Hill’s move to Miami on SportsCenter last night, and let’s try not to get lost in its nothingness, though it will not be easy.
“The Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins have done it. Tyreke Hill is no longer in Kansas City and he is a paid man.”
Really, they’ve done it?
Yes, that’s why you’re here telling us about it in the first place.
They executed a trade, not that dissimilar from the one that sent Davante Adams to the Raiders, nor the one that sent Deshaun Watson to Cleveland; though, let’s be clear, neither Hill nor Adams are facing the 22 lawsuits Watson’s facing, filed by women alleging sexual misconduct and worse.
“If you’re Tua Tagovailoa, this is what you want … but you better be explosive. You better be explosive early and win, because if you don’t, there will be a new man under center and Teddy Bridgewater could be the beneficiary of that.”
Yes, Miami’s quarterback is probably happy to have a new explosive receiver in the fold (and whoever coordinates Dolphins’ special teams may like the acquisition even more, but you forgot about that), but the idea the trade puts Tagovailoa on notice, adding further intrigue to the deal, is dumb and a classic case of what’s become rampant in televised sports discourse, where false urgency, alarm and drama is substituted for insight and knowledge all the time.
Tagovailoa will be in the third year of his rookie deal next season and should the Dolphins lose confidence in him, with or without Hill, they’re bound to fire Bridgewater in there, anyway.
Miami would love for Tagovailoa to become the next Dan Marino, but if he’s failing in year three, they’re allowed to bail.
It’s a storyline, yes, but has nothing to do with Hill.
“If you’re the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes it is time to show that you can do it with whatever wide receivers you have. You now have a ton of draft capital. You obviously have a huge contract.”
Yeah, Patrick Mahomes, show us you can do it with bums, the way John Elway and Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have done it with bums … as though the number of people accusing Hill of being responsible for Mahomes’ success has ever been more than zero.
Just so dumb.
But wait, there’s more.
“Andy Reid is about to earn his money. But if there's anyone who can understand how to use these draft picks and the business of the NFL to make plays, it's Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs.”
This is the best (or worst) part of Clark’s monologue, because the first sentence is spoken as though he’s forgotten Andy Reid coached the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl victory in 50 years two years ago and took them back the next year, too.
Then, as though remembering, he tells us if ANYBODY can figure out how to “use these draft picks and the business of the NFL to make plays” … what?
He’s just filling time.
Does he even know Brett Veach is the Chiefs GM, who seems to be doing all right for himself. Does he know every other NFL team has its own GM and at least some of them know what they’re doing?
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It’s silly false drama and the need to sound like you’re saying something important when you’re not, and you know who would have been able to give us far, far, far, far, far better analysis of Hill to the Dolphins for picks?
Not Adam Schefter, who may break every little bit of player personnel news in the NFL for ESPN’s benefit, but offers precious little else, because while journalism by tweet may give you the tick-tock of the league, it’s short on historic parallels, trending league macroeconomics, front office thinking behind the moves that fill the transaction list, to say nothing of the human story, because Hill’s got one of those, too.
Do anybody but Sooner fans even remember Hill played his college ball in Stillwater, or that he made the Pokes’ 2014 Bedlam victory possible, returning the do-over punt Bob Stoops chose to kick to him, hoping to pin OSU just a few yards deeper, for the touchdown that brought overtime?
John Clayton would have.
He would have placed it in historical context, could have stepped back and put Hill’s entire career in perspective, could have reminded us he’s not just a receiver, might have told us if the Dolphins were just trying to make a splash or if they believe inking a player like Hill offers a turning point, because he didn’t get all of his information from player agents, was plugged in throughout the league and, beyond all that, absolutely knew his stuff, allowing him to speak for himself with gravity and weight. (Read about Clayton’s insane work ethic here)
Now, gravity and weight have been replaced by intensity and volume, which may make believers of the dummies, delivering ratings, but leaves the rest of us who can think for ourselves feeling yelled at.
We’ve got a lot of analysts.
We’ve got a lot of insiders.
We have innumerable loud men able to make their hot take sound urgent and over-important.
We have few experts.
ESPN used to have them.
It had Chris Mortensen and Clayton on the NFL. It still has Mortensen, but he’s slowed down and, anyway, he’s never spoken in enough exclamation points for ESPN to want him leading the way now.
It used to have Peter Gammons on baseball and still has Tim Kurkijan and Buster Olney, and Jeff Passan, too, who kind of does what they do and what Shchefter and NBA news breaker Adrian Wojnarowski do with the NBA.
In one sport, at least, the Worldwide Leader’s covered. Now if it would just bring Baseball Tonight back seven days a week.
ESPN had voices you trusted, offering real knowledge. Now, led by the entirely imitable and ubiquitous Steven A. Smith, who may have created the whole genre, it’s got a bunch of people breathlessly yelling about things, as though it’s all so important, which is impossible, and precious few who actually make us smarter about what we’re watching.
There’s a part of me that feels like an old man standing on my porch.
I fear it’s a bad look.
On the other hand, there was a big NFL deal on Wednesday and, watching SportsCenter, when it was time for the analyst to weigh in, everything he said was hurried, loud, irrelevant and not remotely unique, because somebody else is bound to be those very same things today.
I miss John Clayton.
I miss what he gave us and what he meant. I miss the way we digested sports what seems like just 10 or 15 years ago, but maybe it was really 25.
I miss a time when those broadcasting them tried keeping you current and up to date without screaming at you, inventing non-existent dramas and choosing takes today that will be abandoned tomorrow, because being right isn’t nearly so important as being heard.
Hill probably helps the Dolphins.
The Chiefs probably couldn’t keep him.
Maybe Miami can finally grab our attention again.
It would be great if it could, given the Dolphins fantastic history, their still fantastic uniforms and what they meant to my oldest and best friend more than 40 years ago. All that and, eight years ago, who had Tyreek Hill breaking the NFL bank?
That’s pretty much it.
Even screamed at you, that’s pretty much it.
Unless John Clayton was here to tell us about it.
He’d have more.