Washington Redskins CB Josh Norman ignited a brief, but important debate, when he agreed to be a regular contributor for Fox’s NFL coverage this upcoming season. The first aspect of the debate centered around Norman’s statement that he hadn’t “told Coach [Jay] Gruden or [defensive coordinator Joe] Barry yet, but I’ll give them a nice shout out on TV”. And when asked about Norman’s television deal Gruden did not appear to know anything about it. The second part of the debate was whether or not Norman’s television appearances would be a distraction, either for him or for the Redskins.
As to telling his coaches, yes, Norman should have at least informed them, if not asked permission, before agreeing to the deal. To whether or not Norman’s appearances will be a distraction the issue is more complicated, as Mike Florio notes on Pro Football Talk,
Part of this conversation is whether or not athletes should be permitted interests and activities outside their duty to the team. The answer is obviously, yes, as long as those interests and activities do not detract from or impinge upon the athlete’s duty to the team. And that is where the question of Norman’s ability to contribute to Fox’s TV coverage becomes important. It is unknown exactly what Norman will be doing for Fox during the season and exactly when his appearances will occur, although FOX Sports president of production and executive producer John Entz said the network has made it a priority to “make sure we do not get in the way of anything on the field”.
Time will tell if Norman or the Redskins are somehow distracted as a result of his new role. But he is not the first active NFL player to have a job in the media during the NFL season. New York Jets WR Brandon Marshall, who began making regular appearances on Showtime’s Inside the NFL in 2014, was Norman’s inspiration. And Marshall has reignited this debate with recent comments.
Marshall told Albert Breer of The MMQB that when Ryan Pace and John Fox were hired as the General Manager and Head Coach, respectively, of the Bears in 2015 he approached them regarding his job with Inside the NFL.
“When I sat down with [GM] Ryan Pace and coach John Fox, we met, and I asked, ‘What do you guys think about this?’ It was a big topic,” Marshall said. “And Ryan Pace said, ‘Well, we can do that in the offseason.’ So I was like, ‘Well, what about half the season?’ ‘No.’ ‘What about once or twice?’ ‘No.’ ‘What about bye week?’ ‘No, you can do that in the offseason.’
“Right then, I knew I wouldn’t be a Bear anymore, because I think that the business of the NFL is growing every single day, and players are being told to stay in a box and just play football, and we’re missing out on a lot of opportunities, not only to grow as men and businessmen but to experience different things.
“You look at how unhealthy guys are when we walk away from the league or the game is taken away from us, 80 percent of us go broke, have problems, marital issues, because we’ve been defined by this sport for all of our lives,” Marshall continued. “So for me? You’ll never have this opportunity again to have a seat at any table in the world. And while we’re here, while we’re relevant, we should absolutely tap into it.”
The second part of what Marshall says is absolutely true. There is a double standard in professional sports, the NFL especially, about outside interests and activities. Why shouldn’t Josh Norman or Brandon Marshall be allowed to talk about football in another venue when coaches regularly have multiple media commitments during the season in which they talk football. Many players even have deals to appear on local radio shows during the season. And players should be able to take advantage of such opportunities when they are presented because who knows if they’ll ever be available again.
Part of the television appearances that teams surely take issue with is timing. Again, when exactly will Norman make his appearances? Will they be taped? Will he have to travel? How often will he have to do this? An aspect of Marshall’s Inside the NFL appearances with which the Bears took issue was the fact that Marshall had to travel back and forth to New York every week in order to tape the show. Did traveling have an impact on Marshall’s on-field performance? Looking simply at his stats it would appear not.
However, the problem with Marshall’s statement is the first part, which has nothing to do with Josh Norman. Brandon Marshall was not traded by the Bears to the Jets because of his television deal. Did it have some effect on the decision? Possibly. One reason the Bears appeared willing to let Martellus Bennett leave this offseason were his outside interests. But overall it wasn’t that important of a factor in the decision to get rid of Marshall. To think as much, as Marshall seems to, ignores everything else.
To wit, Marshall went on a tirade in the Bears’ locker room following the team’s 27-14 home loss to the Miami Dolphins, yelling at Bears K Robbie Gould and calling out QB Jay Cutler. Marshall held a lengthy press conference against the wishes of Bears management in which he addressed recent NFL decisions on domestic violence as well as his own history with domestic violence. A history about which he lied and blamed his victim. And his own teammates grew tired of his antics. This excerpt from Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks written following the 2014 season sums it up nicely:
“It appears to be at that point in the proceedings where Marshall has worn out his welcome in Chicago, much as he did in Denver and Miami before arriving in Chicago in 2012. While it’s not known yet whether the Bears will follow suit and decide less is more when it comes to Marshall and his spotlight-seeking ways, there are rumblings that the new management tandem of head coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace may see the gifted receiver as more a part of the problem in Chicago than the solution. Last season, Marshall angered some in the organization with his post-game outbursts against teammates, his weekly trip to New York for the taping of Showtime’s “Inside the NFL,” his occasional dust-ups on Twitter, and his propensity to display a me-first attitude. In other words, he was a lot closer to the diva receiver stereotype than he had been in his first two seasons as a Bear.”
So, yes, Marshall’s weekly television appearances were a source of friction. They simply weren’t the reason Marshall was traded. As noted by Banks, the Bears were Marshall’s third team. The Broncos and Dolphins didn’t get rid of Marshall because he wasn’t any good, he simply wasn’t worth the trouble. So, no, Brandon Marshall, you were traded because nobody liked you not because you were on television.
And herein lies the all-too-familiar lesson of professional sports: Teams will put up with ill behavior from players so long as their talent, production and team success warrants it. As long as Josh Norman produces and the Redskins are successful nobody will care about his TV deal.