Transcript: ESPN Media Conference Call with Dan Orlovsky and Marcus Spears


Transcript: ESPN Media Conference Call with Dan Orlovsky and Marcus Spears

Orlovsky and Spears to Appear Weekdays on Revamped NFL Live at 4 p.m. ET

ESPN NFL analysts Dan Orlovsky and Marcus Spears discussed the relaunch of NFL Live and the season ahead on a media conference call yesterday.

Beginning Monday, Aug. 17, NFL Live will air at its new time, 4-5 p.m. ET, with a new host, Laura Rutledge, and a consistent roster of NFL analysts in Orlovsky, Spears, Keyshawn Johnson and Mina Kimes.

The audio replay is available on ESPN Press Room. The transcript is as follows:

ORLOVSKY: Hello. Good morning, everybody. A couple things to start off with. First of all, thank you guys for your time. This is obviously the first step in a really cool process for us. Just want you guys to know kind of why myself and Marcus are so excited for this new kind of opportunity, venture, what to expect in the show.

First of all, something that maybe not a lot of people know, Marcus and I came out of school the same year. We were in the same draft class. Spent a lot of interaction together: Senior Bowl, combines, all that stuff. I’ve known Marcus for a long time.

Marcus became quickly somebody that I was friendly with when we played. When we worked together over the last 18 months, he was someone that I automatically clicked with because I appreciated his intellect, his energy, his enthusiasm, but also the ability to go after him, and challenge some of the things he said, knowing he wouldn’t take it personal. I think quickly he realized I was the same way, that Marcus could challenge the things I was saying. It forced us to be better, think deeper.

That obviously makes it better for people who are trying to watch and learn football. The person I’m working with, as far as analysts, Marcus, that I’ve done this in the past is a big deal.

I have really over the last year kind of gained appreciation for Mina Kimes. To be honest with you guys, I was probably one of those people as a player that did not think highly of people who talked football that did not play it. Pure ignorance on my end. Then just working with Mina a little bit, but also I am in a group chat with Mina, and just kind of hearing her talk football, it was so easy for me, this is truth, I many a times messaged Mina saying, You know more about football than the person talking about it who played it. So the opportunity to work with her and collaborate with her, I’m super excited for.

For Laura, I’ve worked with Laura for about a year now. At the absolute top of the pro food chain. She is fantastic at what she does. Then really appreciate talking football and learning about football.

I’ve worked with Key a little bit. Obviously I love to get into it with Keyshawn because I know he is willing to kind of share his thoughts and speak his mind. The core of the group I’m fired up for.

This gives us our own platform, our own opportunity, to create and become whatever we want to become. I know that I take immense pride in that. It’s kind of how I got into this business. I think we take immense pride in trying to become the best, most educational, most entertaining pro football show on television. That is the goal. Those are the expectations for us as a crew.

We have to figure out the vibe of our show. It’s definitely going to be young and vibrant. We have to figure out our personalities. We know a little bit about them, how they’re going to work together. Our friendships are real. Our interactions are real. That’s probably going to be the centerpiece of what we’re going to do.

We’ve got to challenge the way people think. We have to have the conversations that other people aren’t having. We have to educate the viewer in ways that other people aren’t doing. That’s kind of the focal point of our show.

We have to teach people, people got to get to know us and football. They should walk away from that show knowing us and football better. We have to have some uncomfortable conversations. When it comes to, ‘I think this, I don’t see it that way,’ That really is when people start to learn. We have to make people’s 40 minutes worth it, excluding commercials. We have to make it worth people’s time. That’s the goal.

You’re going to see intensity, passion, authenticity, you’ll see us talking about what’s going on, what’s interesting, a lot of those things. There might be a breakdown or two in there for myself as well. Super fired up for the opportunity. I think our goal is to realize — not our goal but our focal point, mindset, we start from the bottom now. All of us have done some things, whatever you want to quantify them as. We start from the bottom now. The goal is to be on an absolute rocket ship to the top. We’ll do it one day at a time.

Again, thanks for your time. I’m sure Marcus wants to say something.

SPEARS: As you guys can see, probably next year we’re going to up NFL Live to two hours so I have a few minutes to talk while the show is going on. Dan is long-winded and that’s what he’s going to do anyway (laughter).

I think it’s just the excitement level that everybody has around this show. Listen, we all know television, you all work in this business. You know you’re as good as the people behind the scenes. I think sometimes that gets a little lost. The analysts out front, they’re on television. Obviously we take the negativity more, but we also take the credit more when things work out.

We have an amazing team that won’t be on screen supporting us. I think that’s the most important thing in my time in television I’ve learned you’re only as good as the people that don’t show up on television. We feel like we put a great team together between Seth Markman and Mike Cambareri. Those two guys running point, Lee Fitting, as well as running point on getting everything situated and set up. I think everybody is in a good spot, comfortable spot.

If you all have ever seen myself, it’s transparency is the most important thing, authenticity is the most important thing, and having fun. I always say if I’m not having fun, I’m going to go find something else to do. I think everybody on this show relates to that. We like to enjoy what we’re doing. We like to enjoy our jobs. People obviously don’t want to tune into television and see mad people doing TV with no enthusiasm, no energy as far as where they’re going.

I think one of the points that Seth Markman, one of the greats here at ESPN, made was something that’s poignant. I think we need to say it. So many people do tremendous work on NFL Live. Since its inception in 1998, the names and the lists go on as some greats in this business. NFL Live is not broken. This is not a revamp because things weren’t going well or people before our main crew were set up and situated weren’t doing their jobs at a high level. They all did their jobs at a high level. I enjoyed my time working with a lot of them.

This direction is something that I’m super excited about because I think playing on teams as long as I have been, I like to have a bit of responsibility personally to how things go. That’s the point of excitement for me, is that if it works or fails, I need to know what I need to do different if it doesn’t work out. And if it works, it’s something to be proud of because you did it along with the team.

I echo a lot of what Dan said about the crew on NFL Live, tremendous people. I think it’s important to point that out. Dan and I formulated a friendship that eventually turned into a brotherhood. His kids call me uncle, his wife made me keto meals when I stayed the night at his house in Connecticut. He got me acclimated to the worst weather I’ve ever experienced in my life in Connecticut. He had to actually drive to the studio because we would have ended up off a cliff if I had to drive that morning.

I played with Key in Dallas. I’ve been knowing Keyshawn for a long time. He was one of the wily vets when I was playing with the Cowboys. A lot of knowledge, a lot of outspokenness. He embodies the ability to have freedom in analyzing football and what you say. Provocative sometimes, people won’t agree with you, but at times that’s what the job calls for.

I echo what Dan said about Mina. I’m not sure if I’ve met a more impressive female, number one, from a mindset standpoint. She was summa cum laude at Yale. It’s easier to get drafted in the NFL than to be summa cum laude at Yale. Then her football acumen, it does not need to be asked about, it’s one of those things where people have a natural knack for what they do. That’s how we describe Mina. She’s built and born to be doing what she’s going to be doing, that’s breaking down NFL football in a way that people are going to enjoy more than they already know.

Then Laura and I have been working together since my inception in television over at SEC Network. I’ve never seen her flustered, I’ve never seen her in a role she didn’t master, have the ability to be great at. Her leading the way in hosting is something I pushed for, I wanted to happen badly, because of just the comfort level, but also knowing how good and also how much she can challenge analysts on a television show to get the best out of them.

Excitement would be how I would describe it for myself personally about the team, our interactions that we’ve had since this has been announced. Launching Monday on the 17th. At all costs, I go back and echo what Dan said: we want to be the best sports show on television. Not the best football show, not the best NFL show. We want to be the best sports show on television. We know that’s going to take a lot of hard work. We know the people behind the scenes are going to deserve more of the credit than what we do when we get in front of the camera.

That’s all I have. Thank you for giving me the time. I look forward to y’all questions.

  1. Dan, I’m interested in the Raiders, and Derek Carr seems to be the biggest key to their season. Your thoughts on Derek as a quarterback, basically can he get it done?

ORLOVSKY: I’ve actually been somebody who kind of stumps for Derek over the past two years or so. Two years ago the Raiders needed to move up some. I believe Derek Carr is still good enough to win a bunch of football games. There was some conversation bringing Marcus in the off-season.

It’s the number one area that I want to see Derek Carr become what he was, what, three years ago when he was trending really well. Derek has to get his stinger back, meaning he’s got to be willing to push the football down the field more, put the football in harm’s way.

I never like when people say: Protect the football. You protect your children. You never want anything bad to happen to them. Sometimes you got to put the football in harm’s way to become really good or great at that position, to generate stuff through offense. We didn’t see that from Derek last year.

There’s two variables that would come into play when it comes to that. One, that’s not necessarily Gruden and Olson’s offense. Those guys have been running your ball control, completion generated or completion-based offense for a long time. They’ve also got to be more willing to call chunk plays.

Two, they didn’t have necessarily anybody that was going to run by anyone. As much of the burden of that falls on Derek’s shoulders, he’s got to get his stinger back and trust that he can make those throws week after week after week after week. I want to see more out of Gruden and Greg Olson. I’ve known those guys for a long time. I want to see more out of them to trust him to make those throws, willing to call those plays.

Ruggs has to be what so many thought he would be coming out of the draft. He has to be the vertical speed threat that puts the fear into a defense every single play, this ball could go over our heads.

That’s my viewpoint on Carr. If he gets the stinger back, and they’re more aggressive as an offense, is very good as far as going downfield, you’ll see a massive jump in really the big plays out of Carr. He’s been so good with all the other aspects of his game, but more getting his stinger back, pushing the ball downfield.

  1. Marcus, what do you see in the Raiders, maybe the defense?

SPEARS: Yeah, initially I think one guy that people should look forward to on the offensive side is Bryan Edwards. I watched him in South Carolina. A big, physical receiver that may make some noise by season’s end. People really respect him lining up out there as well.

Defensively, getting Johnathan Abram back to put a mentality on that side of the football. Obviously he became popular on Hard Knocks. But he’s a Mississippi State guy that I had a chance to watch. He seeks and destroys. I think you have to have that in this day and age in the league. You have to have force commander type guys. We see Jamar Adams ended up in Seattle in that role. I think Abram has some of that ability that Jamar has. I think he’s going to give them a big boost.

Clelin Ferrell and Arden Key have to come on. We know this league is a passing league. You have to be able to rush the passer over these guys on the edges. They have to come on. I like Maliek Collins. Loved him more when he was in a Cowboys uniform. The fact I think he’s a really good defensive tackle. He can push the pocket. He can rush the passer. This is going to have to be one of those defensive crews by effort. Their best players are going to have to show up.

They bring in Prince Amukamara, and then Damon Arnette, the cornerback from Ohio State. He’s a hell of a football player. The defense can be really good if these guys mature fast. I need to see more pass-rush, though. That’s going to be the key. We look across the league at that ability, we looked at the two teams that played in the Super Bowl, we looked at teams that ended up in the Playoffs. They all had a guy or two that could change the games up front. I think that’s going to be the story for the Raiders this year.

If not, they’ll struggle, bottom line. If they can’t get to the quarterback, if they can’t create pressure, they’ll struggle on that side of the ball. I feel good about the guys on the back end. Up front is where my concern is. If they can make strides in that, I look forward to them being real players as far as being able to compete.

Obviously you’re not picking them to win the division that they’re in. I would venture to say right now it looks like they’re the fourth-best team in the conference, even though the Chargers were bad last year. Right now you feel comfortable with the other three rosters more. If these young players come along…

  1. Cam Newton. The Patriots are going from Tom Brady who averages I believe three rushing yards per game to Cam Newton who is one of the most accomplished scrambling quarterbacks in NFL history. How do you expect Josh McDaniels to incorporate Cam’s athletic scrambling ability, running ability? With Cam losing weight, trying to slim down, can he be big bad Cam running over people?

ORLOVSKY: I would say Josh is equipped to do this. Having to coach multiple games with a bunch of different players, especially at that position, you learn this guy stinks at this, so we’re not going to do that, quarterback or not. You learn to really formulate plans upon or around what people do well.

We know Cam is a runner first and a thrower second. I think the first thing is, I’ve said this, what is Cam’s willingness to be a runner still? That is a question that has to be answered because we haven’t seen that since the injury. We don’t know where that is since the injury.

Let’s play the game of yes, Cam is willing to be the Cam that we’ve grown to know and appreciate. Here is the thing it does for their offense. It takes away or minimizes their greatest weakness because their weakness is 100% the skill players on the outside. It accentuates or maximizes their strength, which is the offensive line and the run game, even if Marcus Cannon has opted out.

The challenge when play callers go we want to run the football, the defense doesn’t respect the people on the outside, they think the receivers aren’t very good, the defense will always have one more player near the football than the offense because they just play one-on-one on the outside. If you have seven guys near the football, the defense is going to have eight. That’s always the challenge, is trying to account for that extra player. Coaches will go into crazy hours of film trying to scheme up ways to minimize that one player’s impact.

When you have a running quarterback, you now even the numbers game, the playing field. Not only Cam being a runner but being the threat of a runner will help their overall run game. Now that puts some pressure on the defense to figure out how they’re going to try to contain when it’s eight-on-eight, seven-on-seven. That is a massive advantage to an offense. Then it becomes one-on-one football truly in the run game.

That’s how I expect them to utilize Cam, certainly if he’s willing to be the runner.

Pass game-wise, they’re going to try to get the ball out of Cam’s hands as fast as possible, then utilize run game action for big chunks. A lot of people think they’re going to try to do quick play-action, fake, get the ball out. I don’t see that. I think they’re going to try to get chunks in their play-action game because they know they’re going to need it. This is not going to be the Tom Brady that went nine for nine on a drive, hit six completions under five yards. I think they’re going to try to push the ball downfield using run action.

They’ve won so many games offensively because they were the best at execution. I think if they’re going to win games this year, they’re going to do it because they’re going to be the best at confusion on offense. They’re going to confuse people with so much motion and shift, then post-snap creativity with Cam.

The only question I have is can they win playing that style football. I’ve seen them win a gajillion games. They changed their style, from the foundational aspect of it was, what he did with the ball. We’ll have to see if they can win consistently with Cam running that style of offense.

  1. Dan, what do guys like Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota need to do to get back to quarterbacks people thought they were going to be coming out of college?

ORLOVSKY: We’ve seen it countless times in the NFL. We saw it last year in Tennessee with Ryan. The biggest thing for both of them right now is they can learn playing the position and learn playing the position at a high level without having the pressure of you have to go win football games. I’ve said that for a long time.

That is so hard on young quarterbacks. Hey, man, you’ve got to not only learn this playbook, but you got to execute it on the field, run the defense’s playbook, execute it against what they’re doing in three seconds really well 65 straight times, also pressure of winning the football game because if you don’t you’re going to get handled in the media and the fans. That’s a lot to take in.

Being able to learn different offenses and learn how certain quarterbacks run stuff, certain quarterbacks speak stuff. I’ve always thought against coverage three, running this play, my eyes should be here, or I want to move this defender. You know what, I’ve always had a lot of success, Drew Brees, doing this with my body this, my shoulders, playing with this type of rhythm. You can work on that without the pressure of you better get this by Sunday because we have to have you playing and executing to win.

Just the lack of the pressure of going out and performing.

When you’re a backup, you feel your week is different because your role changes. Your role has become so much about everybody else. Some of the backups think, my number one job is to be ready to play. You’re a professional football player. You’re number one job is to make sure that the third string tailback is ready to play and the number four receiver is ready to play because those guys are going to be ones that more likely impact the football game.

You just learn different ways of thinking and communicating. That helps you understand things better. They’ll be ready to play, but I just think that lack of pressure for them on a week-to-week basis will be a big deal. Can they get back? Of course. Will they get back is all about, to be honest with you, getting lucky. They’ve got to get on the field. Teddy Bridgewater got lucky, got on the field for five games with a good football team, played well.

Their stories are not written yet. But they need to continue to stay impatiently patient, meaning they got to keep on their grind, know and hope, fingers crossed, that that opportunity will present itself and when it does strike.

  1. What do you see are expectations for Tua this year? Marcus, what is the most important for him this year?

ORLOVSKY: Realistic expectations for Tua should be very low. I have been outspoken, I would not play Tua until at the earliest the last month of the season. If you told me that the Dolphins are out of the Playoff picture, but we still have most of our starters healthy, we want to get Tua Tagovailoa starts at the end of the season, I’m all for that. I would 100% do that.

But there’s no reason, no justifiable reason, to put Tua on the field in September, October, early November. You are not a Playoff team or even — you’re not going to make a Playoff run. You’re an improved football team, your head coach, your general manager are fighting for their jobs. The young man is, what are we August, what is he, 160 or 180 days removed from questions being tied to will he ever walk again. There’s no preseason football. Can we allow him to get comfortable moving in his body first in an NFL environment on practice without the worry of, can my hip really hold up? Can we give him a full year of rehab of getting his body completely strong to withstand those beatings?

For that reason, if I was Grier and Flores, I would have already come out and said there is no chance Tua starts in any of our first 12 games, no chance. I’ve been committed to that. I want him to get used to NFL life. I want him to get used to being away from Alabama. I want him to get confident in his body so he can go be the player I saw at Alabama. I don’t want to put the pressure or worry of that 1% doubt of, am I truly ready health-wise to take this hit?

  1. How important is the new environment in Vegas for Marcus Mariota?

SPEARS: To compound off of what Dan said, I’ve been a firm believer that sometimes, whether it be by injury or by demotion, the ability to watch the game helps tremendously. I’ve seen players in my career even suffer an injury and sit out and really be able to absorb everything that’s going on from a verbiage standpoint, from being able to see the day in, day out of what quarterbacks can do without the pressure of having to play.

It speaks to a lot of what Dan just said. I think environment changes can rejuvenate a player when you talk about the psychological point of it. It can give you a different scenery, belief system with the coaches you’re surrounded by, the confidence that you need for coaches to give you to go out and do your job on an effective level and possibly a better fit outside of the game.

All of those things play into success on the field. Mariota obviously being from the West Coast, the westest of the West Coast, getting closer to home and being able to just be in a new environment. We all know Gruden’s personality, we all know how he loves quarterbacks. He’s done a good job with those guys over his career. I think this change will be great for him. Almost like Tannehill leaving Miami and going to Tennessee. It could potentially do those things.

I think, too, when you look at Marcus Mariota, he needs to have more confidence playing the game. One of his major downfalls to me watching him in his time before he lost the job was that he just had no confidence in what he was doing, and he played that way. He played timid. Hopefully this reinvigorates him and gives him the opportunity to see the game differently, hopefully project him to somewhere else. If Carr is not the guy for Gruden, Mariota may be able to show him some things where he can take over the reins.

  1. Your thoughts on (a) do you think the league will make it through an entire season given what you see going on in college football? (B) What effect do you think all of these restrictions will kind of impact on the product once we finally get to the field?

SPEARS: To the first part of that question, the league will trudge ahead. They are going to be intent on finishing the season. Obviously the plans and protocols have shown in Major League Baseball, you can have all the preparation and planning you want to have, but COVID is going to reach the NFL. Players are going to come down with COVID. The NFL I think is going to present the information to us publicly, but they are going to move forward and just go about either having to replace guys or playing without them.

When you look at what Major League Baseball did, which I think is the best blueprint, the Marlins team, obviously they had to postpone some games. If the NFL does that, possibly not having a chance to make up those games creates a major issue. I’ve had conversations with people in the league, people around the game, and players themselves, that they believe would stop the season with one caveat: If COVID runs rampant on every single team in the league. If it’s an isolated situation, four or five guys on the team gets it, that may affect that individual team depending on who those players are, if that’s performing Sunday, Saturday, Thursday, whenever they’re going to play, but they’re going to play. That’s been their plan from the forefront.

This was a very simple process for the NFL as well. We see in college that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 already announcing they’re not going to play. One of the issues has been, there is no way to streamline the conversation about if we want to play or not. Unlike in the professional league, you got the union, you got the commissioner, and the owners. If we come up with an agreement, a protocol, we’re going to play. They plan to forge ahead during the season.

To the second part of your question, I think you’re going to see a lot of football that we haven’t seen in a while when it comes to not looking good. But it won’t take long. These guys are pros. There’s a tremendous amount of respect for how these guys, how quickly they get back to ‘football shape, football acumen’, the level of the game they can play.

You feel bad for the rookies. Joe Burrow comes to mind. The pressure to be a starter, not having a full off-season, not actually being in the building, will be a tough role to go forward.

Listen, it is going to be I believe for the first couple weeks, we’re going to see some things as far as execution, trying to make sure everybody is on the same page, with new players on teams, not the ability to go through and actually compete day in, day out, not having the opportunity to practice with other teams during training camp, obviously not having a few plays in preseason to test yourself out against other teams. It won’t take long for them to get going. It will be NFL football like we know it.

ORLOVSKY: I’ll add two things to that. First of all, when it comes to the players and can they pull it off or how will they pull it off, watched Hard Knocks last night, listening to Sean McVay referencing the Marlins, looking at what happened with the Twins. I believe two of their players were caught or whatever in doing something outside of kind of the protocol or the rules that have come across with baseball. They’ve gotten in trouble, fined. Their teammates have been outspoken about them letting them down. There’s 32 head coaches in the NFL, and all 32 will be using those examples constantly.

I think everybody needs to be reminded that not everybody is perfect in the NFL, but these are professionals and they take their craft very, very prideful. A lot of them were forced with the decision a week ago of, can I play football and live in this environment that is set up for us, or do I opt out? A lot of them know the only way to make it through this season and get their money is to avoid doing some of the things they’ve done in their life in the past.

So, no, they’re probably not going to be able to go to dinners during the season, movie theaters, bowling alleys, clubs, whatever. A lot of those guys I trust will make those decisions because the head coaches will be constantly on top of them in regards to that.

Two, they’ve set up a fine system. If you break something like that, if you get found breaking something when it comes to the coronavirus protocol, you’re going to get fined.

Three, there’s a great amount of accountability in NFL locker rooms, not wanting to let each other down for a great majority of the NFL. That’s why I trust kind of them being able to pull it off.

The second part would be about what kind of football we’re going to see.

Yes, we don’t have camp, no preseason games, it’s going to certainly look different. This is also the freshest group of NFL players we’ve ever had. These guys have not had the burden of a full off-season. Sometimes the wearing down of the body that starts in March, April, May, June, coaches pushing the envelope. When I was in Indy Bill Polian would not allow the guys to start their off-season till May or June because of the amount of snaps they played in the previous season because they wanted them fresh for the future season.

Trying to look at it in a positive aspect, this is the freshest we will ever see these NFL football players. That will pay dividends at some point in the season.

  1. Your thoughts on yesterday’s Pac-12 and Big Ten, your thoughts on how this impacts next year’s draft? Marcus, as a guy who was a first-round pick, maybe you can answer out of a player perspective for guys like Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence? Dan, if you’re an NFL GM, you wonder if you have buyer’s remorse having traded a commodity like Jamal Adams, what do you do with them now? Throwing it out there to see what you guys’ thoughts are.

ORLOVSKY: I say this. This all comes down to when you’re drafting, traits versus production. That’s the fine balancing act that drafting in the NFL is. Man, this player was so productive in college football. Okay, now the reasons he was productive were his traits, schemes. Were those traits allowing him to be as productive when he comes into the NFL?

Yeah, there is going to be a challenge tied to this for the NFL scouts and GMs, absolutely. But the tape is the tape is the tape, always has been, always will be. It’s not like these guys have never played college football.

Micah Parsons played a lot of football last year for Penn State. When you watch him play, you love his tape. He was a super productive linebacker. Okay, will those traits translate for us in the NFL? Do we believe that the player on the field can carry over the things he did trait-wise and talent-wise onto an NFL football field?

Justin Fields had a great season last year. He was super productive. The skills that he has at the quarterback position when it comes to getting his body in a line to throw, the decision making, the tempo, trajectory of the football, how he grew from barely playing some at Georgia, transferring, can this guy be a thrower of the football early in the season, then watching him progress, does that trait transfer over to the NFL?

Those are the conversations that these teams will have in meeting rooms and whatnot. I could absolutely see the NFL allowing 30 visits, the NFL should allow 50 visits. They should up the amount of times you can bring a guy onto your grounds.

Let’s make the hypothetical world of we’re in a better place as a society and a world next spring. Are we going to be allowed to bring more people onto our facility grounds? Can we bring the same guy multiple times? There will have to be some adjustments by the NFL.

This all comes down to traits versus production. The one year starter thing, Joe Burrow is basically a one year starter, started two years at LSU, first year people barely watched. I think there is a little bit of, uh-oh, what are we going to do?

There will be challenges. But there’s definitely ways when you’re good at what you do, this should not have tremendous impact on what you’re going to do.

Joe Douglas will be fine with how he drafts.

SPEARS: The impact for me is a bit different. I use the guys that were either (indiscernible) guys to be drafted, the difference one season can make, or even guys that will be undrafted being in a better situation and having the opportunity to play.

Then two transfers, Jamie Newman transferred to Georgia. The SEC doesn’t play. They’re going to have to go off film from two years ago. It’s just a lot of things that this presents that will be difficult for the evaluation process.

I’m more in line with Dan saying look, guys, go out and do your jobs. You draft off of seeing film, but you also draft off of speculation, measurables, what you think guys will turn into from their rookie season going down the road.

When I was coming out as a draft pick in ’05, it was the normal process. I cannot imagine being in this particular predicament as a senior if you haven’t already established yourself as a potential first-round draft pick or a high-round draft pick, and you put the off-season work in, try to give yourself the best opportunities to jump the board.

Joe Burrow may have been a free agent before this past season. He may have been a sixth- or seventh-round pick. You go from that to being the first pick of the draft, that can happen. We just saw it happen.

The Big Ten, Pac-12 decision, I’ve been very careful on being critical or even having a lot of thoughts about it. Medical professionals, people that are more knowledgeable about how to deal with COVID-19, I would like to think that’s what the decision is based off of for those particular conferences. Yeah, there’s a tremendous amount of collateral damage, not only to the players but guys that won’t ever play the game again.

You have a freshman class coming in, now you deal with a numbers issue. You also have things that have an effect outside of the stadium. Cities, these little towns that major college teams are in, especially my background in the SEC, that thrive off of the four- or five-month football season.

I think everybody had an emotional reaction to it, a bit of shock. Never in my lifetime would have thought that there would potentially be no football in the fall. But here is where we are.

The Pac-12, Big Ten, they made a decision hopefully based off of what medical professionals told them. We’ll see how the other three conferences of the Power 5 go about making their decision.

It’s just a tough year. It’s a tough year for college football. To that point, they cannot streamline a message. Conferences are basically on their own. NCAA has been quiet about giving kind of an overall view of what should happen. When you don’t have one, two or three parties that can get together and make a decision to go forward with risk, because every league is doing it with risk, this is I think a byproduct of it.

With that being said, it will affect a part of the process in the draft. It will affect guys personally, emotionally. So it’s just an unfortunate situation that a lot of these guys can’t play this year in two conferences as of right now.

  1. Dan, your expectations for Dwayne Haskins based on what we saw last year, based on what you heard in the off-season, having to learn a new offense. Marcus, expectations for Chase Young.

ORLOVSKY: For Dwayne Haskins, his performance for me will be so much more about off the field than on the field. On the field, they don’t have much help. Their offensive line is probably going to be subpar. Kelvin Harmon obviously has the injury. That’s a big blow. Hopefully Trey Quinn is back and healthy. To sit here and ask me to have high expectations for Dwayne on the field is so unrealistic and unfair.

Now, this is what I want to see. It’s going to be a difficult season for Dwayne. Can you handle the suckiness of the NFL as a quarterback? I want to see do you have the maturity to lead us through this transition, to lead us through difficult and dark times? Can you be locked in mentally and be the CEO of our billion dollar company?

I know what is around you is not fair. I know that there’s other young quarterbacks that get a lot more help. We will get there. But I need to see you every single day be our leader and be the guy that is bringing us what we need off the field, even when we are struggling.

I don’t want to see finger pointing. I don’t want to see your head hang low. I don’t want you to accept struggle and accept failure or losing. I just want to see you steer us through it. That for me will be much more important than what Dwayne Haskins does on the field because I’m a realistic person in seeing they don’t have much help.

Learning a new offense. Listen, that’s part of playing, part of the world of the NFL. If you’re super fortunate like a Drew Brees, can play in the same system for 14 plus years, that’s awesome. Tom, they also changed offenses in New England sporadically. There’s a challenge to it.

He’s a super bright kid. I know there’s a narrative out there last year. I don’t see that on tape. From what I have seen from him at Ohio State, his rookie year, then seen and heard during this off-season, him learning a new offense will not be a challenge. He will grasp it, he can handle the moments.

I want to see, do I trust and believe in Dwayne Haskins off the field as the leader of our organization? As much as I believe in his talent on the football field as a performer or executer of our offense.

SPEARS: On the other side of the ball, Chase Young will be in the conversation if not this year we’ll see the flash of the Bosa brothers, we’ll see them in the conversation with Von Miller, all of the guys that are highly effective getting to the passer.

He is as ready to be a defensive end, outside linebacker, whatever you want him to play. He was ready last year to be a superstar in the NFL.

He is everything you want a guy to be at that position, especially day one coming in. He’s long. He’s rangy. He has an uncanny ability to bend around the end. When I say that, how low can you get to the ground without losing speed and closing to the quarterback. He’s strong enough to play the run and set the edge.

This was as sure of a pick as it could possibly be, like so many guys we’ve seen. People are going to have to game plan for him. Jonathan Allen, if he can stay healthy, he has shown he can be a star at defensive tackle. Daron Payne, he can be big, physical, push the pocket on pass-rush, but also be a stalwart in the middle. Kerrigan, Thomas Davis came over, provide some leadership. This should be a really good defense.

Jack Del Rio watched as much film for NFL Live as anybody. I don’t expect him to miss a beat either getting these guys going. He wants to force pressure. He wants to be able to rush with four and let his back end play and track the ball down. The fact that they added Chase Young in this draft only enhances that. He’ll be a guy that we’ll talk about for years to come. He’ll get one of these ungodly contracts after this rookie deal. It’s not enough good things I can say about him because as a football player he’s exactly what you want in a defensive end.

  1. Lamar Jackson, what’s the next frontier for him? Dan, I’m interested in your view as a former quarterback. Marcus, I’m interested in your view as a defender of what he can make himself even more difficult to play.

ORLOVSKY: I’ll say this for Lamar, people take this the wrong way, I don’t really care what Lamar does in the regular season, I love watching him. He’s absolutely spectacular. I expect him to have a similar season this year as he did last year. The guy is remarkable.

Yes, the unfair expectation is what are you going to do when it becomes win or go home. He got way too much blame for last year. People have said he’s got to get better at throwing the ball outside of the numbers. Why? Why does he have to get better at throwing the ball outside the numbers? Maybe that’s just not what their offense is predicated upon. Maybe their play-caller, their quarterback coach go, this is something that Lamar isn’t great in. Why am I going to ask him to do that? I get hung up on that. I just don’t agree with that.

I’m interested in seeing two things, how they impact Lamar:

One, the loss of Marshal Yanda. You can make the case he was their best player. Then losing their best player or at worst their second best player is not an easy thing to replicate or plug-and-play because of the style of their offense.

Two, them moving on from Hayden Hurst. They were a team that was so difficult, I talked about this all season, they were so difficult to just line up against last year because of their three tight end set. It made things I don’t want to say easy for Lamar, but it made things simpler to understand for Lamar.

I know where I’m going to go with the football before the ball ever gets snapped because the way you’re lined up, three tight end set. Then not having that, or at least Hayden, who is going to replace Hayden, will he be as impactful, will they run as many three tight end sets.

When you’re running those, man, it simplifies so much stuff. I want to see them kind of navigating that, how that impacts Lamar. I don’t think he needs to get better at throwing the ball outside the numbers. You want to see people get better at all that stuff, of course. But it’s not going to be this handicapping or a handcuffing aspect of his game. He will replicate last year very much so. He will continue to be one of the most electrifying, best players in football.

When it comes win or go home, your team falls down 14-3, 3-0, the style of offense you want to play isn’t applicable any more, you can’t play that any more because we’re in the second quarter, there’s only so much time left in the game, can you kind of overcome those deficiencies and still be the best player on the field. That’s what I will be watching from Lamar and really Baltimore this season.

SPEARS: I think as a defender, he was asking me what would you want Lamar to do if you defend against him.

I think it goes to what Dan said, you want him to be a passer rather than having all of the tools he has the ability to use. When I say more of a passer, that’s not to slight his ability to throw a football. He did it at a high clip and high level.

Then you got to limit the people around him. I don’t think he gets talked about enough, I think Dan brought up a great point about Marshal Yanda. I had the opportunity to play against him. He was unbelievable at the guard spot. Also the Ravens ran the ball very well last year, which helped Lamar in the play-action game, which helped him push the ball downfield.

They were in a lot of funky sets, a defense that was a different type of game plan, when you had become accustomed to playing the conventional offenses. I want to see how he adjusts to that, if defensive coordinators have figured out a way to limit some of the things that Baltimore was able to exploit with the three tight end set, the ability to pour a lot of people in the box, make it a one-on-one situation on the outside, how they adjusted and how Lamar counteracts that.

The one thing I would tell my defense if we was playing against Lamar Jackson is make sure you say your prayers the night before the game and hope that he’s not on. That is the only way. He’s going to get you. He’s going to get you a number of times. I played against guys like that. They’re going to get you. A bad game for those guys is only having two touchdowns.

It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the adjustments that defensive coordinators make for him this year. Obviously we all want to know when they get in the Playoffs how he’s going to lift his team beyond what he’s been able to do the first two years, can he take that next step like we saw Mahomes do, come from deficits, make game-winning plays, game-changing plays. That’s the only question we have, is once he gets into one of those situations where he’s behind.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


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Allie Stoneberg

I advance ESPN’s communications and publicity efforts for NFL studio programming, Monday Night Football, the NFL Draft and our coverage of the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League. I enjoy meeting journalists in person at games and events and delight in showing them around our Bristol, Conn., campus.
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