Any rational person knew that once Carson Wentz was knocked out of the Eagles’ season-ending loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the National Football League had a legitimate interest in seeing the Seahawks and not the Eagles make the trip to Wisconsin to face the Green Bay Packers next week.
The Eagles were a compelling story at the end of the regular season, partly because of their resilience in coping with crippling injuries to elite, top-end talent all over the field and partly because, well, all the other NFC playoff berths were claimed before Week 17. The Eagles were going to be must-see TV on NBC against the Seahawks by default because they were playing in the last game of the wild card weekend.
But that’s about as much as the NFL really needed or wanted from the Eagles. League commissioner Roger Goodell was in the building and presumably witnessed the play where Seahawks’ defensive end Jadeveon Clowney targeted the helmet of Wentz as the quarterback was going to ground. He’d probably never answer the question, but he couldn’t have been too heartbroken to see the Eagles’ chances to survive for another weekend driven into the turf.
What’s best for television is what’s best for the league, and vice versa. It’s remarkably easy for Fox to hype: “Russell Wilson! Aaron Rodgers! A trip to the NFC title game on the line!” Conversely, this is less palatable: “Josh McCown! Boston Scott! Fletcher Cox facing a quadruple team! Can the Eagles cover getting 13?”
You can accept all of that as true and still be disgusted by the tacit cynicism of the broadcast team covering the game. The refusal of both Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth to make even a token effort to point out that Clowney’s hit on Wentz was not just illegal but worthy of ejection was “protecting the shield” in a way that diminishes their credibility:
Disappointment that the NBC crew didn’t address the Clowney hit once as a potential cheap shot or missed call. Have a discussion. Being Terry Macaulay in. Just a really awful broadcast.
— Kevin Cooney (@KevinCooney) January 6, 2020
I started to get the idea that Wentz knocked himself out of that game.
— Mike Lupica (@MikeLupica) January 6, 2020
As jaded as Michaels and Collinsworth were, though, sideline reporter Michele Tafoya sold her journalistic credibility for 30 pieces of silver with these two – TWO – questions she asked Clowney after the game:
“You told me the other day that you were really hurting, that that core injury was bothering you, but you knew the team needed your energy — what were you able to do?”
“28 sacks in the regular season for this team, seven tonight, how do you explain that?”
I’ll spare you Clowney’s many-words-saying-little answers. What an honest man might have said would be this: “Well, what I was able to do was I was able to take out their quarterback with a headhunting hit. As for the seven sacks, hey, their two best offensive linemen (Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson) didn’t play and once the 40-year-old backup QB came in, it was open season out there.”
Tafoya asked two questions of the player who knocked Wentz out of the game with a cheap shot, and neither of the questions was even as open-ended as: “Tell me about the play with Carson.” It’s one thing not to take a position; it’s quite another to avoid the only relevant question entirely.
That’s adding insult to injury.