ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky set off something of a firestorm earlier this week, when asked about Justin Fields during an interview with Pat McAfee. The former NFL punter asked him why the Ohio State quarterback appeared to be falling in the NFL Draft, and he gave an answer that many took issue with.
While Orlovsky said that he didn’t personally know why Fields may be slipping, he did quote some anonymous NFL sources of his, for why it may be the case. He said that he’s been told that Fields is the “last one in and first one out” for practice, and that there are questions about his “work ethic” and “desire to be a great quarterback.”
The quotes come days after the San Francisco 49ers traded up to the No. 3 pick, which many took as a sign that Fields could head out West. Now, numerous analysts are pointing to Alabama’s Mac Jones as the potential pick there instead. The last two issues he brought up fly in the face of everything we know about Fields. He’s the player who was among the most active in lobbying for a 2020 season to happen, even though he probably would have been a first-round pick without one occurring, and who played through a nasty injury and had his best career game in the College Football Playoff semifinal, throwing for six touchdowns.
Today, Orlovsky took to Twitter to try and clarify things. He says he spoke to two people very familiar with Fields who reject the things that he heard from NFL teams. He also made sure to note, as he probably should have on McAfee’s show, that NFL teams could be trying to drag down Fields’ value in hopes to be able to draft him later than he would otherwise go. With the potential for five quarterbacks to go in the top 10 of this year’s draft, with their abilities as varied as Fields and Jones, it would be no surprise if this was the case here.
In regards to Fields….👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/9VgIRyShrB
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) April 1, 2021
“I’ve had two conversations that I want to put out there and clarify the situation,” Orlovsky said. “One conversation I had is with an offensive coach at Ohio State, and he said ‘Tell them that is absolutely not true. That Justin Fields’ work ethic is spectacular. That he has great football IQ and is always studying tape.’
“The second conversation that I had is with John Beck, who has trained Justin as he headed into his Pro Day, and John’s had a really positive experience, saying ‘This guy’s always working incredibly hard on the field, and even after we’re done with our field drills, he’s a guy that wants to stay after and work on different footwork and different throws. So the reality is that I have heard those things from teams, and they might feel that way. And this is also a season where teams are trying say things to try and potentially get a guy to drop to them. And so, I’ve just wanted to clarify that in the last 24 hours in more digging, it sounds like Justin Fields’ work ethic is fantastic, and that comes from two people who’ve worked directly close to him.”
That hasn’t stopped some of the criticism from continuing, even from Dan Orlovsky’s own ESPN colleagues. Kirk Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback himself, came in very strong.
Even if YOU aren’t saying it…
to pass that along from “people in the know” is reckless and absurd!! Embarrassing!! https://t.co/r0RFSr1B6y
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) April 1, 2021
There’s definitely a line to walk here, between sharing analysis and insider information, while trying not to fall into tropes and stereotypes that can be very damaging, and playing directly into the hands of NFL teams who are trying to use him for their own purposes.