ESPN co-host Stephen A. Smith is known for spouting outlandish opinions.
The network is losing subscribers, which perhaps causes him and co-host Max Kellerman to spew hot takes to drum up interest.
But Smith’s latest commentary touches on an issue the NFL doesn’t want to deal with right now.
The NFL had its worst viewership season in years, in large part due to the anti-American protests.
The playoff ratings suggest the trend isn’t going to reverse itself any time soon.
That’s why Smith believed the NFL desperately wanted the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl—to attract eyeballs.
With ratings on the decline, the NFL “desperately” needs its biggest winner on the biggest stage, says ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
According to Smith, the National Anthem protests and other “negative publicity” have caused the ratings to drop and a Super Bowl LII matchup with backup quarterbacks Nick Foles or Case Keenum against Blake Bortles would not be near as intriguing.
“The NFL has had a rough season, we know why: the protests, the ratings, the negative publicity, all of this other stuff, things that had nothing to do with play on the field most of the time. It’s sullied this brand to some degree, and has obviously raised the eyebrows of folks inside and outside the NFL,” Smith said during the lead-in to his Friday “First Take” broadcast.
He continued, “Now you have the Super Bowl coming up. You have a five-time Super Bowl champion, a league M.V.P. multiple times over, a guy that’s obviously considered one of, if not the greatest, quarterbacks in the history of football. You remove him from the Super Bowl, and what do you have? Blake Bortles against Case Keenum or Nick Foles. Are you kidding me? The NFL needs Tom Brady desperately, there is no doubt about that, more so than ever before. He is holding the National Football League in the palm of his hands right now, because what’s the Super Bowl without him this year?”
The AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Jaguars was a hotly contested game that came down to some questionable calls in key moments, adding fuel to Smith’s insinuation in the eyes of many fans on social media.
With the Patriots trailing 14-3 late in the second quarter, the game turned on a dubious pass interference call that set twitter ablaze:
This coverage was so dominant that they basically threw a pity flag for Cooks. Crushed off the field https://t.co/SC3PbW3hco
In addition to that call, fans were angered by another pass interference call in the second half, as well as three missed holds on crucial downs against the Patriots.
The disparity in calls between the two teams didn’t go unnoticed.
The Patriots were called for 1 penalty against the Jaguars It is the fewest penalties called on one team in a playoff game since the 2011 AFC Championship… when the Patriots were called for 1 penalty in a win over the Ravens
The Patriots have won five Super Bowls in the past decade and a half and played in seven consecutive AFC Championship games, so they don’t need corruption to win.
But the NFL is breathing a sigh of relief at the moment.