Folks, we have a media beef, and my goodness is it a big one.
NFL insider Mike Lombardi reported on his podcast a few weeks ago that Tua Tagovailoa had failed two physicals from teams and had broken his wrist the first day of spring practice one year. The report was discussed and then left aside, as most draft tidbits are at this time of year. That is until Boomer Esiason discussed the matter and made it clear, in no uncertain terms, what he thought about Lombardi's reporting. As replayed by Adnan Virk and Lombardi on yesterday's GM Shuffle podcast (8:50 mark):
"Who the hell is Mike Lombardi to be reporting that Tua had broken a wrist in spring practice and then re-broke it? How does he find out that information? Because he's close friend with Nick Saban? Is Nick Saban giving Mike Lombardi that information so Mike Lombardi can go running out there and just absolutely try to discredit the kid?" said Esiason. "I find something wrong with that. I understand that Lombardi and Mike Tannebaum both, they're in the media now. They were on the other side, now they're on the dark side. They have contacts, they have information, they use that information, I get all of that stuff.
"I do think there's a violation here, somewhere along the line, that somebody is outing players and their health issues when those things should be kept private, I think."
Lombardi passionately defended himself after they played the clip of Esiason's comments. It is a doozy of a speech (10:00 mark):
"Boomer can say whatever the f--- he wants. I could give a shit. I know he's on TV and all that crap, he's got his own show. That's great. At some point, you owe it to the people that are listening to your show to be informed. You need to be informed. What I'm saying has nothing to do with trying to discredit a kid. How am I discrediting the kid? The kid got hurt. Everybody in the National Football League knows about him. If Boomer watched football on Saturday afternoons, he would know the kid got hurt, too. It's documented knowledge," said Lombardi. "And my job, your job, and anybody's job who talks to the fans is to educate the fans. All we're trying to do is bring them behind the scenes and understand how teams process injuries.
"I'm not violating the kid's HIPPA laws. They're documented! At some point, if you're going to break down the draft, Boomer, discuss the injuries of Tua. Because that's the issue. That's the f---ing issue. How am I discrediting the kid when the kid got the injuries and they're out there for all the world to see?: continued Lombardi. "Now, if you're on Leigh Steinberg's payroll [Tagovailoa's agent] and you're covering up for Leigh, just tell your audience that... But I owe it to the people who understand and who love the draft, and when he starts to slip, the fans at home can say, 'Well, you know, it's the injuries.'
"But discredit the kid? How can you possibly accuse me of discrediting the kid because I'm friends with Nick Saban? The mistake I made is I said it was the wrist. It wasn't. It was the fifth metacarpal... But the reality was, I never talked to Nick Saban. I don't need to talk to Nick Saban about his f---ing injuries! They're out there. They're living proof. At some point, what do you owe your audience? You just gonna tell them how great you were, that you threw it to Eddie Brown? I mean, seriously. At some point you're supposed to educate the people that are listening to you, so you take a shot at me? Because I'm trying to tell people about what the process is behind the draft?... But he don't know a f---ing thing about the draft! He doesn't understand how it works. And yet he's educating people."
Virk followed up by saying Esiason probably would not have had a problem if another NFL insider like Adam Schefter or Field Yates had broken the same news, to which Lombardi responded with the following:
"Oh, of course not. He's not gonna take a shot at Adam Schefter. Oh, no, no, no, he and Adam are buddies. He's got f---ing Jason La Canfora on his show on Sunday mornings, breaking information, and that's okay? He's discrediting coaches that are going to get fired and that's okay? But if I report something that's actually facts, that people are really worrying about drafting a kid, it has nothing to do with the kid," said Lombardi. "He can discredit me all he wants. He can go read my book. If he wants to discredit me, just read the book. If you don't think I understand what I'm talking about, then go talk to Belichick, go talk to Al Davis, read the book. Say "Lombardi's full of shit. He wrote a f---ing shitty book' Okay, great. That's fine. I got no problem with that. He's entitled to his opinion. I got no problem with that.
"But he sits there like he's some f---ing pope on a high mountain because he works for W-f---ing-FAN. Like I give a shit? Like I care what he thinks of me? I don't give a crap. He's not my judge. He don't judge me, I don't judge him. I don't go on TV when he says something f---ing absolutely stupid on Sunday morning, that I call somebody that's on set with him and say 'What the f--- are you talking about?' I don't do that. He's entitled to his opinion."
Lombardi then defended his decision to label Tagovailoa as brittle:
"I choose my words. I actually do write for a living. You'd have to say, after a 32-game career and five surgeries, that Tua is brittle... But for Boomer to sit on his f---ing WFAN throne in the morning and say 'Well, Lombardi discredited the kid.' Hey Boomer, did you watch college football on Saturday afternoon? Or were you too busy? Did you watch any of the game tape on this guy and see him get hurt?"
I imagine Lombardi needed a deep breath after all that.
Esiason and his cohost Gregg Giannotti discussed Lombardi's comments on their show this morning. They played the clip and Esiason proceeded to explain what his big problem was (from the 6:00 mark):
"No, it's not documented knowledge. Not the knowledge you dropped on everybody, that he broke two wrists... Yes, everybody is worried and concerned about his injury history, then all of a sudden Mike decided to drop he broke his wrist twice. Nobody had ever heard [that]," said Esiason. "Number one, I think wherever he got that from, he violated confidentiality laws. Somebody told him something that they shouldn't have told him, or it was inaccurate, and that he didn't break his wrist. The second thing that he did is that he basically said a number of teams have failed him on his physical. To me, that's also a violation of confidentiality. He may feel like it's important to tell everybody these things about these young men, but I find it to be kind of insulting that somebody is going out there behind the back of a player and trying to find out more about how many times he's been injured to tell people, us, his listeners, and anybody else who really gives a crap that he's been hurt more than he supposedly was.
"I just think he can have whatever opinion he wants about a player. He can call a player brittle if he wants, which in this case he has done with Tua. But to start listing other injuries we do not know about, that means he either has information he shouldn't have and it was given to him by somebody, or it's not factual," Esiason continued. "I would just wonder which it is, and that's one of the reasons I took umbrage with it. I've never said anything negative about him at all in regards to any of his pre-draft evaluations of players, but in this case, the way he went about it and the way it was dropped to me seemed to be completely unprofessional. Then obviously when you start cussing and screaming and yelling and going crazy on a podcast, you obviously know there's some truth to the matter there. He knows it, too. That's the thing. He does know it."
In response to Lombardi's demand that he discuss Tagovailoa's injuries because that's what's relevant, Esiason had this to say:
"I will discuss the injuries that I know of. I will not report on the injuries I don't know of, and I'm not going to call people to find out if there were other injuries, because that's not information I should be privy to. That should be confidential information. There are HIPPA laws in this country that either he has violated or he is unfactually reporting. I don't know what it is. You can tell me whatever you want. I'll still hold back to my initial opinion on this. I think he's grossly misreporting or over-reporting on this young man for whatever reason. I'm not sure why... I guess he also wants me to talk to Al Davis, I guess, for some reason, but I think he should realize Al Davis is dead."
Esiason finished his response by saying, "The fact that he became as unhinged as he did, maybe that's why he's not working for a team anymore. I don't know."
Pretty rare we get to this level of legitimate animosity between two media members. Or, at least, it's rare they battle it out like this over the airwaves/podcast audio. Virk and Lombardi gave Esiason an open invitation to appear on GM Shuffle to hash out their differences. We can only hope he takes them up on that offer.