Which teams will make the College Football Playoff? Who will win the Heisman? TV analysts make their picks and more in this SI roundtable.
With Montana’s win over North Dakota State kicking off the national television college football schedule, this column empaneled the lead analysts at each of college football airing networks—Gary Danielson of CBS, Doug Flutie of NBC, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and Joel Klatt of Fox Sports—for a roundtable discussion on a variety of football topics and issues. The interviews were conducted last week by phone separately with each of the analysts (NBC Sports PR sat in on their talent’s call). You’ll be hearing these gentlemen quite a bit this season if you are a college football fan.
SI.com: Whether this person wins the Heisman Trophy or not, who would be your answer to this question: Who is the most talented college football player in the country?
Danielson: One of my pet peeves with college football is we talk too much about the Heisman Trophy too early in the season. We don’t do the same thing about the MVP in baseball or football. I think we do a bit of a disservice by focusing on it too much. However, I get asked the question and I always try to give an answer. I think one of the most talented players I have come across is Leonard Fournette at LSU. He’s going to be a tremendous pro football player. I’ve been a bit dismayed that the Heisman now goes to best spread quarterback in college football. That’s who wins it almost every year. I wouldn't mind seeing a running back or wide receiver win it this year.
Klatt: The most talented is Trevone Boykin. I don’t think we have seen a player who can dominate at the quarterback position and has also played several other positions in college football. He’s been a pretty good wide receiver and played slot back and a little running back. That’s remarkable versatility.
Do you consider yourself the top analyst at your network. If yes, why? If no, why?
Danielson: I suppose so since we only really do one game a week and I am doing it every week.
Flutie: That’s not for me to say. Right now I am the lead analyst at our top profile game so it can be assumed that by others. But I am not going to sit here and say I’m better than someone else. I take my job very seriously and I put everything I have into it.
Herbstreit: I challenge myself to be. Anyone who is in this business wants to be the best that they can be, I don’t ever sit there with an ego and say, “Boy, I am the best analyst we have at this network.” I think we have a lot of talented guys and I’ll leave that up to people to evaluate. I definitely push myself and challenge to not be just the best at our network, but the best in our sport. That has always been a goal of mine.
Klatt: Yes. It’s simply because when we have a marquee game I will be out there with Gus [Johnson] doing it. But I’ll say this: I like to think of it somewhat as a team atmosphere and I will talk with the other analysts at our network weekly and discuss meetings that they have had, and games that they have had so I can get different opinions. So I think it is much more of a collaborative effort, But, yes, when the rubber meets the road, Gus and I will be calling those games.
What team would be your preseason No. 2 behind Ohio State?
Danielson: I don’t want to have a cop-out but I would take the champion of the SEC. They would have the leverage to be in the playoff and have earned it for their past records and overall excellence of play. The odds are they [the SEC] will get a team in there [the playoffs] this year. If you wanted me to name a team I could but the SEC Is really difficult this year. You could take three teams [in the SEC] and I’d be happy to take the field. Or if you wanted me to take three teams and you have the field, I would take either side of the bet.
Flutie: You have to give TCU credit and I think with Boykin at quarterback they are explosive. So much is schedule and opportunity and weaving your way through a schedule. There are some strong teams such as Alabama or Auburn but their chances of going undefeated are not as good, potentially, as TCU’s.
Herbstreit: I’d probably lean toward TCU. Asking me who I think a preseason No. 2 should be and who I think will end up in the final four is different. The momentum that is created by the way you performed late in the year and then how many people you have back in key positions has a lot to do with some of the preseason thoughts. TCU, with the way they performed especially late in the year and the way they performed in their bowl game against a very talented team in Ole Miss, and to return Trevone Boykin among others, I think it is fair to put them at No. 2.
Klatt: TCU. I am a huge believer in the quarterback position. It goes without saying a lot of times that it is the engine to everything in our sport whether it's the college game or the NFL game. Trevone Boykin reminds me a lot of Marcus Mariota in the following areas: He seems to be a perfect fit for his system and I think it is the best fit in all of college football. Because of that, you have a team with a very defensive-oriented head coach that always finds a way to always play quality defense and an offense that has the capability of scoring 80 points which they did against Texas Tech last year. TCU is a very clear No. 2 to me behind Ohio State.
How much of a coach’s decision-making off the field such as Art Briles bringing in former Boise State player Sam Ukwuachu or Steve Sarkisian’s actions at USC should be discussed during a game broadcast?
Danielson: Obviously you have to spend the preponderance of your time talking about the game. People watch the pregame shows, listen to sports talk radio, read the blogs and have followed the story. Now you do have a duty to bring it up in the game but I think we also have a duty to bring up what it means to this football game or what it means to the bigger picture of college football. Verne [Lundquist] and I and our producer [Craig Silver] will figure out a way to make sure that if it is newsworthy, it will be brought up in the game. But my challenge as a football analyst is how it fits into affecting the game of football and the bigger picture of college football.
Flutie: I think you cannot avoid it. I think it needs to be discussed but not be a high priority in the broadcast. You can’t exclude it. It should be a part of it. But don’t make it the focal point.
• INSIDE READ: Boykin stands up to animal cruelty; UF passed on Ukwuachu
Herbstreit: I think if it is relevant to the broadcast and there is a place for it adding to a story you are telling, then I am okay with it. I don’t go out of my way to bring up off-the-field stories just to bring them up. But if it helps build a story or put some perspective in a story, then I think that would be the only time I would feel comfortable bringing up some of the stuff that programs have been through off the field. The Steve Sarkisian’s stuff, you almost have to believe that will be brought up their first few games and it's not to smear USC, but it just puts some things in perspective. I think it will be relevant to what he will have faced and also what their program has faced. I’m not one who likes to dance around with those kind of stories but if it helps advance a story, I have no problem dealing with that.
Klatt: I understand that those stories need to be addressed but as far as a discussion goes, I would absolutely steer clear and the reason is that it's not what the game is for. The game is for the kids that are playing in it. Especially since I was a player, I want to make sure I am giving those kids and their families their due and respect. So I think going into stories at length that are for another day and another time is disrespectful to the players who work really hard and are not involved in those decisions or incidents or behavior. I want to make sure we are respecting the guys out there giving their all. I understand they need to be touched on but addressing them any further, I would vehemently stay away from.
Is there another CFB analyst whose schedule you would want to trade with and why?
Danielson: Nope, I have the best job in the business.
Flutie: I did the Thursday night package at ESPN and I was excited about doing that but I am just thrilled to be doing the package I am doing now. This is a very prestigious package to me and I am excited about it.
Herbstreit: No. When I first started in the business in 1996, my dream and my goal was to try and become the Dick Vitale of college football. When I think of Dick Vitale, I think of college basketball. When I first started at ESPN they would ask me to do shows that had nothing to do with college football and I intentionally declined because I wanted my face and voice and my name to be always associated with just college football because I loved the sport so much. ESPN has allowed me to stay in that lane and grow every single year and that is still my goal—to be the Dick Vitale of college football. I would not want to change places with anyone and not just the schedule. To be on College GameDay—a huge show for this sport—and then to call Saturday Night games with Chris Fowler and Heather Cox, and then the playoffs and championship, I’m exactly where I want to be and very thankful for it.
Klatt: That’s a great question. I’ll have to hedge a little bit because I have not called a full season of this package as of yet. That being said, I think Kirk’s game is always—and in particular the way his network has branded that game—something you are envious of. Now at the same time we are going to have amazing games on our air as well. So I don’t think I would trade but there are times when you can get a little envious of the environments when you are watching Kirk do a game.
How often do you hear from athletic directors about something you said on-air?
Danielson: Not very often. I’d say one out of 10 or 20 games. I had a very famous one in the past when I was doing a big football game for ABC, a Nebraska-Colorado game and Nebraska was losing. I said even though they had a great season, you can’t lose your last game. That ended up being a big statement and it ended up getting back to my bosses. It wasn’t a tough issue for me. I thought I was doing my job.
Flutie: I can’t think of a specific instance but they would be vocal when trying to influence you.
Herbstreit: Not very often. The only time I might have heard something from an athletic director is from GameDay. As you know, GameDay is driven by opinions and having strong opinions. Who you are as an analyst when you work on GameDay is very different than who you are as an analyst when you work on a game because of the amount of time afforded to you. So the times I have heard from athletic directors is almost always after a GameDay experience. How often? You are probably talking maybe once or twice throughout the entire year. I do try to pride myself on doing a ton of homework, and then just kind of taking off the gloves and speaking the truth or saying whatever it is you think.
Sometimes people like what you say, something they don’t. The way I have always been able to cope with this is if the individual I am speaking about was sitting on the GameDay set, he might not agree with what I am saying but he will not feel disrespected with the tone I am talking. I always feel like if I stay in that area, we will cover some topics and get into some things that won’t make people happy, but if I can at least speak in a way that is factual and if my opinions are derived off of those facts, then I feel a lot better about what I am saying.
Klatt: Very rarely. I would probably say three or four times a year and it is generally 50–50. Guys that are contacting you for something nice you said or guys that are contacting you to clarify something or give you more information on the process of a decision.
How often do you hear from head coaches about something you have said on-air?
Danielson: Maybe one in 10 and I think the strongest part of your job as an analyst is there will be uncomfortable moments. When I give advice to people about being an analyst, you have to understand that there is fine line and you can’t be friends. You have to have a genuine respect for each other but you have to be prepared to have uncomfortable moments. The next time you get together, you might have to let them get off a little steam and let them know it was not personal—you were calling it as I see it. It’s just my opinion; it doesn’t mean I’m right 100% of the time.
Flutie: Never. But I have had officials who said thanks for giving us the benefit of the doubt on an instant replay call.
Herbstreit: A lot more than athletic directors. I would say in all my years of doing GameDay, it is probably 2 to 1 that I hear from someone about something I said on GameDay rather than the game. I get a lot more feedback from coaches for the broadcast than an athletic director or players. I don't sit there and make a habit of second-guessing strategy. These guys have spent 90 to 100 hours prepping and while that doesn't mean you can't have an opinion, we have no idea what is going on in the headsets and no idea what is going on with strategy. So I am not big on second-guessing but I am big on first guessing. That’s different. To second guess, anyone can do. I am going to question things but I’m doing it in a tone that hopefully if they disagree with me, they will at least respect me.
I have never had a coach want to address me because I was disrespectful to his program. Almost always it has been a healthy relationship. If a coach has a problem with me, right away I will call him and deal with it. I think we all know in this business you can’t make everyone happy and you owe it to the viewer to do your homework, be as prepared as you can be, and have strong opinions.
Klatt: I have never had a coach specifically reach out to me about something I have said. Now I will contact coaches to let them know that I would like to use some information I have gotten from them on-air and I have also contacted coaches after I have said something I feel was very critical just to give them a heads up because I don’t want them to be blind-sided. That communication does take place.
How often do you hear from players about something you said on-air?
Danielson: Boy, very seldom. Maybe in the modern world of Twitter you will hear of a guy saying, “GD was dogging me all game” or “Gary had some great things to say about me.” Very seldom in person do they bring it up. Maybe once in awhile a player will come up to me at a Thursday practice and say, “Man, you were hard on me the last game.” One in particular I remember was David Nelson from Florida. I said he was a really nice possession receiver. He ended up making the Buffalo Bills and he said he used my criticism as motivation during the offseason. I said, “I’m glad I helped you.”
Flutie: I have never heard back from a player on something I’ve said but you will hear from a player before a game trying to get you to give them props. Players are not shy about that.
Herbstreit: Very rarely if ever. You might bump into some players who are just messing around with you but I don’t know if I have ever had a player come at me and say, “I can’t believe you said that.” I don’t get a lot of feedback from players.
Klatt: A little bit more. I have developed some good relationships around the country in some of the meetings I’ve had with players. If nothing else, it is a more of a “Go, get em” or “good luck” kind of communication. I have never had a phone conversation with a player; it’s all been text messages. I do try to keep in touch with quite a few players around the country.
How do you draw the line between having and needing relationships with coaches but not being beholden to those coaches because the audience deserves honest commentary?
Danielson: I think they all know I respect their jobs and know how difficult their jobs are. I think they know I have been at this for awhile and played football at the highest level, and I think I convey how hard their job is. But I also think they understand that I can do my job with any access they provide but if they choose not to provide that access because of some strategic reason I am fine with that and I can do the job by studying tapes and notes and it won’t affect the broadcast. I have been allowed at practices and not allowed at practices. I have been allowed in meetings and not allowed in meetings, and I am fine any way the coach wants to run his football team. I don’t take cheap shots but I also don’t pull punches about what I think. Coaches are human just like the rest of us. They make mistakes just like the players and I think they understand 90 percent of what I say on any broadcast is effective criticism in a positive way. But if they want to look at the 10%, there is nothing I can do about that.
Flutie: I have no problem with speaking my mind on air as far as being truthful with what I see. I see the game through a quarterback’s eyes and I have played a lot of football. If I need to second guess a coach's decision, I will do it in a heartbeat. I do take into consideration—and I think I realize this more than a lot of guys—how hard these coaches and players work. I think that’s something the average fan does not realize, the hours they put into it. So yes we have relationships with coaches and we get a lot of information from coaches but when it comes down to game decisions, I speak my mind how I would have done something or how I view it.
Herbstreit: In my growth in this industry that has probably been the area where I have had to learn the most. Because I have unbelievable relationships with coaches and because of their willingness to open up, I think in some cases that there is almost an understanding that we are doing this (providing access to Herbstreit) you are going to talk nice about us. For me, it just doesn’t work that way. I appreciate the access and the friendship and relationships but I am going to do my job. [ESPN college football execs] Lee Fitting, Mark Gross, Ed Placey and [game producer] Bill Bonnell have given me feedback and direction on what my job is as an analyst in both the studio and calling the games and if my bosses want me to be a certain way and their expectations are a certain way, then that is what you are supposed to do.
When I listen to Cris Collinsworth and Troy Aikman and others, I think there are times when you are going to test those relationships because of what you have to say. I think the coaches who are secure in who they are get that. The coaches that are not secure and get flustered usually do not end up being head coaches for very long. So in my case, the coaches I have dealt with know that not everything will be rosy and that analysts have a critical eye.
Klatt: A problem in this business regardless of level that I see is analysts that may not do the work, so they are leaning in a greater percentage on what they get from the coach. They become a regurgitator rather than a true analyst. I try as best I can to think of my preparation as a table or a tripod where I have different areas where I am trying to prepare from the philosophy of an offense to what the players say to coaches’ information. I want to make sure I have well-rounded information so when I talk to a coach and it doesn’t fit with what I have studied, I can nod along politely, shake his hand, and realize he was giving me a lot of coach-speak. Then there are other times when you study so hard and walk into a meeting and the coach acknowledges that preparation with further truth. That type of discernment and preparation during the week allows you to navigate the coach/analyst relationship rather than if you are just leaning on what he says.
What is the toughest conference from top to bottom this year?
Danielson: Probably the SEC. For the first time since I have been doing it—I have been doing games since 1991—I don’t ever remember a situation where you might have a returning Heisman candidate in [Mississippi State quarterback] Dak Prescott on a team being picked to finish last in a conference division. I think any of the teams in the SEC West and four teams in the East could win the [SEC] championship.
Flutie: I still would say the SEC from an athleticism standpoint, size and strength and the physical play week in and week out. I know there are times people say the conference is top heavy but that’s who I would still choose.
Herbstreit: As we sit and look at it on paper, I think top to bottom it is still the SEC. The Pac-12 would be a 1A or 1B. I think for the Big Ten to get into the discussion, even though they had a great postseason last year, until Penn State and Michigan join the ranks of Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, it will be very challenging for the Big Ten. I still think top to bottom you are talking SEC, then Pac-12, then the Big Ten and Big 12 and the ACC.
Klatt: I think the Pac-12 is the best conference in the country. I think there are five teams that are legitimately playoff contenders. Now, top to bottom, I would say the SEC is more competitive. I don’t think there are the bottom feeders in the SEC quite like there are in the Pac-12. But I don’t think I can pull out five teams in the SEC that are legitimate playoff contending teams. So while I would give the nod to the Pac-12 as the best conference, I still think the SEC is the most rigorous as far as the schedule of conference games go.
What team outside the Top 5 is particularly interesting to you regarding a late-season surge?
Danielson: The thing that I like about college football is there is always a surprise team. I would say a team I am keeping my eye on is Stanford. They play Oregon at home and have a key game at USC. I think they might surprise this year.
Flutie: I will tell you Notre Dame is as strong as I have seen them. Their offensive line is bigger and more experienced in a long time. Malik Zaire at quarterback is explosive and they have experienced guys healthy and coming back at linebacker and corner. Everything has fallen into place for it to be their year.
Herbstreit: I would put LSU in that spot, a team that is a little bit forgotten in the SEC West. They have one of the best running backs in the country, a big offensive line, great wide receivers and a defense that has a chance to be one of the best in the SEC. Like a lot of these teams, it will come down to who emerges at quarterback. Brandon Harris looks like he will be the guy. He was a highly touted kid and if he can avoid mistakes and just keep the train on the tracks, I think LSU is a dangerous team and will get into the playoffs at the end of the year.
Klatt: There are a few. Georgia would be first and foremost. They would be my SEC champions and then you are 60 minutes away from being in the playoff. Further down the line Clemson is a team I have a lot of belief in, a fantastic team with a great young quarterback [Deshaun Watson]. If they can build any semblance of a defense which history says they will, they will be a very good football team. The last two are Oklahoma and Stanford. I believe Bob Stoops will bounce back. He is far too good of a coach to let the 8–5 season linger from a year ago. I think they will have a bounce in their offense similar to what TCU had a year ago. I think people are overlooking Stanford with a quarterback that has won a couple of Pac-12 titles in Kevin Hogan and they have one of the most exciting young running backs in the country in Christian McCaffrey, who is a dark horse Heisman pick for me.
How difficult is social media for you and your family during the season?
Danielson: It’s not at all. I don’t ignore social media and I am glad that there is an outlet for people to give criticism. When I watch games I yell at the analysts too. We all do. It’s a fun part of watching the sport. I don’t ignore it and if the criticism is valid, I hear it. I have dealt with it my whole live. I taught my children that there is a public persona and a private persona. If I could not handle it, I could have never played QB in the NFL for 13 years. If I can’t handle it now, I should not have the privilege of being the lead analyst in the SEC because it elicits a lot of feedback and emotions and it is the reason I signed up for the job.
Flutie: I try not to read a lot of it but it has not been difficult at all. I am not a social media guru that some are. I do it and I am out there but I try not to take comments too seriously. I do take my end seriously though if I put something out there.
Herbstreit: It’s not at all. I have almost come full circle with it. I actually have fun with it now, and when people are unruly and disrespectful, I try to shine a big bright light on them and just have fun with it. Like anything else in life you learn through trial and error. I don’t take it any of it personally. I’m just a pleaser by nature. When I was a kid, I wanted my Dad to be proud and coach to be proud and my instinct is to talk something out. I look at social media as a lot of folks are looking for a reaction and it is more of a reflection of how they are looking at their own life. If they are not MF-ing me, they are going after someone else. So I don’t take any of it personally. If people are very bad, I just block them.
I think everyone having a voice is good and our sport because of the subjective analysis and a system that is inexact, I think fans are a lot more volatile. If the Carolina Panthers finish 9–7 and the Falcons are 9–7, there is a tiebreaker situation and then whoever wins that tiebreaker moves on. In our world, TCU is No. 3 going into the final weekend and they beat someone like a drum, and then Ohio State moves into the Top 4, everybody is like what just happened? Then guys like us have to go on TV and say who the Top 4 are and those who support No. 5 and No. 6 do not just disagree with you, they hate you from the bottom of their heart with all the convictions they have. So I don’t think you can get caught up in that emotion.
Klatt: Much more difficult for my family than me. I don't know if it is because I have a radio background—sports radio in that space tends to be very negative—that has made my skin a little thicker. Or maybe it was being an athlete, it really doesn’t bother me. The interactions I get, I really cherish and love. I love to interact with fans who truly want information or want to debate in a healthy way. I might even take a Twitter conversation off-line and DM [direct message] with them. As soon as it gets negative, I try to just go past it. I don’t like to block people on Twitter but I have when it has gotten really negative. So I think 80% of social media you do not want to see but the other 20% is really fun and I enjoy it.
THE NOISE REPORT
SI.com examines some of the notable stories in sports media
1. The Boston Globe, led by reporter Chad Finn—has done a sensational job highlighting the train-wreck decision of NESN (New England Sports Network) and the Boston Red Sox to jettison Red Sox television broadcaster Don Orsillo at season’s end. It’s a terrible decision on multiple levels and at the top of that mountain is NESN and Red Sox management’s totally disregard for their consumers. Orsillo is a network-caliber announcer—he’s worked for Turner Sports during the postseason—who performed his duties year after year in a professional and entertaining manner. A change.org petition asking Red Sox owner John Henry, NESN and the Fenway Sports Group to restore Orsillo to the role he held since 2001 had nearly 50,000 signatures as of Sunday. Think about that number. What is the justification for the move? NESN, a network that expects athletes and coaches to answers Qs from its reporters, for days did not answer questions from reporters.
On Sunday, Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald published a column featuring Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and NESN president/CEO Sean McGrail, saying Dave O’Brien, currently the play-by-play man on the radio side, would be an upgrade from Orsillo. Nothing against O’Brien, a quality broadcaster, but few people in Red Sox Nation would agree with that thesis. It’s also noteworthy that Red Sox management told its side of the story to the Herald given the Globe’s (which is owned by Henry) strong (and correct) stance on Orsillo.
1a. Some strong pieces on the Orsillo caper:
• ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes
• Boston Globe reporter Rachel G. Bowers
• Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy
• WBUR-AM’s EM Swift
2. In what has become a near-weekly occurrence for the Worldwide Leader In Apologies, ESPN experienced another on-air person opting poorly in the public space. MLB analyst Curt Schilling apologized last week for his tweet comparing the number of Nazi sympathizers in Germany to the percentage of modern Muslim extremists. The network said the analyst is scheduled to re-appear on Sunday Night Baseball on Sept. 6.
One positive thing to come out of Schilling’s social media excursion: Jessica Mendoza filled in for Schilling on this week’s Sunday Night Baseball, the first woman to call a game for that series. Mendoza, a two-time medalist in Olympic softball including gold in ‘04, is an in-studio analyst for “Baseball Tonight” and has worked for years on ESPN’s softball coverage.
2a. The three-person telecast team for Fox Sports South’s Hornets coverage this season includes Stephanie Ready, who will become the first full-time female NBA game analyst. (Eric Collins does play-by-play and Dell Curry, father of Stephen and Seth, is the other analyst.) Ready was previously an in-game reporter and pregame host for the Hornets. She recently told USA Today “it’s unfortunate that it’s taken this long, but I’m thrilled. I’m excited to be the person that’s the first and not just because I’m the first but because this is a job that I want. This is the reason why I got in the business to be a game analyst, because I love the game so much and I always have.”
3. This week’s episode of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast features Fox Sports 1’s Katie Nolan, the host of “Garbage Time,” a half-hour show which mixes sports commentary and topical comedy. In the podcast Nolan discusses how her show comes together each week, how Fox Sports management views what she does, why she antagonizes certain male media members, her relationship with HBO’s Bill Simmons, the value of interacting with Twitter users, why she enjoys cursing, aging in television as a woman and much more.
Nolan also reveals that “Garbage Time” will be moving to a new time slot for the second season, which begins Sept. 9. The show will now air on Wednesdays at midnight ET, instead of Sundays.
4. Sports pieces of note:
• SI’s Pete Thamel looks at Urban Meyer's leadership skills.
• An excellent profile of Maurice Clarett by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.
• A letter of recommendation for Brock Lesnar.
• Jeff Pearlman talks to Sara White, the widow of the late Reggie White.
• SI’s Drew Lawrence interviews David Letterman.
• ESPN’s Johnette Howard on the late Darryl Dawkins.
• From SI’s Joan Niesen: The homeless 2005 Tulane football team, Hurricane Katrina, heartbreak and moving on.
• Notre Dame insider Mike Vorel profiles former Irish player Tom Zbikowski, who has battled addiction.
• Great to see Amy K. Nelson doing pieces for The MMQB.
•ESPN's Wright Thompson on New Orleans 10 years after Katrina.
Non sports pieces of note:
• A must-read story from Huffington Post reporter Mariah Blake on one of the brazen, deadly corporate gambits in U.S. history.
• From the Baltimore Sun’s Justin Fenton, Mayah Collins and Christina Jedra: 45 murders in 31 days: The victims of July violence.
• Atlanta 11 TV reporter Jaye Watson wrote a poignant piece on Alison Parker and Adam Ward.
• Via The Washington Post: The heroin epidemic’s toll: One county, 70 minutes, eight overdoses.
• Gizmodo’s Annalee Newitz did some remarkable reporting on Ashley Madison’s user base.
• Rolling Stone’s Brian Hiatt profiled the iconic rap group, N.W.A.
• A nerd’s guide to the 2,229 paintings at MoMA.
• How killing elephants finances terror in Africa.
5. Jets wide receiver and Showtime analyst Brandon Marshall criticized Cris Carter for 'fall guy' comments.
5a. Sports Illustrated launched a new college football web vertical—SI Campus Rush. Check it out.
5b. ESPN named Josina Anderson as a national NFL insider, the same title held by Adam Caplan, John Clayton, Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, Ed Werder and Field Yates. The network said Anderson will make regular in-studio appearances as a panelist on ESPN’s weekday “NFL Insiders” in addition to “NFL Live,” “SportsCenter” and other programs.
5c. This is amateur hour by Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who was a guest analyst for NBC on that network’s coverage of the Super Bowl last year and knows better.