An Unfiltered Interview With Sean Salisbury

Football University’s Top Gun football camp took place in my hometown, Williamsburg, Virginia.  The camp took place July 19th thru the 23rdTop Gun is an invite only camp for youth and high school players that are considered the best-of-the-best – 1,370 kids attended the camp.

The coaching at the camp is also top notch, with many of the coaches being former NFL coaches and players.  One such former player, Sean Salisbury was coaching quarterbacks.  Between some wicked storms, and a very busy schedule Sean found time to sit down with me and talk quarterbacks, Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, Super Bowl rings and much more.

While he may no longer work for a national media giant, the insight and passion for the game of football is still ever-present and burns as brightly as it did when he was under the bright lights with ESPN.

Me:  Sean, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down and talk with me today.

Sean Salisbury(SS):  Sure, never to busy, I’m not that busy my man.  I’m honored that you would be here.

Me:  OK, here is my first question for you.  How and why did you get involved with Football University’s Top Gun camp?

SS:  You know what my passion; I’ve been doing TV and radio for a long time.  Yeah I love to coach, and I love to teach.  Middle of probably July or June of last year they had called me.  I hadn’t done an FBU camp but they had called me – I guess somebody said something to them.  Because I privately train quarterbacks all over the country – and somebody had said something to me, and called me and said would you be interested, and I said sure.  So my first camp last year was Top gun and then they gave me a full schedule.  You know I got involved because I like to be a difference maker, and when I say that, the kid’s also make a difference for me.  [They] teach you how to be better, you know, all kinds of different things.  And you can’t treat it all the same, grade wise, age wise, player wise, and I’ve learned a lot – it’s my passion.  It gives me a chance.  I can never get enough of it.  And to see a kid’s self esteem and self worth go thru the roof and the light switch to go on because he’s taken something you’ve said or done and been able to apply it to his game – and you know it’s cool – then they come back the next year and have had great results.  They follow you on twitter and say cool things to you.  And you know what, I know it sounds so elementary, it’s so simple, but those kind of things make me happy so um well I guess to try and make a difference and give a kid a chance, and all the things I’ve been fortunate enough to learn.

Me: Outside of coaching quarterbacks for FBU what else do you have going on, and where can people get their Sean Salisbury fix.

SS:  On twitter it’s @SeanUnfiltered obviously.  I work for Total College Sports network which will startup we did it last year.  You can find out probably – they’re trying to negotiate a new contract with Sporting News and Hulu but that’s something you have to check on because I don’t know as an analyst for them. I do my podcasts on theCDNetworks.com – which, you know what – a week and a half ago was the new [podcast] with myself and Dave – “Sean and Dave Unfiltered” – a guy named Carmichael Dave.  We do it at 10 Pacific, 1 Eastern, Monday thru Friday, and you can find it on iTunes at search CDNet, and then it’s at theCDNetworks – the live version from like I said, 1 Eastern, Monday thru Friday, and it’s unfiltered.  We get after good sports talk and sometimes other talk leads you down to entertainment talk – what have you.  And then you know talking to a couple other networks about some stuff.  I do local Fox and Cowboys pre-game show in Dallas.  Um, and then this [coaching quarterbacks for FBU].  Like I said, training quarterbacks all over.  And um, hope to get back to doing all the things that I love to do.  Which I am and I’m very, VERY grateful.

Me:  Let’s talk quarterbacks now.  Rodgers, Brady and Brees; I think everyone, NFL wise and fantasy football wise would agree that those three are the cream of the crop…the elite.  Last year, Eli got flak for saying he was elite, but he backed that talk up with his second Super Bowl victory.  Yet in fantasy football circles, more so than NFL, he still doesn’t seem to get the respect he deserves.  In your opinion, does he belong with those three and if so, why?

SS:  No question.  I think it’s obvious and you can throw Peyton in there, and you can slip in Rivers or Roethlisberger you know, and I think Matt Schaub is the most underrated quarterback.  But with Eli, he’s proven by his performance.  I’ll tell you why he’s not on fantasy, because they’re not – they don’t usually drop back – although his numbers, and he’s great in the 2nd half, great in the fourth quarter.  But they’re not a fantasy football team.  If you’re looking at it from the – remove the fantasy football from it – just the respect now.  I think your starting to see people finally say, dude, the guy’s got two Super Bowl rings, and at the end of both games has played lights out when it mattered on the biggest stage.  Which every quarterback dreams of, and he’s come through big time in both.  Against a really good Head Coach in Bill Belichick, and really good teams.  So I think fantasy wise they’re not in that – they don’t throw for 400 yards or throw 47 times or 45 times a week.  They’ll physically wear you out.  They may throw 24 times one week, and then they throw 37 times the next, and he seems to turn it on as it goes on.  He’s consistent, but he’s getting better as far as the consistency, but there’s no doubt if you’re asking me to name my top 5 to 6 quarterbacks, he’s in it.  And not just fantasy,  I’m just talking about full on.  Because you know what it is?  He is – while everybody questioned his temperament, was he too awe shucks for New York…he’s the perfect temperament for it because of that.  But he’s also competitive as heck – he belongs in it.  I just don’t think fantasy numbers, cause he’s not going to do what the Cowboys do and all of a sudden it’s all pass, all pass.  They like to wear you out, and run the football.  But he belongs in that top, YES!

Me:  This might be a crazy questions, but does the Manning name actually hurt Eli?

SS:  Sure it does.  Sure it does, because of the fact no matter what he does, and sadly I mean this as a compliment to him, because I’m a big fan of the family.  He’s always Peyton’s little brother.  Because, and I understand for a long time why.  Numbers and what Peyton’s done – give me a break, we’re talking about arguably, he’s in the argument for the team picture for the best of all-time.  Yet here’s a guy who plays in the toughest city to play in.  The expectations are as high as can be.  You know from the draft all the way down here, and he’s won two Super Bowls.  But he just does it in such an unassuming manner.  Does that make sense?  [Yes it does]  And while the perception of him outside will always be as Peyton’s brother, Eli can stand on his own.  He’s got his own island now.  And while we look at Peyton who’s such a grinder and all of our focus has been on number 18, but number 10 doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone right now.

Me:  I agree with you 100% on that.  Now let’s talk about some of the young guns in the NFL, starting with Matthew Stafford.  Before you answer let me give you some of his stats from last year: 421 completions, 5th most in NFL history – 663 attempts, 3rd most in NFL history – 41 touchdowns, 7th most in NFL history – 5,038 passing yards, one of only four players in NFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season – all that in his first full season as a professional.  How special is Matt Stafford?  What can we expect from him this year, going forward, and has he peaked?

SS:  No he’s not peaked I don’t think – he’s raw.  I don’t think he’s anywhere near reached his full potential because he’s just learning to play.  I was teaching at the Manning Passing Academy when Matt was there before he went to – before he left for Georgia, before he left went to the NFL – and we had time to talk. He’s from Highland Park and I live in Dallas and we ran in to each other at the mall one time and we talked.  I’m a big fan of his.  I’m going to tell you something – man you talk about arm strength and the ball coming out.  He’s got – there’s a combination of a gunslinger attitude with a little bit of Favre because he’ll take a chance and throw it anywhere, but he’s also – there’s a little bit of patience he’s starting to get.  I think as he starts to develop, that I don’t want it [patience] to take away the guts he has.  He continues to add this – I don’t always have to drop back and throw a touchdown pass and we saw some of that start to come together.  People say has he peaked.  Heck no.  Those numbers – well only four guys have thrown for that in their life.  So when we talk about peak numbers, I don’t know.  Do I believe if he stays healthy that he’s even scratched the surface?  No!  He may throw 50 touchdowns in a season before his career is over.  He’s got a great wide receiver – that’s a good young football team.  Defense will get him the ball with a lot of opportunities as they continue to get better.  And they understand where their bread is buttered – and its Matt Stafford.  I thought he was going to be great coming out of Georgia.  I thought he was, I saw flashes of brilliance in his injured seasons.  And now with a full season, I think we kind of get an idea of what he is.  He’s still raw, when I say he doesn’t know how to play yet, I don’t mean that he’s not good.  Wait until he gets to understand the concepts a little bit better the next 2 or 3 years – as long as that staff and his people stay together.  He is a unique talent, and that ball jumps out of his hand.  You can throw all those guys you just named; Brady, Manning, Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger, um who else, Brees.  If they all line up and play in a Super Stars competition, and put the ball in their hands – they’re all – that fellow in Detroit finishes first when it comes to flat out throwing it.  I mean he can get it out, but there’s a whole bunch of strong armed quarterbacks that can’t play a lick.  This guy’s starting to combine great physical ability, learning the game mentally, staying healthy, and now he’s also understanding the patience part of it.  What you saw last year is what I think a lot of us expected from Matt Stafford for quite a long time.

Me:  The next young quarterback I want to talk about is Matt Ryan.  I know you are high on Ryan.  He’s coming off arguably his best season, throwing for 4,177 yards with 29 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.  What are your expectations for Ryan this year, and say over the next four years…is there a Super Bowl ring in his future.

SS:  You know what, it’s so hard to predict Super Bowl rings because you have to keep people intact.  Gotta get a little lucky.  You really do.  Do I think there’s a mentality about him?  You saw him when he was a rookie and you knew that mentally and there’s an emotional side of him that can handle getting hit in the mouth. He’s not a big talker.  He’s not a, you know, he’s not an I confess he did it or it’s somebody else’s fault guy.  He immediately, when he stepped on Atlanta’s facility became the instant leader of that football team.  By doing it, not by talking or acting, he just played.  I love the way he stand in the pocket.  I think he’s got some – you know – some underrated feet.  But he’s got a great command of what’s going on.  And he just – you know we never got to see him put up huge numbers at Boston College because it was almost like a North Carolina basketball player.  Those guys average 16, 17 a game—when they come out all of a sudden they explode and it’s the same with Matt.  I think the numbers he has last year will be, they’ll be a distant memory shortly.  Because they can run it – they have two special wide receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones – and Jones is getting better.  Can I foresee a Super Bowl?  Yeah dude.  Does he have that makeup?  Sure he does.  I never put it on somebody and say he can because there’s been a whole lot of quarterbacks with a good makeup – but if you don’t have the team around them [they won’t win]. They’re [Falcons] close, they’re really close.  I think that Matt Ryan before long – he’s not in the top 5 to 6 team picture yet, but he’s the guy waiting outside the door to get his ticket.

Me:  Tell me your thoughts on Cam Newton.  Who I’ll point out I was completely wrong about last year.  I didn’t think he was the right pick for the Panthers.  Boy was I wrong; all he did was have a season for the ages.  Now that Cam is going to have a full training camp under his belt, what can we expect from him this year?

SS:  As long as he doesn’t take last year and think it’s that easy all the time – and man, understand that’s just the way it is in this league.  After you’ve had a season like that, all defenses say OK, I mean defensive coordinators aren’t stupid.  That’s why they say this is how we’re going to approach him, because I don’t think defensive coordinators expected it either.  And I’m with you, I went on a Charlotte radio station when he was drafted and said, you know what, while he’s special, unique and a winner…that’s the one thing that I did know.  He’s won at every level.  My biggest thing was – I said, I don’t know if he could handle the passing game in the NFL – early.  Of course he got it big time, but he never had to do it [before].  He shocked me too, and I was wrong about him because I thought to myself, you know what, I thought they had bigger needs.  But it’s obvious taking the team – talk about a guy taking the team and grabbing them around the throat, and everybody rallies around.  I mean he is, he injected some stuff in that franchise.  I thought they were a bit nuts too.  I didn’t even know if he was the 2nd best quarterback in the draft last year.  You know, when you look – talent wise yes, but I mean in the passing game – matured…far more advanced in the passing game than I thought.  So, as long as Cam take that chip on his shoulder that he left Auburn with, saying all these people that don’t think I should be the first pick.  It’s OK to play with one of those.  It doesn’t mean a hatred, but it’s ok to play with one of those.  Because I think the majority of people – look – the people said, you know he’s a great big strong guy, great talent, but come on.  Is he going to be able to drop back and throw for 4,000 yards as a rookie?  And he did!  Somebody had asked me last week on a radio who is the next quarterback to get that big $100 million dollar contract.  I said if it keeps going well the next 2 to 3 years, he may be that guy.  Because of what he means to a franchise and as long as they continue to build around him – and if he doesn’t get comfortable.  I like the fact, I don’t think he played comfortable last year, and you talk about a guy that still learning.  I’m fascinated with his ability.

Me:  Do you think the Panthers are going to let Cam run as much near the end zone this year?

SS:  I would.  I don’t ever want to take – see what people do – I don’t ever want to harness a guy.  I just want him to be harnessed in the proper way.  You know I don’t need, I don’t, it’s like when people ask me about Robert Griffin III, who I think is off the chain special.  But you kow what, once I get a first down, I don’t need to prove to you that I’m tough – and there’s three guys about to him me.  Learn how to get down, and Michael Vick, has to learn that.  We know you’re tough.  It’s OK to step out of bounds after a 14 yard gain when three guys are going to hit you in the mouth.  Now if it’s 3rd and 1, and I got to have you run thru somebody for a first down, that’s about being a football player.  I don’t ever want to take [that away], that exactly why they’re dual weapon threats, guys like that.  I mean Andrew Luck’s a dual weapon threat – he’s got great feet.  I’m not going to take that out of you, but I want you, I don’t want you to run more, I just want you to be more efficient with how you do it – when and be judicious about how you protect the football and yourself.  I need you on the field.  I don’t need you on the sidelines.  Great talent!

Me:  Let’s switch gears and talk about a couple of vets that I think are primed for big seasons this year – Jay Cutler and Ben Roethlisberger.  Tell me your thoughts about Cutler’s prospects this year, and address just how much he means to a Bears team that lost their final five games last year after he was lost for the season due to a thumb injury.

SS:  I gained a new found respect for Cutler that I don’t know if I had last year.  His meaning to the team, now hey, the raw talent is sick, sick talent.  I’ve questioned in the past and I think that I’m still waiting for him to rise to another level, to jump over the fence.  Great thrower, great talent, we saw what he can do.  He’s had a handful of different coaches, you know, from Denver to Chicago.  I’m talking about on the offensive staff.  He showed me something and sometimes I felt like he wasn’t [a great leader] – a great leader sits in that pocket.  I remember Dan Fouts one time told me, great quarterbacks, great leaders of football teams put their foot in the ground and they stand there and they take a shot to the chin.  And I don’t think we give Cutler enough credit for being as tough as he is.  I think over what happened in the playoff game, me included, we kind of ripped him.  Saying man, you’d have to drag a guy off the field.  But we don’t know how bad he was hurt.  Cutler is starting to win me over more.  And I have not been a huge – I’ve been a supporter of his skills, but I went out and said he’s never winning a Super Bowl.  I said that, now I’m just not sure Cutler can’t.  Because had he stayed healthy and stuff they may have won one two years ago.  So I’m not back off that now.  He’s still got something to prove I believe, I do.  I believe he’s still got something to prove to teammates, to peers, to a lot of us and maybe even to himself.  But no question there’s talent.  But I’m starting to lean more towards the Cutler side.  I’ve been a critic of his.  Because I thought that, I thought at times there was a kind of  a, pouting I confess it’s somebody else’s fault syndrome.  You know what I’m saying?  Maybe I misunderstood Cutler a little bit, and I’ve become a bigger fan.  And last year, he proved something to me.  And then watching that team play without him, they couldn’t throw up.  I’ll tell you, that tea, they couldn’t drop in the ocean if they were standing in it.  So his value to the team is highly underrated.  And I’m actually starting to pull for the guy.  I actually think he’s starting to get it too.  The maturity level of recognizing exactly what, exactly the burden, and the accountability that comes with the position.  Yeah, he’s gifted.

As far as Roethlisberger, Ben’s never going to be a great fantasy numbers guy either.  But I know one thing, he wins!  The guy, there’s just something about him – when you tear him open, he’s got that big “it” button in there.  Whether he – I think he’ll throw the ball around a lot, I think he’s got underrated numbers.  But my biggest thing with him is when a game is on the line, he knows how to find a way to win.  For me, Ben Roethlisberger can quarterback my team any day of the week.  Because he doesn’t look pretty doing it.  Kind of looks all knee caps and elbows all over the place.  You wonder how’s he getting, how’s he scrambling out of the pocket. I’m not so sure that he’s not as good a player extender…we give credit to all these other guys…as far as extending the play…he’s one of the top 2 or 3 players we have in this league that’s good at it.  He has made so many big plays when there was nothing there.  I’m a Roethlisberger fan.

Me:  What do you think the addition of Todd Haley as the Steelers offensive coordinator is going to do for Roethlisberger and the rest of the offense this year?

SS:  One thing I know for sure, there will be some head butting and some battles.  I mean, Haley is a…Todd is extremely passionate, gets after it.  Ben is – and you know what?  I love that though.  Stubborn quarterback, stubborn coordinator getting after it – head butting.  That’s OK as long as they can be able to butt heads and go.  I’m sure Ben loves that hard core grinder, but I know he liked Arians too, now, he liked him.  Todd will fit in there well.  Todd’s going to have a good running game because they’re always physical.  But I think it’s a good combo and I think– as long as they can have their battles and butt their heads, because that’s just, that’s Todd, that’s the way its going to be and that’s OK.  I love his intensity, and he’s going to the perfect town to be intense.  Pittsburgh, hard core, blue collar, want to get after it, drink a cold beer on Friday and wear your butt out on Sundays.  That’s kind of who the fans are.  You know they love it.  So um, I expect it to be a good mix, I really do, and I think that Mike Tomlin is the perfect calming effect for Ben and Haley.  And I think Roethlisberger has been around enough to where, Todd doesn’t have to babysit Ben.  He’s not a second year quarterback.  Ben’s got some jewelry to speak of – he gets it.

Me:  There are some quarterbacks on the hot seat:  Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Michael Vick.

SS:  They should be.

Me:  What was wrong with Rivers last year?  Will he be able to improve on it, and how will the loss of Vincent Jackson affect the team?

SS:  I think big, I do.  You can tell me how great a quarterback you are and Norv is a great offensive play caller – something is missing in San Diego, as it is in Dallas.  Every year we talk about the Cowboys and Chargers – how talented they are, and oh they’re going to the Super Bowl, and every year, something is missing!  I don’t know why Philip had what we would call and off year for him.  Other quarterbacks would love having the type of off year Philip Rivers has.  But I fully expect him to bounce back and be OK.  The problem is, your big play guy is gone.  Norv is going to have to do some different things to dial it up.  I think at times Philip, because he’s competitive, he gets frustrated.  They’re going to have to change a philosophy as far as getting everybody involved and realizing they’re going to have to have 4 or 5 big home runs.  I mean to create stuff and manufacture stuff.  I don’t think Philip rivers is done, or oh my gosh we need to start panicking, but he is on the hot seat.  We keep talking and – he’s now that guy we’re talking about as one of the great player never have won one.  You know, and we keep telling them how good they are.  Yes he’s on the hot seat, but I think Philip Rivers will settle down.  He’ll be OK.  But I don’t think they’re the best team in the division.

As for Michael Vick goes, Mike is going to be on the hot seat most of his career.

Me:  Vick just used the “D” word.  We know the dream team and h ow that worked out last year.  But he just went on record saying he thinks the Eagles can be a dynasty.  Can Vick win one Super Bowl with the Eagles, let alone create a dynasty?

SS:  Well, I think you are trying to get your team, your saying those things so that people around you start to look and rally around you.  But you can’t be considered a dynasty until you win one – they haven’t won one.  And until they win one, the dynasty word, or dream word means nothing to me.  And Mike is a great talent, he’s become a better pocket passer.  And he’s one of those guys that we need him on the field.  They’re far better with him on the field.  So um, oh my god yeah, can they win a Super Bowl?  Yeah.  They’re well coached, special quarterback, their running back, you can put him in the top 3 or 4 running backs in the league.  LeSean McCoy is a great player, great screen team.  But I don’t know why players insist on still having to say something to do it.  I don’t want to hear the dream team, and I don’t want to hear dynasty.  I want to hear, let’s go take care of our business, win the division, and take care of them in the Super Bowl.  But Mike is capable of doing it.  And in Dallas, talking about Romo…

Me:  Should Romo be looking over his shoulder if he stumbles?

SS:  I’ve been saying for 2 or 3 years, as much as I like Tony, and I’ve known Tony since he was a third quarterback.  I think he’s a great kid, but I shouldn’t even call him a kid, he’s not.  Everybody keeps making excuses, he’s been at it long enough.  And talk about a team with something missing.  There’s about six or seven minutes in every game where something happens and the Cowboys offense goes schizophrenic.  What, what are you doing?  And we can’t just blame it on the quarterback, but you know what?  We do.  It falls on the quarterback and the head coach.  And with the Cowboys overall, something is missing.  But Tony has got to find a way – the great quarterbacks find ways to win, not ways to lose.  I think Tony is a good quarterback, he’s not a top five player.  Matter of fact, we talk about the top 10 – I’ll take Schaub over Romo – I will.  I like Tony, but as far as gifted and talent, and great – get the ball out quick and can make special plays – I got to know without making those plays out of the pocket, and doing all the crazy stuff – can he continue to stand back there and deliver the ball.  You know what I want to see from Tony?  I want to see a boring quarterback.  Boring teams win championships.  Drop back, check down, check down.  He’ll make spectacular plays and his numbers are alarming.  He’s a great fantasy quarterback, but when it comes down to it – people continually say this is the Cowboys year.  The Cowboys don’t look any different to me than they have the last four years.  All this talent – will it be any good?  It comes down to – can #9 – they look at his numbers in the fourth quarter and they’re good numbers.  But I don’t care about the numbers.  I care about how do we find a way to make or take ordinary players or some of the ordinary circumstances around us and make it better and make it extraordinary.  And Tony is a good player, he’s not a great quarterback yet, I don’t believe.

Me:  Romo played with Terrell Owens, an all-time great wide receiver, but also an all-time great head case.  Now he has Dez Bryant.  Will the time Romo spent playing with Owens help him deal with Dez?

SS:  I would assume so.  As a quarterback a lot of times you got to be a psychologist and a quarterback.  The bottom line is Dez Bryant better adjust to Romo and the Cowboys, not the other way around.  Because Dez Bryant, an extraordinary talent, if he doesn’t change his ways, you know what’s going to happen?  He’s going to be out of the league in three years.  I’m telling you, and I know for a fact with some of the people I’ve talked to in the organization – that’s been a concern of theirs from day one.  But this is a special talent, if he would just show up on time and play, and stay out of trouble.  They’ve got some really good players.  He’s the most gifted.  One of the most gifted wide receivers in the league.  But, can he elevate his…can he zip it.  Two ears and one mouth – use them accordingly and do his thing and play.  I think, I see, my thing is I don’t think Tony needs to worry about babysitting Dez Bryant.  That’s not his job.  His job s to drop back and throw the ball to the open guy, and it’s Dez Bryant’s job to extend the olive branch – not the other way around.  If he doesn’t want to be a part…[long pause]…consider the alternative my friend, it ain’t very nice.

Me:  Josh Freeman and Sam Bradford both have shown flashes, but last year both struggled.  What do they each have to do to turn things around?

SS:  I think that, well let’s see, both of them are third year players, right?

Me:  Bradford is entering his third year, Freeman his fourth.

SS:  That’s right, because he [Freeman] didn’t play much – he played at the end of the season his rookie year.  His first year of full time starting you looked at him and said, man we got Daunte Culpepper, maybe then some – because he’s big and strong.  I just think he needs to settle in to the position.  They’ve had a lot of turnover there as far as offensive players and I don’t think they have an idea of what they’re going to do – run – throw.  I mean are they finesse, are they physical?  So I think he going to be OK, because he’s a big, I mean he’s as physical as there is in the league at the position.  So I’m not – this to me is a huge year for him to kind of establish which way he’s going.  And you know, Kansas State, he’s still learning how to – while I’m not saying they weren’t a good football program, but he’s still learning how to play against a  lot of different coverages that they didn’t see.  So I think he’s going to be OK.

Bradford to me, you got to be healthy, and you got to have players.  He had no players.  When you watched that team, you and I could have lined up and played wide receiver for them last year.  They had no players.  So you know – and Jeff Fisher – trust me he’s going with a guy who understands – get good people around him.  He’ll be well coached.  For Sam Bradford all he’s got to do is stay healthy – and build around him.  That’s one of those guys you say, they got a franchise quarterback…Who not only was hurt at the end of his college career, and then hurt early in his career after a monster rookie season – I just think they have to build the team around him and recognize what they have.  A guy who between the injury and those two combined [no wide receivers].  I’m not sure we could have taken Montana, Young and Elway at the same time and succeeded in St. Louis last year.

Me:  If you had to pick between Freeman and Bradford to build around, who would it be and why?

SS:  Oh good gracious [six second pause]  I think just judging, I think Bradford at times is going to struggle staying healthy a lot of times.  Just because of his body type, and I hate to say that.  And I hope I’m wrong, because he’s a cerebral and a good player.  If I was looking at both of them right now and saying who I’m going to build around – let’s say we have equal teams around us – it may be Freeman first for me and then Sam Bradford.  But a lot of it has to do with the palyers you have an what kind of offense I’d run.  If I keep Sam Bradford healthy, great.  But right now, look at him and think about if things aren’t going to change.  Probably Freeman, yet I think Sam Bradford can be a Pro-Bowl player; I really do, as long as Jeff continues to put good football players around him.  I think Freeman can do more with less.  Because he’s such a playmaker – I think Sam is a good structure quarterback that needs to have things right, and stay healthy.  But as far as just body type, that fella in Tampa is pretty good.

Me:  Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III; who has the better year and why?  Who has the better career?  And who is under more pressure?  Is it Luck because he was taken first overall and is being called the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning?  Or is it RG3, due to what the Redskins traded away to move up to take him second overall?

SS:  I grade quarterbacks pretty tough.  These two guys, in my opinion, are as close as can’t miss guys that you can see.  Put it this way – when I’m judging a franchise quarterback there can’t be an “if” in your game.  I don’t think either one of them have an “if” in their game – other than this – if the franchise puts player around them.  No Bill Polian in Indianapolis, I don’t know how the Colts are going to approach it.  Mike Shanahan is extremely stubborn, is extremely stubborn, and he’s got a special player, the best talent – even Cutler – for Mike since he was coaching Elway.  I mean Robert Griffin III, make plays with him.  He’s a pocket passing guy that will put his foot in the ground – and that charisma, unique ability.  I think they’re both going to have great seasons.  I don’t think either team is going to have a great season.  You’re looking at two teams that you know the pressure in DC is huge, because of their history.  But I would say Luck, when you’re the 1st pick and you’ve got to replace Peyton Manning – come on man – that’s a size 27 shoe to fill – and you can have a great career and still not have replaced Peyton Manning.  I think with Luck you’re getting a guy who – 21 of 25, 260 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no picks.  I will be shocked if in three or four years from now, as long as the Redskins continue to build, and are a little bit flexible, that Robert Griffin, I think he can be the most explosive player in football.  I’ve said…one time and I believe this can happen – but people are going to say he’s not going to run that much – hey four plays with his feet it’s 60 yards – I believe he can rush for 1,000 and throw for 4,000 in the same season.  I think he’s that good.

Me:  That is a big endorsement for Robert Griffin III, that’s for sure.  Let’s change gears a bit.  A little over a year ago you wrote an article, “Don’t Argue: Jerry Rice Stands Alone At The Top Of The List.”  You started the article off with how people love lists.  You wrote, “When you think quarterbacks, you can argue for Elway, Montana, Unitas, Marino, and many more could be considered.  There is no definitive answer.”  You included Marino, but when talking greatest ever at quarterback, many like to point out his lack of a ring.  What are your thoughts about rings and what they mean to a player’s legacy?

SS:  What we want is for a guy to throw for 5,000 yards a year and win a ring.  We want what Drew Brees has done.  But yeah, I can answer Dan’s situation real quick.  This is the greatest team sport in the world, and it’s the only sport where you can be special if the other guys around you aren’t.  You can get by with four guys and one not being real good in the NBA.  Two guys on my pitching staff and three that are OK, but if my ace and my closer are good, and I’ve got a decent batting lineup, I can be in contention.  Football, if you got seven good guys on offense, four that are average or bad, I can’t win.  So you stick Dan Marino in San Francisco or Dallas in those times – Dan’s wearing more than one ring – period!  That’s not an indictment on him – matter of fact, I put it even more on him, for them to get close and do the things they did – that guy carried a franchise on his back for a long time.  As far as legacy goes, we’re a world that loves championship rings.  And for some reason – do I think it defines Marino?  Absolutely not.  But we judge greatness – if that the case then why isn’t Jim Plunkett in the Hall of Fame?  He’s got two Super Bowl rings, right?!?!  So I think that we want what we don’t have as media and fans, and all that – but Marino has no apology [to make] – Charles Barkley didn’t have to apologize to anybody, they both put up great careers.  But it has so much to do – especially in football more than any – with the guys around you and the team that you field.  You can make an argument that Dan’s one of the best of all-time, but he’ll never finish first because, four rings for Bradshaw, four rings for Montana, three rings for Tom Brady.  So he’s not in my top 5, but I understand why people would make an argument for it.

Me:  By the way, I am in complete agreement with you about Jerry Rice being the best wide receiver of all-time.

SS:  Not even close!

Me:  What would you say if I told you that Larry Fitzgerald, who turns 29 on August 31st has more catches [225] and receiving yards [1304] than Rice did by the time he was 29?

SS:  I’d say there is no doubt in my mind you’re right…Fitzgerald’s got, and I’d say the only difference – Larry Fitzgerald has Jerry Rice’s work ethic.  Same character approach on the field, same approach to the game, same hard work – one difference — 49ers organization versus Arizona Cardinals.  If Larry Fitzgerald was playing for the New England Patriots on those three Super Bowl runs – we would start I the next couple of years – if he continued the longevity of putting these numbers up – because he’s a Hall of Famer today if he retires.  But he problem is, he’s been – while even though they got to a Super Bowl, we got a little bit of Larry Fitzgerald.   He’s been, you know, when you’re around a franchise that doesn’t get a lot of credit, and rightfully so at times.  But I think Larry Fitzgerald is as good at body control, and I played with Chris Carter, and the hands and body control were special there – Larry Fitzgerald is a better player.  Larry Fitzgerald is a better all-around player, and he’s similar to Jerry because neither one of them have game breaking speed, but they seem to always get open on any route they want when they’re playing.  So I understand why it’s premature to call him Jerry Rice, because of Jerry’s longevity.  But let’s look at another thing that Larry Fitzgerald never had.  He had Kurt Warner for what a couple of years…Jerry Rice didn’t exactly have two slouches throwing him the football, but every  other position you can argue.  Right now, you have no argument, any person you talk to – who’s the best receiver of all-time?  To a man, every guy I’ve talked to.  Jerry Rice is clear-cut best ever at his position and no hesitation ever.

Me:  A few weeks ago, when Larry was in Williamsburg, I was able to speak with him, and he gets it.  When I pointed out those numbers to him he too was shocked, but he then went on to say, “I got a long way to go…He had two Super Bowl rings already though…you gotta win…it’s a nice footnote, but we all play for the rings.”  When Larry’s career is over, what will his footnote say?

SS:  Too bad he wasn’t playing in New England, Philly, and with the Giants…The footnote says, the greatest player to never win a Super Bowl, I mean greatest receiver to never win a Super Bowl.  And he can put his arm around Jerry Rice and be in that picture.  But Larry’s got the right perspective because it’s true – he’d give away 300 of those catches for a championship ring.  That’s just the way he is, and still approaches it like – he plays like an undrafted rookie trying to make the team, and that his life and career are on the line.  That’s how Larry still plays, and that’s how Jerry plays his career, but he doesn’t take a backseat as far as talent goes to Jerry Rice.  Jerry is just Jerry and he’s special.

Me:  Sean, I’ll say this, it’s clear you’re not just very good at what you do, but you are also extremely passionate.  What do you think your chances are of getting back to being a prominent analyst on television is?  Moreover, is it something you even still want?

SS:  Sure it is.  I mean you know I love doing this coaching – it’s a passion, truly.  You know I don’t know how to do much, I really don’t – I coach, and I teach and I know how to talk sports on television and radio.  Let me premise it by saying, I think it’s awfully silly that it’s taken this long to get back.  I really do.  And you know, I don’t want to hit on that – it’s well documented how I feel about that.  That being said, 6 years, 4  ½ years since I left ESPN – somebody sometime is going to say, it’s time.  I hope it’s soon.  I want it bad.  I’ll do anything to get back, and I am doing everything I can to get back.  Then you know you have to go thru humbling experiences.  You learn a lot, you learn about yourself.  You realize that a ten-second silly joke can cause you a lifetime of anguish, and it has.  Nobody has suffered over it more than me, and aside from my kids and my family, this is my life.  And yeah, I’ve spent nights crying – wanting to get back.  And that’s the truth as a full grown man – because I want it so bad.  I appreciate the compliment, I’m honored.  I put time in, I prepare.  I would hope that somebody says, eh, you know he’s done served his time and it’s time to give him a chance to come back and do what he – I think does decently well, and loves to do.  But I promise you as far as passion and love for it, nobody cares about it more than I do.  So, but you learn valuable lessons too, and I’ve learned a lot about myself, and the business.  I’ll get back, and once I get back, the rise back to the top will come fast and furious.

Me:  I wish you the best of luck, I really do.

SS:  Thank you.

Me:  I have to ask, the back and forth, the drama, or whatever you want ot call it with you and John Clayton.  Was that real or producer driven?

SS:  No you know what they never scripted that.  John, when I left ESPN was the first guy to call me.  And we still stay in touch.  I am a [pause] – heck if John ever, I’d love to do a thirty minute PTI type show with John every day.  Because we got after it, but we had – it’s like that sheep dog and that wolf who worked together, they’re best friends, on the cartoon.  They clock you and try to kill each other, and then they clock back and they’re buddies again.  That was John and I.  We didn’t script it.  They’d turn that camera on—they’d ask us during the day twenty different questions, and we weren’t in the same room, because John was usually on satellite, and we’d give our answers, and they’d roll those, and we didn’t know what the other guy was going to say – and we got after it.  Sometimes, and when you saw that passion, and getting in each other’s face – we didn’t plan that ever.  And I love John like he’s a family member.  I hope somewhere down the line we’re working it, and doing it again.  If that was at ESPN I’d be grateful because that company gave me twelve of the best years of my life.  I have no hard feelings for anybody.  Sometimes you just got to put anything that’s happened, adversity, and overcome adversity, and put it behind you.  I hope that John and I get a chance to do that again, because I love that guy.  I loved everything that went with it.  So I’m honored that you would say that.  Good things will happen.  I hate being patient, but I sure love the message that’s been sent.  For what it’s caused me to learn – to learn how to accept and what to do.  I’m grateful to be a part of it and still grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love to do.  And I want to do much of it again.

Me:  In parting, is there anything that you would like add that we haven’t talked about?

SS:  No.  You know what, just that guys like you that do this and still continue to hold the respect you’ve shown me.  And I’m blessed.  You know what, I hate going thru some of the things you thru.  I’m sure grateful – what’s going on Shoes [said to Billy “White Shoes” Johnson as he walked by] – I’m sure grateful to be coming out on the other side, because there were times when I’d wonder if I was done for good, and if I wanted to do it anymore.  But you know then you slap yourself in the face, and realize that this is a privilege, not a right.  And with the fans, I’m telling you the one thing about it is the fans – the support has been unreal.  I also learned that – you know what – I’m not bigger than a broadcast.  Broadcasts and people, they keep going on – television goes on.  They can do without you, and I think a lot of times, as athletes, or former athletes, we sometimes feel like, well, how’s that going to exist without us.  They can exist just fine without us.  So um, I come at it from a different approach.  I can promise you this, I’ll never take fans – which I don’t think I ever did – fans or friends for granted.  But I will never, ever, EVER, when I get back, and while I work y way back, take for granted, um, what a great career I have, and what a great life I have.  My numbers one goal now,  is not only get back, but to make a difference in other’s lives, and give others a chance.  In whatever walk of life it is; coaching, broadcasting give them a chance to be successful too.

Me:  Well Sean, I really do appreciate you spending as much time we me as you did.

SS: Thank you, hey you got it.

Me:  Before we officially end this, how about a Super Bowl prediction?

SS: Pats over Packers, 31-27

Me:  I want to once again thank Sean for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with me, and I wish him the very best in his pursuit of getting back to the national spotlight.

With that I will say, we all make mistakes at one time or another, and some are much more egregious than others are.  I think it is clear that Sean made a mistake, it cost him his job, he has owned up to it, he has “done his time” as we like to say, and now I think it is time that he does indeed get another shot.

There are pro athletes, national broadcasters, politicians, and celebrities that have skeletons, not in their closet, but out in the public for all to see, yet they either got a second chance or never lost their first.  Their torrid affairs, bouts of inappropriateness, and whatever else that they have done, legal or otherwise, doesn’t keep us from going to their games, tuning them in on the radio, television, voting for them, or buying tickets and watching their movies.

Like I said earlier, Sean has “done his time”, he has paid the price for a mistake, a mistake that after talking to him, I know he regrets – I could hear it in his voice and see it in his face, something you can’t get from just reading his words.

His “punishment” of not being able to get back into the national spotlight isn’t just a punishment for him, it is a punishment for all NFL fans, the large masses of them that no longer have access to that keen NFL insight and passion for the game that he possess.  Sure, there are many great analysts on television and radio, but there are also plenty of mediocre and bad ones too.

In today’s social media age, we have a keen ability to have our voices heard.  If you want to hear Sean’s voice on national television and radio again, or just think he deserves that chance, go ahead and tweet the link to this interview on twitter or share it via whatever social media outlet you choose.  If you choose not to, that is fine too, because after all, we all have a choice – that is unless you made a mistake that you are still paying for – then the choice isn’t yours.

 

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