Fox continues raiding ESPN, hires Bayless for $6 mil

Jamie Horowitz, president of Fox Sports, is trying to build afternoon programming at FS1 that consists of what he calls “opinionists.”  And foremost among these is Skip Bayless, who will be leaving ESPN at the end of the NBA Finals.  Fox has hired him for a reported salary of $6 million to begin a show in September.

This is the second major raid on ESPN by Horowitz.  Last summer he hired Colin Cowherd, who like Bayless is a controversial sports analyst.

Bayless, formerly a newspaper columnist in Dallas and Chicago, is best known for his work for the past 11 years with Stephen A. Smith on First Take.  Smith tends to be more outrageous than Bayless, drawing a suspension last year for saying men should not be punished for domestic violence without considering “the elements of provocation.”

Smith’s latest controversy occurred Wednesday when he suggested Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta might be using performance-enhancing drugs because “his arm never gets tired.”

Bayless discussed his pending departure on Thursday’s First Take and told Smith: “I love you.”

ESPN announced that Bayless was leaving but hasn’t revealed what Smith’s future role will be, although it’s been rumored he may join with Dan LeBatard.

“Skip Bayless doesn’t think he’s going for money,” LeBatard said on his own show.  “Skip Bayless thinks he’s going to make a difference but he will not.”

LeBatard cautioned that the talking heads (“gasbags” is a word he likes to use) can make a mistake by leaving for what appears to be a better job. “You leave, you’re going to get lost . . . no one’s  going to know where to find you.”

Click here for Michael McCarthy of the Sporting News reporting on recent developments at ESPN.


Rodgers was passed over in draft because of cockiness

It’s long been a mystery why the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft chose Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers.  It wasn’t that they thought Smith had a stronger arm.

It wasn’t that they hadn’t seen enough of Rodgers.  He played his college ball for Cal-Berkeley, just across the bay.

The 49ers were among 23 teams that saw plenty of Rodgers but looked elsewhere on Draft Day.   Mike Nolan, their head coach at the time, explained on Tuesday’s NFL HQ that “Aaron was very cocky, very confident, arrogant.”

Smith, on the other hand, had a perfectly cheerful demeanor.  “Alex was a very good person, a safe choice, always trying to please.”

Most of the pre-draft analysis had Rodgers being drafted early in the first round, perhaps ahead of Smith, who was faulted for having an underpowered arm and small hands that, it was feared, might lead to what coaches dread more than anything: turnovers.

When all the data was sifted the 49ers decided that Smith was the safer choice, that he would be good enough to quarterback a team into the playoffs, and indeed he was.

But Rodgers, chosen by the Green Bay Packers at No. 24 has had a more impactful career, twice being MVP, once being MVP of the Super Bowl.

“We felt Alex would be the better long-term guy,” Nolan said.  “Obviously we were wrong in that process.”

Click here for Cameron DaSilva of Fox Sports writing about the Rodgers snub.

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