Another NFL Draft has come and gone, but this year’s edition was different. It wasn’t different because networks weren’t allowed to tip picks or New York Jets fans weren’t around to boo every pick. It was different due to the presence of a former team executive on the ESPN set for Round 1. Louis Riddick, a former pro scout and Director of Pro Personnel in Washington and Philadelphia, made his debut on ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage.
Riddick’s appearance on ESPN in the 1st round was unplanned as Ray Lewis chose not to go to Chicago and remain in Baltimore to quell the riots in town. As we noted in our ESPN Round 1 Report Card, Riddick was the breakout star of the coverage giving dead-on analysis of the picks and showing he could hold his own with fellow analysts Mel Kiper, Jr. and Jon Gruden. What separated him from the past was his ability to share his front office experience in why picks were made and get beyond some of the same draft cliches that we hear year after year.
Riddick joined another former exec, Bill Polian, who has been on ESPN’s Draft coverage dating back to 2012 and proven to be a valuable asset during Days 2 and 3 of the draf in the later roundst. In addition, Polian’s analysis on NFL Live, SportsCenter and Mike and Mike have shown that the former GM has totally adjusted to being on television. Polian has also been an analyst on the NFL on ESPN Radio on during the regular season.
So with Riddick and Polian proving their worth, will this lead to more former team executives on television? It could and it should. Both men are very familiar with the draft process, assessing personnel and knowing what it takes for players to move to the next level.
Networks have regularly hired ex-jocks, going for the big name to lead their coverage. With Riddick and Polian showing that they can be articulate on the air plus show some humor when necessary, perhaps this could be a turning point for the sports networks in their assessment of potential analysts. But this isn’t the first time that former execs have been hired.
NFL Network does have former Washington and Houston GM Charley Casserly for his scouting expertise.
MLB Network utilized John Hart for a time in between his gigs with Texas and Atlanta. He gave some interesting insight from an executive’s perspective on MLB Tonight up until he left for the Braves in 2014.
NBC/NBCSN has Mike Milbury who used to be a GM and coach with the New York Islanders, but they rarely use his knowledge as an executive in its NHL coverage.
ESPN has Riddick and Polian as well as Tom Penn on the NBA side.
The hiring of analysts can be hit or miss, but as we have seen with Louis Riddick, ESPN may have hit the jackpot and that is a good thing for viewers. And perhaps the next step for sports networks is to Offering the GM’s perspective has proven to add another layer of context and insight that has proven to be a win for fans.