The MMQB has a great piece on Adam Schefter’s hectic life as ESPN’s official NFL scoop-getter. This is free agency season, which makes it Schefter’s busiest time of the year.
Schefter’s day is about as crazy as you might expect—TV appearances and lots of calls with sources—but it also included calls from NFL players asking Schefter for advice.
According to the piece, free agent wide receiver Alshon Jeffery called for information on other free agent wide receivers and their contracts. Schefter gave Jeffery some advice.
In the middle of Schefter’s flurry of calls, Alshon Jeffery (49 Markman points) rings him, wanting to know how much money the other free-agent receivers are making. Players sometimes contact Schefter with questions like this because he likely has that information even if he hasn’t reported it, as is the case here. Indeed, as they talk Schefter receives a text saying that Torrey Smith will be signing with the Eagles.
Schefter goes through the contract numbers on Smith, Jackson and Pierre Garçon, slowly, so Jeffery can apparently write them down. “It’s all about the guarantee, Alshon,” Schefter says. “It’s all about the guarantee … Your average per year could be $100 million. It doesn’t matter. If they’re going to guarantee you the majority of the contract, that’s what you want.”
Schefter asks where Jeffery is going. Jeffery doesn’t have an answer yet. Schefter asks that Jeffery notify him when he does make a decision and leaves the conversation at that.
The conversation between Schefter and Jeffery shows how Schefter is more of a scoop-getter than a journalist. His job is to break information before anyone else, and that means cozying up to players and offering advice to them in hopes they will let him break news regarding their free agency decisions. Journalists aren’t typically supposed to have chummy relationships like that with the people they cover.
This situation is fairly harmless, because it’s just about Schefter reporting what team a player ends up with. However, Schefter’s quest for access has led to subpar outcomes before, like when he essentially did a puff piece on Greg Hardy that seemed designed to rehabilitate Hardy’s image.
Schefter has one of the most unique jobs in the sports media landscape. He’s not a public relations director, but he’s also not entirely a journalist. His job is to get access and report what happens in the NFL before anyone else does. Nobody else does that job better than him.