For years I’ve been threatening to write a treatise on all the things I don’t like about Cris Collinsworth. The idea usually rears its ugly head on Sunday nights around 10:03 PM, after I’ve spent another three hours of my life listening to Collinsworth rhapsodize about some franchise QB and how he could probably cure cancer if only he were around set sentences. . I realize that I am far from alone. Usually on Sunday nights, “Collinsworth” shoots to the top of the “trending” column on were wrong. .
Still, there’s a lot more cruelty in the world of sports media than not, and as a woman who used to work in sports radio, I know what it feels like when listeners write entire volumes about how much you suck. And anyway, Collinsworth has one of the most high-profile jobs in sports, and I don’t, so what do I know?
So I want to be as honest as possible in my criticism of Collinsworth, and point out things that can actually, objectively be discussed, such as his feud with Mike Tirico, the perpetrator of one of the worst forms of sexual harassment I’ve never heard of it, or the fact that he injected his nepo son in all our lives. The former isn’t really Collinsworth’s fault, the latter is. But when it comes to Cris Collinsworth, my biggest complaint is this: He doesn’t seem to prepare for the games he calls.
Why do I care? Good question, I’d like to ask you that. Successful men who make millions of dollars in sports media, but eventually stop preparing for their matches/shows, remain largely in the clutches of women working in the industry who do not have the same luxury. Sure, Stephen A. Smith can make it abundantly clear that he’s not watching college football or basketballAnd Mike Francesa can fall asleep (repeatedly). on the air, but women working in sports broadcasting are not given the same leeway. A very successful woman in sports broadcasting gave me some good advice: “Make sure you are prepared, because we don’t get a second chance. If you mess up, it’s because you’re a woman, and they’ll never forget that.” She was right. I once incorrectly called Bulls player Denzel Valentine “Denzel Washington” on air, and guys still bring it to me. But one of my colleagues who called Laquon Treadwell “Laquon Treadmill” was laughed at and forgotten within a day.
My feeling about this is this: if you’re in a position to create a story around a game and its players, you better do your homework and make sure your opinion is correct. Because too many casual sports fans will repeat it just because a major NFL broadcaster said it.
Back to Collinsworth. Last night, as my hapless Chicago Bears, without injured QB Justin Fields, tried to stay on the field for the Chargers, I listened to Collinsworth draft backup QB Tyson Bagent like he was the second coming of Joe Montana. If you’ve been living under a rock (in Chicago), Bagent was an undrafted free agent out of DII Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. He defeated Nathan Peterman to be the Bears’ backup, and was called into service when Fields went down with a dislocated thumb. Furthermore, Bagent’s father is a 28-time world arm wrestling champion Travis Bagent, which is ironic considering that a lack of arm strength is one of Bagent’s drawbacks. Anyway . . .
Last week against the Raiders, Bagent threw for 162 yards and a touchdown in a 30-12 win over Las Vegas. So hey, good job and congratulations on your first NFL start and win, Tyson. Bagent finished that game with a 72 percent completion percentage and a QB rating of 70.2. Nothing, NOTHING that deserved the amount of hype Collinsworth had for the rookie coming into this game.
And I understand, Cris. Imagine what it must have felt like to call Patriots games when it became clear that Tom Brady was a much better option than Drew Bledsoe. Or Rams games when it started to look like former grocery boy Kurt Warner was a real NFL quarterback. But this game, and Tyson Bagent, was not.
The Bears had all seven points on the board when Collinsworth made it sound as if Bagent had somehow won the starting job away from Fields, saying absurd things like, “We see the way he’s moving around here tonight.” We see the leadership qualities. There is definitely something in this man.” Of course, there could be something to this guy. For Bagent’s sake, I hope that’s the case. But Collinsworth said this during a game when Bagent threw for 232 yards, 0 touchdowns, two interceptions and had a QB rating of 62.
Collinsworth continued like this for most of the game, suggesting that Fields “study” Bagent’s game and telling the crowd, “These few games, no matter how long Bagent remains the starting quarterback, they’re going to let Justin Fields play this guy study.” Well, Cris, I can tell you exactly how long Bagent will be the starting quarterback – until Justin Fields is ready to return. No, there is no quarterback controversy in Chicago, and no, Bagent is not on the same level as Fields. It started to sound like Collinsworth was preparing for the game by reading the worst takes on Bears Twitter and listening to Stan from Berwyn on sports talk radio all week.
Then there was the glorious moment when Collinsworth suggested Fields should “find out” what Bagent could already do, seconds before Bagent threw one of two interceptions that night.
It’s not that Bagent is a bad quarterback. As far as we all know, he will turn out to be a very good quarterback. And God knows, NFL draft scouts have gotten it wrong before. But other than his ability to line the pocket and manage the game, there isn’t really anything special about Bagent, who seems like a good guy with a great attitude. And hey, we all make mistakes. I’ve made too many bad decisions and predictions to count. But what was so hurtful about Collinsworth last night was his refusal (inability?) to change his story once it was clear it didn’t match what was happening on the field in front of him.
If Collinsworth had paid more attention, or prepared better for the game, he would have realized that the “Tyson Bagent could dethrone Justin Fields as starter” angle was a story in search of a play to justify it. Nothing Bagent did in his three appearances for the Bears merited Collinsworth’s over-the-top glorification of a young, green backup quarterback for the worst team in the NFC North. And honestly, it’s unfair to put that kind of pressure on a young QB.
Fans on social media began suggesting that Collinsworth’s take on Bagent came directly from Bears coaches, who were frustrated with Fields’ development. That may very well be true, but Collinsworth’s job is to take those comments and filter them through a lens of objectivity, not to construct a whole storyline around them and copy them to a national audience as if it were God’s is truth.
This has become a weekly occurrence for Collinsworth, who usually singles out one player (usually a QB, usually Patrick Mahomes) and then expresses his deep and abiding love for them throughout the game, regardless of what actually happens on the field. . Add in some warmed-over Monty Python references (NBC, I beg you to stop with the cutesy graphics), and Collinsworth has done the near impossible: made NFL football damn near unbearable.
Most of us who work in sports will never achieve the level of success, fame and fortune that Collinsworth has. And the sports media is far from a meritocracy, as Jac Collinsworth’s presence continues to prove every week. But my God, Cris. You owe it to the audience to at least talk about the game that’s actually happening, and not the game you’re watching in your mind. If that doesn’t work, step aside and let someone else take over (not Jac).