The Media Column: What will trolls like Chris Simms do when they won't have Tom Brady to kick around anymore?

Alex Reimer
June 26, 2019 - 11:33 am
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We are in the midst of the NFL doldrums. Patriots training camp doesn’t begin for another month and Bill Belichick is busy cavorting in the Greek islands with his boo. Yet, ex-career backup quarterback and obscure NFL analyst Chris Simms has dominated the Boston sports conversation for nearly the last week, because he ranked Tom Brady No. 9 on his utterly inconsequential preseason QB ranking list. 

It shows just how easy it is to trigger perpetually aggrieved Patriots fans, and also begs the question: what will these trolls do when they don’t have Tom Brady to kick around anymore?

There is a cottage industry centered around absurd and unjustified Brady criticism –– and we’re not even talking about the condemnation he’s received for allegedly deflating footballs, his infamous “Make America Great Again” hat, or business partnership with Alex Guerrero. For at least the last five years, there’s been a race to predict Brady’s imminent decline. It’s not surprising most of Brady’s notorious detractors are relative unknowns in the overly saturated world of sports punditry, or in the case of Max Kellerman, looking to show they can match Skip Bayless’ inane mid-morning rantings. 

If it weren’t for Brady, Kellerman would be without his signature punching boy, and Rob Parker’s media exposure would consist of shouting into the abyss on Fox Sports Radio overnight programs. That brings us to Phil Simms’ boy, who joined Bleacher Report in 2014 as an NFL analyst, and immediately started besmirching Brady’s play. 

“Tom Brady is not my top five,” Simms said in November 2014, before Brady’s three most recent Super Bowl wins, four most recent Super Bowl appearances, and third career NFL MVP. “I mean, he’s still really good, but I like other guys better. I’d go Aaron Rodgers one, Andrew Luck two, Ben Roethlisberger three, Russell Wilson four, and Peyton (Manning) five.”

Five years later, it’s worth noting Simms still ranks all of those passers ahead of Brady, besides Manning, who retired the following season, because he struggled to throw the ball more than five yards down the field. 

Like all Brady detractors, Simms also pounced on the Patriots’ QB during Deflategate. “This is cheating, flat out,” he said at the time of the Wells Report’s release in May 2015. “No quarterbacks take out less air than what is mandated by the NFL. Nobody. I’ve never heard of anybody doing that. I put it up there with PEDs, corking your bat, any of that.”

Of course, an array of NFL quarterbacks contradicted Simms: Matt Leinart said every team tampers with footballs, Rich Gannon called the scandal a “non-issue,” and Rodgers admitted to purposefully filling his footballs with too much air in order to test the officials. We all rip Kellerman for his now-three-year-old proclamation about Brady falling off the proverbial cliff, but nobody has a longer track record of being wrong about TB12 than Chris Simms. He’s never slotted Brady among his top-five QB’s, listing him outside of that group in 2016 as well. 

Brady has played in each Super Bowl since then, posting an incredible 103.5 passer-rating over the last three years and throwing 89 touchdown passes. This has arguably been the best run of Brady’s illustrious career, and Simms was ready to bury him when New England drafted Jimmy Garoppolo.

So why, then, do we allow Simms to troll us? He attempted to explain his latest Brady slight this week, but wound up rambling about how much he respects Brady –– while minimizing his importance to the Patriots.

“I hate to have this conversation, because I’m making points against Tom Brady, and I don’t like that,” Simms said Monday on PFT Live. “But the system is phenomenal, as in they went 11-5 with a guy who didn’t play college football. He came in, and they went 11-5. There you go. The system is there.”

Ah, yes: there’s nothing like demonstrating your admiration for Brady by invoking Matt Cassel. That’s fresh.

Pro Football Talk founder Mike Florio, who doubles as Simms’ radio partner, told us on “Mut & Callahan” he doesn’t think the one-time New England quality control coach is trolling. But that would be even worse. If Simms is genuine, it means his football IQ falls somewhere below the cast of characters who will grace the Democratic debate stage for the next two nights.

Relevancy is the most valuable currency in cable sports debate world. Simms’ anti-Brady crusade continues to agitate an entire region, and this time, he even got into a war of words with Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. The trick keeps working.

One of these days, Simms and his ilk will be right. It is impossible, or at least we think, for a quarterback to play at this level forever. But the Brady Bashers better hope that day doesn’t come along for a while. Once he fades, so does the debate surrounding him. 

As Simms has demonstrated, an entire career can be built off being wrong.

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Viral Durant-to-Celtics rumor was blatant lie: Earlier this week, an unverified Twitter user –– that means no blue checkmark –– named “Robot Dave” tweeted the Celtics are “officially on Kevin Durant’s list for a free agency meeting.” The missive sparked the attention “Sports Hub” host Joey Murr, who retweeted the faux report. Our own Patrick Gilroy also discussed the nonsensical possibility on WEEI “Late Night.”

Despite only having 1,953 followers –– and no history whatsoever of breaking any sort of NBA news –– “Robot Dave’s” tweet was shared more than 500 times and favorited nearly 2,500 times. But according to a source with knowledge of “Robot Dave,” the Twitter account is “just a kid trolling around.” WEEI.com has seen a text message from one of “Robot Dave’s” apparent friends laughing about how his tweet regarding the Celtics’ unconfirmed interest in D’Angelo Russell was featured on the “Celtics Insider” Instagram account, and garnered more than 8,300 “likes.”

“Robot Dave” did not respond to an interview request for this piece.

It is amazing that hoards of seemingly functional human beings continue to fall for fake rumor mongering. But then again, millions of people watch Fox News and read the Daily Caller. We seek out what we want to hear. 

Barstool squabbles getting tired: HBO’s “Real Sports” aired a segment about Barstool Sports this week, and the 16-minute feature presented nothing new at all. The first half was spent chronicling Barstool’s meteoric rise, from founder Dave Portnoy handing out newspapers at Boston subway stations to presiding over the media behemoth it is today. The second half delves into some of the company’s sexist controversies, while noting 15 women who were harassed by Barstool turned down interview requests, citing fear of retaliation. 

The only two people featured in the piece are Portnoy and company president Erika Nardini. Several Barstool employees say they were interviewed, but didn’t make the final cut.

Predictably, the Stoolies have rallied against HBO and the segment’s host, veteran journalist Soledad O’Brien, saying they purposefully tried to paint the $100 million company in a negative light. 

“Bryant Gumble asks Soledad O’Brien –– who has reported on PTSD, Haiti, Aurora, Hurricane Katrina, Racism, HIV/AIDS, the Opiate Epidemic, and Sandy Hook –– if Barstool Sports was ‘the most unpleasant story she’s ever worked on,” reads one of the website’s headlines about the feature. 

O’Brien, to her credit, jokingly responded that Barstool missed “serial killers/white supremacists/two tsunamis/a couple of dictators and some other stuff” from her resume. That is the right play. In an apparent effort to maintain its outsider status, the very mainstream Barstool Sports must always rail against the alleged deep state of media, which judging by “Pardon My Take’s” ESPN-heavy guest list, has now largely accepted them with open arms.

It’s a transparent play. Yawn.

KC radio host shouldn’t be fired for tasteless Andy Reid comments: An afternoon host in Kansas City is off the air indefinitely for appearing to chastise Andy Reid for his son’s overdose death while criticizing the organization for keeping Tyreek Hill amidst his alleged child abuse case. 

“Andy Reid does not have a great record of fixing players. Discipline is not his thing,” said Sports Radio 810’s Kevin Kietzman. “It did not work out particularly well in his family life, and that needs to be added to this, as we’re talking about the Chiefs.”

Abhorrently, Kietzman hasn’t taken full responsibility for his words, saying he wasn’t invoking the death of Reid’s son and apologizing to those who “interpreted” his comments as “insensitive and cold.” 

While Kietzman has been rightfully disciplined, the calls for his firing are histrionic, and speak to the double standard regarding how owners and coaches are treated compared to players. Radio hosts are allowed to say almost anything about players, even invoking personal missteps. But for coaches and owners, the rules are different. The Serious Men must be treated more carefully. Look no further than how “The Sports Hub” downplayed the Robert Kraft story. 

If Kietzman made those remarks about a player, his job might not be in jeopardy. Also, one mistake, unless it is deeply egregious and leaves no room for interpretation, should not cost somebody their livelihood.

 Kietzman should come back and face the music –– not go away for an idiotic rant. 

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