ESPN Pipeline Back to NFL?

The NFL and the television networks have enjoyed a long and successful relationship together, but it would seem that more recently, TV networks like ESPN have become the proving ground for coaches and front office types.

It wasn't too long ago, that the college ranks were raided annually by the NFL as the league looked to hire the next big thing when it came to filling vacancies among its top coaches and personnel people.

While there is still plenty of that, it now appears that just as many hires are coming from people with ESPN parking lot passes.

Dennis Green, who always seemed to have a certain level of disdain for many in the media while coaching the Vikings, actually became a media type -- serving as a co-host to ESPN's Monday Quarterback program after leaving the Vikings. He did a quality job of breaking down where teams were successful and where they had problems and, when the Cardinals head coaching job came open, he joined a growing list of coaches that went from media analyst back to the sidelines.

So it is that the saga of Rick Spielman has come full circle. Spielman, who spent 15 years in the personnel departments of the Lions, Bears and Dolphins, became available to ESPN when it became clear that his position with the Dolphins was going to be engulfed when head coach Nick Saban was given far-reaching powers.

In a bit of irony, Spielman replaced Randy Mueller as the network's de facto general manager on its numerous NFL pre-draft and post-draft broadcasts -- but thankfully never part of the "ESPN Theatre of the Air" fake press conferences that have surrounded the network's baseball coverage. Mueller moved on to the Saints, having used his exposure on ESPN to sell himself. So is the case with the Spielman.

In a second tinge of irony, when the Vikings interviewed for the personnel director portion of the Triangle of Authority, both Spielman and Scott Studwell were by-passed for Fran Foley. Two months later, both Spielman and Studwell are under contract with the Vikes and Foley is trying to recoup his salary through a lawsuit.

Will Foley become the next ESPN analyst looking for future NFL work? While not nearly as photogenic as Spielman, don't discount the possibility. It would seem that ESPN has become the new pipeline to the pros.

* Adam Goldberg, an exclusive rights free agent, signed his one-year tender offer of $425,000 Tuesday.
* Among the anticipated cuts and salary cap casualties coming on or after June 1 is expected to be former Vikings linebacker Kailee Wong, who some believe could be a good fit in the Vikings' new defensive scheme.

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