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Todd McShay of ESPN Responds to Alleged "Backlash"

It’s been a rough few months for ESPN football analyst Todd McShay. He’s been one of the most vocal critics of Florida QB Tim Tebow, and it just so happens the former Gators’ QB is the most popular college football player of this generation. McShay has sparred ad nauseam with ESPN’s Mel Kiper over another quarterback, Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen. Kiper believes Clausen is the best QB in the draft; McShay, not so much. McShay’s strong opinions must have ticked somebody off, because on March 31, Pro Football Talk produced this hatchet job on him:

[According to a Scout] “Most people at my level feel he is a joke … McShay does not have any good connections. Higher-ups in the league think he is an arrogant asshole. A know-it-all. And he really knows nothing. Whatever he says about a quarterback, take it to the bank, it will be the opposite. Remember, last August he stated that Jevan Snead was better than Colt McCoy and would get drafted in the top five. He has yet to publicly retract that statement.

“One of the reasons the kid came out was because of what McShay said. The family thought McShay knew and everyone else was wrong. . . . He has problems with game management, accuracy and leadership among other things, but pretty boy Todd thought he was great because of one good game (the Cotton Bowl) a year ago. McShay is a pretty face who comes across like he knows what he is talking about. He does have good presence, but knows nothing.”

We called up McShay to ask him about the rip job. But first, we directed him to this March 2009 comparison of Snead and McCoy … by Mel Kiper Jr. You’ll need ESPN Insider to read it, but we’ve pulled the comparison.

“He was really thought to be a star coming out of high school, and regardless of his path, he’s still in that class,” says Kiper of Jevan Snead, once a Longhorn and now a Rebel at Ole Miss.

The difference, Kiper says, is that, right now, while Snead has slightly superior size in comparison to McCoy, Snead’s arm strength will remind Ole Miss fans of Eli Manning. McCoy doesn’t have the same kind of cannon — his leadership skills and ability to extend plays with his legs fall into the lesser-regarded “intangibles” grab bag — and when projecting his pro potential, it’s simply a huge factor. Just look at the three quarterbacks picked in the first round in 2009 — Stafford, Sanchez and Josh Freeman all got extremely high grades in terms of being able to make all the throws.

“But Colt’s right there with him,” Kiper says. “It’s a fine line, and Colt has a chance to be right in that mix, and a lot of it will depend on what teams are on the board and where the best fit is.”

Because ESPN puts all of its archives online, we were able to see that in Sept. 2009, Mel Kiper had Snead 11th on his Big Board (again, you’ll need Insider). Kiper had moved McCoy to 7th overall. Point being: Everyone was bullish on Snead after his phenomenal 2008 season. He was awful in 2009 (no help from his offensive line) and fell off everyone’s board. (He was not in McShay’s January 2010 first round; in January, Kiper pegged Snead in the 3rd-5th round). To think Snead is in this year’s draft because of an August ’09 evaluation is silly; he had no choice but to bolt after losing his two best offensive weapons (McCluster, Hodge) and could have been even worse had he stuck around Oxford for another year. But McShay doesn’t need us to jump in on his behalf. He was aware of the PFT slam.

“I love what I do, and I’m passionate about the way I do it,” McShay told us today. “I am at the key all-star games, I’m at the combine and I’m at all the top pro day workouts. I have access to every single game cut-up from every prospect in this draft and I’ve watched tape on every prospect that we have an evaluation on. People can question my opinion, that’s fine. But if anyone’s saying I show up, read a couple of notes, and go on air, that’s just false.”

McShay actually interviewed the two quarterbacks he’s been critical of, Clausen and Tebow, face-to-face in the last two months. He said neither interview was awkward. McShay said Tebow even told him he used the critique as motivation.

Kiper and McShay make great television – unlike previous Sportscenter attempts at quick-hit PTI segments (John Clayton vs Sean Salisbury comes to mind), McShay and Kiper work because the two aren’t hostile toward one another – they just hold strong opinions about the draft. And if the news in recent days is accurate – Clausen and Tebow won’t be in the Green Room at the draft because they aren’t being projected in the first round – then perhaps McShay will have the last laugh.

[Here's our goal leading up to next year's draft: Compile a list of the agents and their clients, and then monitor who gets the best (or worst) treatment from Kiper, McShay, NFL Network's Mike Mayock et al. It's probably also worth noting who the reporters are represented by, right?]

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