Last year, ESPN spent much of the spring talking about the "bounty-gate" scandal with the New Orleans Saints. But that story was growing old, and other headlines were beginning to grab our attention. Out of nowhere, ESPN's Outside the Lines (OTL) released a report that the Saints had been eavesdropping on opposing coaches' sideline communications for three years. In fact, the entire ESPN NFL crew went all-in on this report discussing the ramifications the organization could face. However, nothing ever came out of the report. In fact, it was pretty much forgotten just a few short months later. You probably forgot about it too. I haven't, and have always wondered why ESPN and OTL never took much flack for an investigation they pretty much got wrong.
Now, fast forward to yesterday. Let's review the similarities between the Saint's spy-gate 2 scandal and Johnny's signing scandal.
The NCAA is investigating whether Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was paid for signing hundreds of autographs on photos and sports memorabilia in January, "Outside the Lines" has learned. Two sources tell "Outside the Lines" that the Texas A&M quarterback agreed to sign memorabilia in exchange for a five-figure flat fee during his trip to Miami for the Discover BCS National Championship. Both sources said they witnessed the signing, though neither saw the actual exchange of money.
So, ESPN's OTL was pretty confident to run with their "sources" on the Saints even though "they could not determine for certain" whether their story was actually true. Similarly, ESPN feels pretty confident to run with the Manziel story even though their witnesses admit they never saw money change hands.
I see this as an interesting pattern of actions from ESPN and OTL. They have a story that dominates the news cycle, and then throw more fuel on it with their own investigative reporting that may or may not be true. I'm not 100% sure why they feel the need to do this, but I think its pretty clear they have an agenda to get this story out since Johnny has been the main focus of sports media last week and really for the majority of July. Based on their track record, the ESPN investigative team isn't exactly ironclad, especially when it is headed by Darren Rovell.