When CBS pushed aside Dan Marino for Tony Gonzalez, was it a straight-up ‘asshole-for-good-guy’ trade?

FOX’s NFL pre-game show — with Curt, Terry, Jimmy, Michael et al — kills CBS’ show in the ratings, so this off-season, CBS had a shake-up: Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe out, Tony Gonzalez (recently retired) in. Things like this had been speculated for a month or so, although the exact names weren’t known. Sean McManus, who runs CBS Sports, has also hinted that another pre-game guy is coming in, but hasn’t announced the name officially. The breathless anticipation index for that would be topped by Peyton Manning (if he can’t play anymore off his next physical) but will probably be someone much less notable.

On the Sharpe front: he was clearly set up as the outspoken, not-necessarily-the-most-coherent, opinionated former player on the show. Sometimes I thought he was the best part. He’s “sad and disappointed” but will probably land another gig in the next few weeks. The most logical idea for Marino is a return to the Miami Dolphins, who just came off a media-unfriendly season with the whole Richie Incognito thing. (Marino was briefly SVP of the Dolphins, like Elways is with the Broncos, about 12 years ago before leaving and ending up at CBS.)

The thing is, though — Marino may not be the best guy out there. You’ve got the whole love child thing, this brief snippet on Yelp (search “Marino” within the page), this thread, this blog post, this post, etc, etc. You shouldn’t believe everything you read — you’ll get a parking violation and a maggot on your knee — and that’s especially true on the Internet, but a semi-consensus seems to be that Marino isn’t a great guy, all told.

If you look at the CBS move strategically, Gonzalez is another long-time NFL’er who never won a Super Bowl … but his reputation is semi-sterling. He’s even won The Good Guy Award, for chrissakes. CBS getting him and hopefully keeping him for a few years means that pre-game desk in three years could be JB, Cowher, Boomer, Gonzalez, and Peyton Manning (assuming he doesn’t want anything to do with coaching). That’s an all-world, mostly-good-guy lineup that could challenge FOX for those 4-5 million eyeballs watching the pre-game stuff.

If you don’t think this is all a big move — i.e. something CBS almost had to do — read this article from The Hollywood Reporter. Prime-time NFL was basically the priority at CBS; a lot of the marketing and promotion of their other shows revolved around that decision. With their pre-game suffering on Sundays and a potentially bigger platform on Thursday nights, they need a fresh outlook — and a good guy in there, not a love-child-hiding ex-QB. Again, in America, your brand — be it real or perceived — is everything.

Ted Bauer