It's one thing for a network to make an occasional error. It's quite another to be intentionally dishonest, to mislead viewers by fabricating a story. And that's exactly what Fox did recently with Bears QB Jay Cutler.
Attempting to illustrate the criticism Cutler received for leaving the NFC championship game with a knee injury, Fox posted on screen what analyst Daryl Johnston called "actual headlines from local newspapers in Chicago." One said, "Cutler lacked courage." Another said, "Cutler is no leader."
The Chicago Tribune became suspicious, did some research and determined last week that those headlines never actually appeared. Anywhere. Fox admitted as much and apologized on air on its Week Three pregame show.
Everyone knows what Fox did was wrong. But here's what else struck me: There were plenty of real, documented criticisms of Cutler in the aftermath of that NFC title game. Other players blasting him on Twitter. Commentators questioning him.
Any of this would have been easy for a Fox producer or researcher to find. But Fox decided it would be easier to make something up. So Fox wasn't merely deceitful, but also incredibly lazy.
By the way, don't blame Johnston, who was incorrectly told by a Fox official that the headlines were legitimate.
AROUND THE DIAL
• Too often, networks try to tinker where tinkering isn't necessary. That's the case with CBS on those 10- to 15-second highlight snippets from other games. For years, James Brown narrated those updates capably. But now, CBS has decided Brown and an analyst must share those updates, with Brown speaking at the start and the end, and an analyst in the middle. Several times, viewers have heard Brown and Dan Marino talking over each other.
• ESPN's Steve Young likes to show viewers how smart he is. After the Rams-Giants game, he said the Rams were "contumacious" in the red zone — which means "stubbornly disobedient or rebellious," a word that didn't exactly fit. What's wrong with saying "ineffective"? ... There's a lot of hot air on ESPN's Monday-night postgame show, with Young and Trent Dilfer. But at least Dilfer can be self-deprecating, noting, "I've been the problem on some of (my) teams."
• Promising debut for Kris Jenkins in CBS' studio. Filling in for Shannon Sharpe, Jenkins raved about the Lions, saying they would pound the Chiefs (which they did, 48-7) and make the playoffs. Jenkins will appear occasionally.
• Comments that made us say, "Huh?": (1) Fox's Jim Mora asserting Cam Newton needs to protect the ball better "because we saw what happened to Troy Aikman the other night." (2) Fox's Terry Bradshaw saying of Donovan McNabb: "I don't think he's done, but Mike Shanahan was right in getting rid of him." (But why, Terry, if he's not done?)
• Good job by ESPN's Mike Tirico to immediately suspect that Giants players were faking injuries to get play stopped when St. Louis was marching down the field in a hurry-up offense. But ESPN was remiss in not mentioning — or replaying — Giants LB Michael Boley smacking a Giants intern in the face with a football when he meant to hit the wall to celebrate a TD.