No one who follows football can avoid Drew Rosenhaus. The omnipresent sports agent with the slicked-back helmet of hair craves airtime like an asthmatic in an iron lung. He also is a man who knows how to exploit a controversy. Three years ago, when Sports Illustrated called him "the most hated man in pro football," Rosenhaus leveraged the barb into a lucrative book deal, noting at the time that he was the only agent ever to appear on the magazine's cover.
Many of Rosenhaus's dozens of clients either play for his hometown Dolphins or once played for his alma mater, the University of Miami. For two years he parlayed these local connections into regular Sunday-night appearances on WFOR-TV (Channel 4), a gig he lost last May amid allegations that his Dolphins discussions amounted to a conflict of interest. He's since taken his inside dope to Channel 7's top-rated Sports Xtra Sunday broadcast. Has the conflict of interest been removed? "They regulate my topics," the agent says of his WSVN-TV producers. "I don't just go on the air and shill for a client. That's unprofessional. I'm always identifying who my clients are."
Hmmm. Let's go to the videotape for a look at just one segment of the well-regulated Rosenhaus, his March 7 Sports Xtra appearance with show host Ducis Rodgers.
The Play: Rosenhaus discussed the future of University of Miami quarterback Scott Covington. "The [Dolphins] love him!" the agent gushed. "And they might draft Covington as high as the third round.... They love his arm, they think he's a future stud, a great guy to develop for a few years. As Dan Marino continues the, well, maybe the swan song of his career, Covington would be a very good guy to bring along."
Upon Further Review: Although not hyping a client (Covington is represented by another agent), Rosenhaus still oversold the local prospect. The Sporting News ranks Covington as only the twelfth-best quarterback available, and expects him to be picked between the fifth and seventh rounds.
Penalty: Puffing the passer, five yards.
The Play: Rodgers asked Rosenhaus about a recent special workout of UM running back Edgerrin James. "He was absolutely phenomenal!" Rosenhaus exclaimed. "I mean, the guy's got a build out of this world. He looks like an Adonis, doesn't he? He's got to be the best athlete in the draft.... He's definitely a guy -- as we've talked about over the past several months -- who has moved ahead [in the draft] of [Heisman Trophy winner] Ricky Williams.... [Dolphins head coach] Jimmy Johnson, I'm hearing, is preparing to trade his first-round pick, his second-round pick, his third-round pick ... all three to move up to the top two or three picks so they can get him."
Upon Further Review: James is a top prospect, but he is not considered the best athlete in the draft, and few (if any) NFL scouts agree he will be selected ahead of Williams. More important, neither Rosenhaus nor Rodgers explained that James has not yet selected an agent and that Rosenhaus is jockeying to be that agent. "Frankly I'm not an idiot," Rosenhaus argues. "I realized that Edgerrin James might be watching the program, and I kept it positive. But anybody who believes for a second that appearing on Channel 7 will influence who [James chooses to be his] agent is crazy."
Penalty: Blatant wooing, fifteen yards and loss of down.
The Play: Rosenhaus offered an inside tidbit: Dolphins starting strong safety Calvin Jackson was recently told he'll be moved to free safety, a position played last season by Brock Marion. "Calvin Jackson moving to free safety might just signal the end to Brock Marion's career with the Dolphins," Rosenhaus warned ominously. "[Marion is] making about $2.5 million a year. The Dolphins might be looking for cap room at the time. I think that Brock Marion is a guy who should not be comfortable with Calvin Jackson moving to his position."
Upon Further Review: Rosenhaus learned of this switch because he is Jackson's agent, a fact he did not disclose. He is not Brock Marion's agent, which raises a question: Would he speak so pessimistically about Marion's future if Marion were also his client?
Penalty: Flagrant favoritism, ten yards.
The Play: Rodgers suggested that Calvin Jackson's position change may have been prompted by the expected return of talented (but injured) Dolphin Shawn Wooden. Rosenhaus demurred. "Shawn is probably on his way out," he said. "I think that Shawn is going to sign an offer sheet with another team. I'm convinced that Shawn will get an offer sheet within the next couple weeks. The Dolphins may not have him."
Upon Further Review: Rosenhaus was able to speak with such authority for one simple reason: He is Wooden's agent as well, a fact he did not mention. Rosenhaus denies that his statements about Wooden may be contract posturing: "I don't feel that appearing on Channel 7 carries any merit in negotiations with the Dolphins."
Penalty: Too many clients on the field, fifteen yards.
The Play: Rosenhaus announced a possible Dolphins acquisition: "The guy they're really after in free agency is Richie Owens. He's had a lot of sacks in his career.... He's a defensive end with the Redskins. He had almost twelve sacks in one season. They think he'd be a great replacement for Dan Stubbs. His price range, though, is about two million dollars a year. I don't think the Dolphins are going to go that high."
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Upon Further Review: Three days later the Dolphins signed Owens to a two-year contract.
Penalty: False start, five yards.
Final Score: Without any disclosure Rosenhaus touted two clients, courted a potential third client, and dissed one nonclient. "We don't believe it is a conflict of interest," says WSVN spokesman Charlie Folds. Neither does Rosenhaus. "It's a great forum for me to continue to have a high profile," he says unapologetically. "In my business a lot of the athletes watch that show, whether they are in high school, whether they are in college, or whether they are in the NFL. It's a terrific opportunity for me. My family enjoys watching me. Clients enjoy watching me."