Deebo Samuel recently made a little news when he decided to get off the phone in the middle of an interview with CBS Sports Radio.
As someone with more than 15 years in the sports media business (both as a producer and a host), I feel like I have a unique perspective on this incident that many other people covering the 49ers might not have.
Basically, it boils down to this. If Deebo didn't want to have to answer the same questions over and over again, he shouldn't have agreed to go on a media tour. It's as simple as that. He knows how it works because he's done plenty of press tours in the past (including this year at the Super Bowl). Hell, I've interviewed him during some of them.
Don't get me wrong, I fully understand Samuel's frustration with having to address the quarterback situation and his comments about what happened in the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles. That field has been plowed, to paraphrase Jim Harbaugh. But that's what the money is for. He knew when he agreed to do a press tour that he was going to get asked about all of that stuff. It's not cool to take the money and then bail on the interview.
I should mention that it's possible Deebo asked for certain topics to be off limits during the press tour. While rare, I have seen that come up from time to time while booking guests for ESPN Radio and NBC. I don't know of many shows that agree to interview restrictions, but I can't speak to what happened in this particular instance. If Zach Gelb agreed to avoid certain topics and then asked those questions during the interview, I don't blame Deebo for not being happy about it. Again, I have no idea what went down in this particular case.
In defense of Zach Gelb, it wasn't a lazy interview by any stretch of the imagination. He began by asking Deebo about some workout footage that emerged recently, and then pivoted to comments Samuel himself made about his poor season last year. Both topics were fresh and based on things that happened recently. If Deebo had a problem with them, that's on him.
It's a tough spot for an interviewer as well, because you have to choose between asking the questions you think fans want the answers to and not angering your guest. It was clear based on Deebo's short answers that he wasn't loving the questions. At that point you ask yourself: Is it better to have Deebo for a longer interview even if he isn't answering questions people care about? That's a question every host has to answer for themselves. If they go down that road, however, they have to accept the possibility that the interview could turn out the way it did.
A little media training also would have gone a long way here. If Deebo had simply asked to move on to a different topic instead of handing the phone to someone else, he wouldn't be facing any criticism. Any athlete is free to answer or not answer any questions that they want. How they choose to do that, however, can make all the difference in how they're perceived.
For more perspectives on this topic, check out today's Bully Ball podcast with Steph Sanchez and Jason Aponte.