10 HARD-HITTING QUESTIONS FOR VANESSA RICHARDSON

Here’s an inside look at how the biggest interview of the year came about

Let's pull back the curtain on the Jeff Luhnow interview. Photo via: Vanessa Richardson/Facebook

Houston's biggest sports story of the week was Channel 2 sports reporter Vanessa Richardson's lengthy interview with banished Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who denied any responsibility or knowledge of the Astros cheating scandal. For almost a year, Luhnow had been the great white whale of "gets" for Houston media.

The next day, sports talk radio was consumed with reaction to the interview. One of the head scratchers was, why would Luhnow choose to bare his soul to a young local reporter who came to Houston only last year after covering news and sports for the NBC station in Cincinnati.

Here is the story behind the story: the anatomy of Vanessa Richardson's scoop.

1.Ken Hoffman: How did the interview come about? Did he approach you, or did you seek him out?

Vanessa Richardson: When Luhnow and (former Astros manager A.J.) Hinch were fired, every reporter in town, plus national reporters, wanted to talk to them. Understandably, neither wanted to talk for a while. I ended up asking Luhnow a few months ago, and he said he felt he was getting to the point where he might be ready, but had to get some things in order first. October ended up being the time he wanted to share his side of things. Once we had a date and time, I told my bosses about it and they wanted to make it a more professional, two-camera shoot.

2.KH: Since he wanted to wait until the Astros season was over, when did you do the interview?

VR: We did the interview the week before it aired. He didn't want to take the spotlight away from the Astros, which we were more than happy to accommodate. My bosses decided to turn it into a 30-minute special, which was great, but took a lot of work in one week.

3.KH: Do you get why some media veterans wonder how you got the Luhnow interview?

VR: I completely understand people wondering how I got this interview, since I haven't been in Houston that long. It's really simple; I met Jeff, his wife, and some of his extended family when I moved to Houston in 2019, and we kept in touch. They trusted me, but also allowed me to ask harder questions that probably weren't pleasant for him to reflect on, which I appreciated.

4.KH: Your interview on Channel 2 was a 30-minute special. On the station's website, the interview ran 37 minutes. How long were you in Luhnow's home?

VR: From setup to teardown, it was probably two hours.

5.KH: Did Luhnow set any conditions for the interview? Were any topics off limits?

VR: He did not control the questions, and allowed me to ask what I felt needed to be addressed.

6.KH: When you watched the finished interview, were there any questions you wished you had asked?

VR: As a reporter, if you don't look over and critique your interviews, you're doing yourself a disservice. There are two or three questions I wish I would have asked! But there are also Astros beat writers who hopped on local radio stations and acted like I threw Luhnow softball questions, which I disagree with.

7: What did you think of baseball commissioner Rob Manfred's response, where he shot down Luhnow's claim of innocence, and said Luhnow was guilty of an infraction and deserved punishment?

VR: I knew Rob Manfred would probably give a statement or comment to a network, which he did. He said there was more evidence, which was interesting to me. I think we all would like to have been a fly on the wall in that investigation.

8.KH: Were you surprised when it appeared that Luhnow was close to tears?

VR: I didn't expect Luhnow to get teary-eyed. It was definitely the most human side of him I think the public has seen. From what I could tell, he deeply cared about the Astros, which I don't think anyone would deny, and I know that part caught some people off guard.

9.KH: How much preparation did you do for the interview?

VR: I was excited to do the interview, and extremely thankful. I knew it would interest people, simply because it was the first time he would be talking about this. I also figured there would be questions why I got the interview, being I'm a young woman and relatively new to Houston. Although I had covered the scandal at length, I wanted to make sure I did proper research. I spent weeks delving into different articles and trying to get it right. Overall, the response was pretty positive.

10: KH: Did you come away believing his explanation of how things happened, or did you feel he was doing damage control?

VR: Everyone is asking me if I believe him, which I understand. My job was to do the interview, and try to be as fair as possible. It's up to baseball fans and viewers to decide what to think. Of course he wanted to share his side, who wouldn't? Whether or not people believe him is for each individual to decide.

Bonus question. Did Luhnow offer you any delicious snacks or refreshing beverages?

VR: Haha! He and his wife did offer me and the photographers water and whatever we needed. They were very welcoming.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome