Dr. Z will answer select user questions each week in his NFL mailbag.
I saw a terrific telecast over the weekend. It was presented by ESPN, of all people. No, it wasn't their regular Monday-night show. It was the second part of the doubleheader, Raiders-Chargers, which ended well after 1 a.m. in the East.
The trio that did such a fine job consisted of Brad Nessler doing play-by-play and Ron Jaworski and Dick Vermeil handling the commentary. I'm not going to make this whole thing a TV column, and I won't be mentioning ESPN much until my end-of-season announcer-ratings piece. But since ESPN assigns Nessler-Jaworski-Vermeil secondary status, I wanted to get this little commentary in here, because who knows when we'll see this team again? And, of course, we'll be stuck all season with the mindless fluff that passes for the regular Monday-night shows.
What makes a great team, at least in my eyes? Accuracy, color, insightful analysis. And that described the ESPN backup team. They all respected the game. You were told at all times what was going on. And some of the observations were stunning. I'll give you one example.
Aaron Brooks misfired on a pass to Alvis Whitted. We were then presented with a replay of Randy Moss, shockingly open, it would seem, waving his hands at his quarterback in disgust because he had been ignored. Practically every analyst I've heard would have said, "Look how open Moss was," and let it go at that. But Jaworski is not every analyst. He's the best.
What he pointed out was that the ball already had been thrown to the other receiver, and then the cornerback, Quentin Jammer, broke off his coverage on Moss. That wasn't apparent on the screen, but Jaworski caught it. Moss' gesture was the ultimate cheap shot, designed only to embarrass his QB, and Jaws, as well as Vermeil, didn't let him get away with it. They gave him a good rip.
This, folks, is what is known as analysis. They were like that all night, and Nessler was damn good too. The ultimate professional.
It was a shock, actually, because it followed such a dreadful presentation. ESPN seems to feel that only a dedicated dumbing-down of its NFL show will keep its prime-time audience from flipping the dial to Medium or Prison Break. It's insulting. So we got stuff such as that idiotic and endless booth interview with Jamie Foxx, pointing out, among other things, what a terrific guy Tom Cruise is.
So who's on for next week, Mel Gibson? And then we got the crossfield ping-pong hammering of not one but two sideline reporters, running over live action, etc.
There were no insights, no real interest in who was doing what to whom on the field. Just endless debates, talk-show variety, with Tony Kornheiser, the rookie, supplying the kind of humor you and I used to try out in grade school. Joe Theismann is the only one who understands football, but it's just too comfortable for him to take the easy swing and tune out the game, since the other guys wouldn't understand what he was talking about anyway.
Mike Tirico? He seemed OK when he was in the studio, but on play-by-play? Oh, brother. He miscalled the score of the game and it was never corrected. He was routinely off a yard or two on his spotting of the ball. He just doesn't understand it. At one time a punt was downed between the two- and three-yard lines and he said, "It's downed on the two. They'll have 97 yards to go." Why pay attention at all, really? Much more fun to insert your two cents' worth into the debate going on around you.
Miserable, just miserable. A logical follow to last year's Sunday-night crew.