Posted: Sunday April 30, 2006 12:57AM; Updated: Tuesday May 2, 2006 5:09PM
Suzy's Kolber's Charmin-soft interview with Reggie Bush left viewers wanting more.
Tom Jackson He always says interesting stuff, but it often gets lost amid the histrionics of Irvin and the jetstream of ESPN's dozens of other analysts. He was spot-on before the Jets picked Ferguson ("You could not get up into that No. 2 slot and now you go with that outstanding pass-blocking tackle. ... Matt Leinart just missed his system"). GRADE: A-
Rachel Nichols Ask a good question, get an interesting answer. "How did Mario Williams move to the top of your draft board?" Nichols asked Texans general manager of football operations Charley Casserly. And so we found out. Unlike Suzy Kolber (see below), Nichols asked the big question: What impact did the allegations of impropriety with the NCAA surrounding Reggie Bush have on your decision? Grade: A-
Mark Schlereth Dissected the one-arm and two-arm bull-rush of Mario Williams and why he has terrific hands for a lineman. Tough talk on Marcus Vick along with Jaworski, who called Vick delusional regarding his abilities. GRADE A-
Ed Werder Solid and underrated. He reported early that the Saints had Reggie Bush as the No. 1 player on their draft board, and that owner Tom Benson had a private plane ready to pickup Bush. Werder, always wired with the Cowboys, reported that coach Bill Parcells had grilled LenDale White about all the reported baggage floating around the player. Interesting stuff, especially as White continued to remain undrafted through the second round. GRADE: A-
Sean Salisbury Had the job of interviewing current NFL players such as Henderson, Trent Green, Torry Holt and Shawne Merriman. I know a lot of readers think Salisbury is smug, cocky and obnoxious. I think he is an improving analyst. GRADE: B+
Steve Young Young said the criticism of Leinart was "esoteric." Such verbiage alone moves him up a grade. If Young had used the word "eschew," he would have gotten an A. GRADE: B+
David Amber Exiled from the ESPN News studio, Amber interviewed Vince Young in Nashville. Standard stuff. GRADE: B
Shawne Merriman Cool baby blue suit, smooth delivery. Someone to watch in the future. Plays a pretty good linebacker as well. GRADE: B
Chris Berman Like the acting of Rob Schneider or a 24-hour diner, you know what you'll get with Berman at an NFL Draft: plenty of energy and passion, a flotilla of Catskill-esque yucks, voice inflections and one-liners --- and very little critical analysis regarding the picks. So it was a nice surprise to see Berman lower his Boomer-esque persona in the opening hour. He moved things along smoothly, kept the over-the-top stuff to a minimum and generally offered viewers everything you want in a host. When he dropped the knowledge that Count Bassie and Ella Fitzgerald had played at Radio City, it felt part of the broadcast. Of course, he is who he is. Berman rarely goes against the NFL tide (strange that the dude went to Brown in the '70s -- you figure he'd be counterculture, no?) and no moment better personified that than his describing the scene of the Jets fans booing Kansas City coach Herm Edwards when Edwards came on the air for an interview. "The boos you hear are from the Jets fans that feel that Herm, you know, might have left quickly ... but he's with the Chiefs," Berman said. "The Jets are rolling and we'll be back." (We thought Jets fans were mad that Herm jetted out of town in a disingenuous manner after a 4-12 season.) As always, Berman's interview with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was a love-in, though it seemed at least more appropriate this year with Tags leaving. Plenty of people have a problem with Berman tipping off the picks moments before the selection. (The editors at Deadspin had a field day with this yesterday.) Doesn't really bother me if he wants to play Amazing Kreskin. All in all, an better-than-average draft for the guy with the toughest on-air job. GRADE: B
Torry Holt LenDale White owes him a dinner. Holt addressed White directly after Salisbury asked him about his slide. "Look, I'm riding with you, homie," Holt said. "When you come to the National Football League, please come with a chip on your shoulder." GRADE: B
Paul Tagliabue Since Tagliabue was given a helmet by signed by Chris Berman & Co., we assume he's part of the ESPN team. GRADE B
Trent Green Well-spoken and looks good in a suit. GRADE: B-
Suzy Kolber Interviewing Mario Williams after being named the No. 1 pick? Pure fun. Interviewing Reggie Bush in the wake of potential NCAA allegations? Not as much fun. Kolber's Charmin-soft interview with Bush left viewers wanting more. At the very least, Bush had to be asked whether the allegations had contributed to his being passed on by the Texans. "How have you dealt with all of the outside information?" is a bit of a cloudy cop-out question. Kolber did a much better job with Tom Condon, Matt Leinart's agent, as Leinart dropped down to Arizona: "At this point do you think wish list, or do you really just want him out of this room?" Strange was asking Matt Leinart if he had a message for "kids who maybe feel like they are outcasts." We all know Leinart was a chubby kid as a youth, but at this point he's probably not going to be on Match.com looking for dates. It would be unfair to knock Kolber for the audio problems with LenDale White, who could not hear her questions and then took control of the interview in hilarious fashion. To be fair, Kolber's gig (in my opinion) is the hardest next to Berman's. If I had a wish list, I'd have Wingo's crew do the post-pick interviews to give the coverage a little bite and let Kolber simply serve as the host on the second day, where she often excels. GRADE: B-
Michael Irvin Here's how ESPN can improve its draft coverage next year: Send Irvin to an isolated studio in Nova Scotia where he won't overwhelm the broadcast. It's all style and finger-wagging and going against convention: Irvin is tired of hearing that defense wins championships. He's sick of the grading process. Blah, blah, blah. To be fair, Irvin knows his stuff when it comes to wide receivers, so when Ohio State's Santonio Holmes got selected, Irvin offered insight ("He's not the kind of guy who will take over the game from the wide receiver position, but when the play needs to be made, he'll step up and make that play"). He was also poignant with Maryland tight end Vernon Davis, whom ESPN cameras caught sobbing upon his selection. Irvin nicely called him a feel-good story for everybody. Keep this Irvin prediction in mind: "Norv Turner will take this young guy [Alex Smith] and make him the great pro that we all think he'll become." GRADE: C
TWO THINGS WE LIKED
1. The NFL Draft Ticker during commercials was a welcome addition. In an age where people multitask by watching the draft and checking the web, viewers expect this kind of information overload.
2. The terrific feature on Penn State defense end Tamba Hali.
TWO THINGS WE DIDN'T
1. The opening segment featuring the top picks parading down a catwalk looked a combination of Zoolander and La Femme Nikita. Please don't repeat this. Children are watching.
2. It took a long, long time to update viewers that Cleveland and the Jets both traded high second-round picks. Trade news should take precedence over everything else.
FIRST DAY GRADE:
B+ overall, A to the NFL Live team of Jaworski, Hoge, Schlereth and Wingo.