Broadcasting guide (cont.)
Fox NFL Sunday -- Curt Menefee (host), Terry Bradshaw (co-host), Howie Long (analyst), Jimmy Johnson (analyst), Michael Strahan (analyst), Jay Glazer (reporter), Mike Pereira (rules analyst) and Frank Caliendo (comedian).
1. Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst) and Pam Oliver (sideline)
2. Kenny Albert (play-by-play), Daryl Johnston (analyst), Tony Siragusa (sideline)
3. Dick Stockton (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analyst), Jim Mora Jr. (analyst) and Laura Okmin (sideline)
4. Thom Brennaman (play-by-play), Brian Billick (analyst) and Charissa Thompson (sideline)
5. Sam Rosen (play-by-play), Tim Ryan (analyst) and Chris Myers (sideline)
6. Ron Pitts (play-by-play), John Lynch (analyst) and Nischelle Turner (sideline)
7. Chris Myers/Chris Rose (play-by-play), Kurt Warner (analyst).
Plenty. Fox's major tweak this season comes with the hiring of Pereira, the former NFL vice president of officiating. He'll work from a control room at the FOX Network Center in Los Angeles with access to every game on the schedule. Fox says Pereira will have assistance from 16 college and high school officials (as well as former NFL replay officials), who'll be watching the game with him. If circumstances warrant a rules interpretation or explanation, he'll be available to interact with the studio crew as well as every NFL on Fox game crew, either on- or off-camera.
"We think it will be pretty damn interesting, and anyone who knows Mike knows that his 15 years as head of officiating was merely a steppingstone to a TV career," said Fox Sports president Eric Shanks. "The number one thing when you do research is fans expect from your crew to know the rules. They want no confusion around the game. The combination of Mike's personality along with the fact that he is the foremost authority on the rules was a perfect fit for us."
Warner was a bright and effusive interview subject. Now we'll see if that translates to the booth. His first assignment comes Oct. 10, when the Saints play at the Cardinals. At the moment he's only scheduled to do a handful of games.
Network executives are high on Mora Jr., the former Falcons and Seahawks coach who will call his first game Sept. 12 in Pittsburgh. "We did a rehearsal game in Denver with his crew and he has an aggressiveness about him," Shanks said. "He's not afraid to tell you exactly what he's thinking or what he thinks a team should be doing. I think he's going to be very good."
Fox will air Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Look for the network to bang that drum throughout the season.
The trio of Aikman, Buck and Oliver -- who have been together for nine years -- has now surpassed Pat Summerall and John Madden as the network's longest-tenured team. (Buck and Aikman will call their third Super Bowl at the end of the season.) Stockton, Pitts and Albert have worked on football since FOX Sports's inception in 1994. The pregame show has won the ratings battle for the past 16 consecutive years, a testament to the show's stable lineup and the huge built-in advantage of being in NFC markets.
WHAT WE'D CHANGE
For starters, we'd permanently ban Ryan Seacrest from working the red carpet at the Super Bowl but you know the cross-promotion happy executives at Fox can't help themselves. Last year we suggested Fox follow ESPN's lead and give some airtime to a Fantasy expert before kickoff. They didn't take our advice, and don't look for them to do so in the future.
"My personal opinion is people who have fantasy teams are the most aggressive at finding the information that matters most," Shanks said. "If we had a dedicated fantasy analyst, I don't think it gets you one more viewer, because we cast a pretty wide net on Sundays. The fantasy person is locked into his or her websites, where information is flowing back and forth. I think the Fantasy audience gets served in a different way. The hour before kickoff on Sunday is a place to start getting settled in, to be entertained and to get some broader information."
Siragusa's shtick is tired but Fox brass seems enamored with him.
Packers at Eagles (Sept. 12, 4:15 p.m.), Bears at Cowboys (Sept. 19, 1 p.m.), Falcons at Saints (Sept. 26, 1 p.m.), Redskins at Eagles (Oct. 3, 4:15 p.m.), Cowboys at Vikings, (Oct. 17, 4:15 p.m.), Packers at Jets (Oct. 31, 1 p.m.), Vikings at Patriots (Oct. 31, 4:15 p.m.), Cardinals at Vikings (Nov. 7, 1 p.m.), Vikings at Bears (Nov. 14, 1 p.m.), Cowboys at Giants (Nov. 14, 4:15 p.m.), Packers at Vikings (Nov. 21, 1 p.m.), Saints at Cowboys (Thanksgiving, 4:15 p.m.), Packers at Falcons (Nov. 28, 1 p.m.), Niners at Packers (Dec. 5, 1 p.m.), Saints at Bengals (Dec. 5, 1 p.m.), Cowboys at Colts (Dec. 5, 4:15 p.m.), Redskins at Cowboys (Dec. 19, 1 p.m.), Eagles at Giants (Dec. 19, 1 p.m.), Saints at Ravens (Dec. 19, 1 p.m.), Giants at Packers (Dec. 26, 4:15 p.m.), Cardinals at Niners (Jan. 2, 2011, 4:15 p.m.).
TRASH-TALKING THE OPPONENTS
"I think that we are constantly innovating with new things and Mike Pereira is a good example of it. At the core of it, we have this thing called "Fox Attitude." We do the games better than anybody else, but once you have the cornerstone of doing the games better than anybody else, you are able to go to that next level to what we call "Fox Attitude," which is making sure the guy on the couch is having fun listening to announcers that like each other." -- Shanks
OBLIGATORY REX RYAN COMMENT
"He doesn't make a tackle. He doesn't run a ball. He doesn't make a catch or throw a ball. He just sits over there. Unfortunately, I don't think his players are quite as strong-minded as he is... He's putting a lot of pressure on his young quarterback. If they can't run the ball, they're going to have to throw it, and they can't pass protect. He'll shut up real quick. You know what? I don't like guys like that, OK?" -- Bradshaw, to Louisiana television station KTBS.
SI.com: Why allow your network information man (Glazer) to work for a competing entity (The NFL Network)?
Shanks: "I think Jay, as we work through this, is going to have to figure out exactly how he couches some of the information he has for them during the week. He is still going to have the best inside information held for Fox NFL Sunday."
Football Night In America -- Bob Costas (host), Dan Patrick (co-host), Tony Dungy (analyst), Rodney Harrison (analyst), Peter King (reporter and SI.com football writer).
Sunday Night Football -- Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Andrea Kremer (sideline reporter).
Look for Dungy and Harrison to start leading more conversations during the pregame show. "The big thing we stressed to them during our August meetings was you are not rookies anymore," said NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood. "It's no longer asking things like: 'Where do I put my ear piece? Now it's time to throw punches and combinations. Let's react to each other. You don't have to always be set up by Dan Patrick. I want Tony to come back at Rodney if Rodney says something. It doesn't always have to go through the middleman. That dynamic developed at the end of last year and I just want to grow some more."
Keith Olbermann will not be back on the Football Night In America and the Keystone Kops manner in which NBC Sports refused to officially comment on his status for weeks was beyond silly. If Olbermann is gone, say it and move on. SI.com was told a couple of weeks ago that "the higher ups" would soon thunder down with a decision, and that came long after this Aug. 5 report declaring that Olbermann would not be back on the show.
The network wants sideline reporter Andrea Kremer to become a major presence in the social media space. Why? "Social media and the Internet are the greatest thing to happen to a sideline reporter in my opinion," said Fred Gaudelli, the producer of Sunday Night Football. "Sideline reporters can give observation after observation of what they are seeing from the field perspective without interruption. I want to use Andrea on TV, and she's a big part of what we do, but she can provide so much more to a co-mingled audience. You cannot interrupt the flow of the game constantly. You just can't do it. You will tick people off. But she can provide that information on a different platform, and I think social media will keep sideline reporting alive. "
Pro Football Talk.com editor and founder Mike Florio will appear with Costas during the postgame to review some of the major items of the week. It'll be interesting to see if Florio's tone on NBC matches the entertaining sarcasm that flows through his site.
Michaels and Collinsworth enter their second year together in the booth after a debut season that went as smoothly as possible following the retirement of Madden. "John has a great passion and reverence for the game of football and Cris has a great passion and a dose of irreverence for the game of football," Gaudelli said. "In that regard, it was definitely different. John wanted everything focused on the game and, to a great extent, that's why people do tune in. Cris has worn a lot of different hats in broadcasting and he likes to go different places, as does Al. Al would always step outside the box with John and go at some things alone. With Cris. he now has a willing partner."
How can a pregame show draw traction with viewers competing against live games? "I think because of the people on the set and the game we are leading up to," Flood said. "Week after week this is the game you want to see. People are going to want to come and be ready for that game. Then you have our talent."
WHAT WE'D CHANGE
NBC has improved its broadcast over the past couple of years with some wise cuts (Jerome Bettis and Tiki Barber) and moving Costas to the game site. Dungy has proved to be much more provocative than expected. NBC should get him as much airtime as possible. We'd also like to see Harrison on Twitter given the interest in last year's fake Rodney Harrison account. Here's also hoping NBC is more forthcoming on future moves than it was on Olbermann.
Vikings at Saints (Sept. 9, 8:30 p.m.), Giants at Colts (Sept. 19, 8:30 p.m.), Jets at Dolphins (Sept. 26, 8:20 p.m.), Vikings at Packers (Oct. 24, 8:20 p.m.), Steelers at Saints (Oct. 31, 8:20 p.m.), Cowboys at Packers (Nov. 7, 8:20 p.m.), Patriots at Steelers (Nov. 14, 8:20 p.m.), Chargers at Colts (Nov. 28, 8:20 p.m.), Steelers at Ravens (Dec. 5, 8:20 p.m.), Packers at Patriots (Dec. 19, 8:20 p.m.), Chargers at Bengals (Dec. 26, 8:20 p.m.).
TRASH-TALKING THE OPPONENTS
"Why does NBC do football better? I would boil it down to two things: Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. That's why we do football better." -- Gaudelli.
OBLIGATORY REX RYAN COMMENT
"If you're the Jets, you haven't owned the AFC East. The Patriots have honestly owned the AFC East. I've said this before: It's one thing if a player trash talks. You can handle your business against that player on the field. But if a coach starts trash talking, guess what? He hasn't made one tackle. He hasn't caught the ball. He hasn't thrown one touchdown. As a player, you get even more frustrated when a coach starts trash talking. You better believe the Patriots have that circled. They hate the Jets and they hate them even more now. " --Harrison
SI.com: Your opinions lately have toucheda nerve with people, including Rex Ryan. Why do you think that is?
Tony Dungy: "I'm not sure why it's looked at that way. A lot of people have opinions. I don't think I'm an overly-opinionated person, but I guess some of the things I do have opinions about maybe touch nerves with people. That particular thing was not directed at Rex Ryan. It was directed at the language that goes across television. I have had those opinions in the past. I would not call myself controversial in the least, but apparently some people think so."
NFL GameDay Morning -- Rich Eisen (Host), Steve Mariucci (analyst), Marshall Faulk (analyst), Warren Sapp (analyst), Michael Irvin (analyst), Jason LaCanfora (field reporter), Michael Lombardi (field reporter), Kara Henderson (field reporter), Steve Wyche (reporter), Stacey Dales (part-time reporter).
NFL GameDay Highlights -- Eisen (host), Sanders (analyst), Mariucci (analyst).
NFL GameDay Final -- Fran Charles (Host), Sanders (analyst), Mariucci (analyst), Irvin (analyst).
Thursday Night Football -- Bob Papa (play-by-play), Matt Millen (analyst), Joe Theismann (analyst).
The hiring of Theismann was as uninspiring as it was unoriginal. It's also a canard for anyone at the NFL Network to assert that Theismann bashing originates with critics. Viewers have consistently and clearly, through blogs, social media and other means, asserted that they do not enjoy listening to Theismann on game coverage. He dominates the airwaves, often to the point where his three-man booth becomes a one-man play. He is provocative, for sure, and more apt to say something memorable than Millen, which is why Theismann would be better in the studio. He's tight with broadcasting and NFL executives and that plays into decisions with talent (represented by high-powered agents) who have moved around the dial.
Since its first season, The NFL Network has had issues of continuity in the booth. Its game broadcast has included Bryant Gumbel, Collinsworth, Dick Vermeil, Faulk and Sanders before the team of Papa and Millen debuted in 2009. A couple of days after an NFLN executive spoke about booth stability, the network issued a press release hyping Theismann as one of the "premier analysts in the business." The release reminded me of the great Dr. Z's last review of Theismann.
Mariucci's a little too rah-rah for me but his access to Brett Favre and coaches is a big asset for the network. Eisen replaces Dedes on the pregame show and recently signed a new contract with the network. His exposure will grow, including producing podcasts for the network.
After a heavy press campaign last year for her, Dales seems to have disappeared from the network.
Paul Burmeister is the new host of the NFL GameDay Scoreboard, which airs during the late afternoon window of games on Sunday.
Fran Charles replaces Eisen on NFL Game Day Final.
NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger said he is contemplating sending his studio crew to the game site before NFLN's Thursday night game coverage. That could be a cool move.
Faulk doesn't have the Q-rating of a Dan Marino or a Steve Young but he's a terrific analyst who is ahead of the curve time after time. I really like him. Last year he made a prescient call on Titans quarterback Vince Young before Young led the Titans to a win over the Jaguars on Nov. 1. "He might inject some energy into this team," Faulk said. "They may go out and play with a different sense of urgency." Young ended up winning eight of his 10 starts last season.
I give Irvin credit for convincing another network that he's a good analyst. The loquacious one adds another gig as one of the analysts on NFL GameDay Final.
WHAT WE'D CHANGE
First, we'd scour the earth to put together the smartest minds to build a time machine. Then, we'd travel back two weeks ago and make a strong pitch to NFLN executives to not go down the Theismann path.
Ravens at Falcons (Nov. 11, 8:20 p.m.), Bears at Dolphins (Nov. 18, 8:20 p.m.) Bengals at Jets (Nov. 25, 8:20 p.m.), Colts at Titans (Dec. 9, 8:20 p.m.), Niners at Chargers (Dec. 16, 8:20 p.m.).
TRASH-TALKING THE COMPETITION
"We do it every day of the year. Better is an interesting word. It may be a little different. Everyone is doing some high-class football productions. We are pushing each other to do more and more. Why we do it different, or why do we think we do it better is we focus on football and we focus on access that we get to players and coaches. We have a camera at every facility and we are behind the scenes more than anyone else can be. It's just a football fan's dream. We give more content than anyone else and we are promoting football more than anyone else. I think our talent across the board is working at a very high level and I think it's because we are on 24 hours a day." -- Weinberger
OBLIGATORY REX RYAN COMMENT
"Your coach writes "SOON TO BE CHAMPIONS" on a bus that's going around the country? Wait a minute. It's one thing for us to think we're internally confident and know what we can get done inside this building. It's another thing to write it on the side of a bus that is driving around the country because every team on the NFL schedule has now checked you off on the schedule and said, 'Here's how we measure ourselves against the Soon-To-Be Champions.' " -- Sapp
SI.com: Why is Glazer a good hire for your network (Glazer will appear on NFL Network's NFL Total Access and other shows and specials throughout the year) when Fox has said he will keep his best stuff for Fox NFL Sunday?
Weinberger: "I think "best" is however you look at it. What they mean is he is going to continue breaking his exclusive news on his primary broadcaster. We are looking at an opportunity to broaden Jay's personality, broaden his role in the NFL. One of the real exciting parts of this for him is he gets a chance Monday through Saturday with the NFL Network to continue to grow his brand that people love and know. He doesn't really have that opportunity anywhere else but here. He will not be expected or asked to break news first here at the NFL Network."