SI: So who will this year's New England be?
JM: Al Michaels asked me that, and it had to be a team coming from nowhere. I just blurted out Cleveland. I think Butch Davis is a good coach.
SI: Have you and Al had a chance to get to know each other over the last few months?
JM: I've known Al Michaels for a long time, and I've always had a lot of respect for him. Hell, when he was the [ San Francisco] Giants' announcer, I'd see him at games. Since I've signed with ABC, we've gotten together at quite a few things. I've brought him in on the EA Sports video game Madden 2003, so we've been together for voice-overs. So far, everything has been very smooth. He's a pro; he's smart.
SI: There's been talk about you and Al—is the booth big enough for both of them? Pat Summerall was very spare, and Al can get mighty expansive. Will that be a big adjustment?
JM: It is, and it isn't. A lot of times replays dictate when an analyst talks. If you get a replay, you have to talk. The producer in the truck has a lot to say about that.
SI: A lot of coaches have had trouble working with Al Davis, and you thrived in that situation. If you were talking to Bill Callahan about coaching the Raiders, what would you tell him?
JM: I think you just have to be yourself. A lot of stuff Al says is just to start an argument—outrageous stuff he doesn't believe, just to see how firm you are in your beliefs. It's like a game. He'd say, "If you could have anyone in the whole league, who would you take? I'd take this guy." And then I would have to say who I would take. The biggest argument we ever had was, he believed that you built a team with corners, and I believed offensive line. And to this day I would argue that with him, that if you don't have an offensive line, nothing else works. And he would probably still say corners. So I would tell Callahan, "Just coach." Don't get caught up in the perception that he wants you to say everything he says. He really doesn't. He's a contrarian. And he likes the contrarian.
SI: Who's the best coach in football?
JM: I have a lot of respect for Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan. Bill Belichick. Bill Cowher's been able to do it with different guys and different systems in different eras. And Steve Mariucci's a good coach. He's had a tough time with ownership changes and all those things above him, but he was able to bounce back.