FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
We’ll have our Super Bowl TV preview in this space over the weekend, but today, allow me to vent about 15 things that puzzled, troubled or irritated me on NFL TV coverage this season:
### ESPN’s Jerry Rice agreeing with Tim Brown that then-Raiders coach Bill Callahan intentionally tried to ruin Oakland’s chances of winning Super Bowl 37 so opposing coach Jon Gruden could win it. “Maybe because he didn’t like the Raiders, he decided, ‘Maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let Gruden go out and win this game,’” Rice said. (Callahan and several former Oakland players have denied that.)
Anybody who suggests that a coach would throw a Super Bowl, without compelling evidence, shouldn’t be working in television.
### Bizarreness from Fox’s Terry Bradshaw. He’s a likable fellow, but no NFL voice spewed more eye-rolling statements in 2012.
He picked Cincinnati against Baltimore in Week 16 “because I have some inside information” but wouldn’t say what. He answered a question with: “It’s not important what I think.” He was amazed by Seattle’s playoff win, asserting: “Everyone thought Washington would beat Seattle.” No, Terry – the Seahawks were favored.
He said of the Bears quarterback: “I’ve never met Jay Cutler, but I don’t think he even likes himself.” How would Bradshaw know? He said Christian Ponder’s problems are hard “to pronounce,” referred to Andrew Luck as his father, Oliver, and wondered, late in the season, if the Redskins and Cowboys would play again, when everyone else on the panel knew they would meet in Week 17.
### Manufactured debates of non-issues, aimed at filling time. Late in the season, CBS’ James Brown asked his analysts if 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s job would be in jeopardy if Colin Kaepernick doesn’t play well. Of course not! NFL Network pundits spent several minutes debating: “Which is more important to the Saints – winning the game or Drew Brees breaking Johnny Unitas’ consecutive game touchdown record?” What a waste of time.
### Lack of full disclosure. Fox’s Thom Brennaman mentioned during the Falcons-Seahawks playoff game that Brian Billick “has known” Atlanta coach Mike Smith for many years. What was more relevant, but went unsaid, is that Smith is Billick’s brother-in-law.
### ESPN’s Trent Dilfer and Steve Young treating poor play as a personal affront, as if someone had disrespected them. Dilfer was so angry after the Jets’ awful showing in Tennessee that he ranted as if his house had been egged. At least Dilfer can be self-deprecating, noting that Mark Sanchez’s play bothered him because “I was as crappy as you can be.”
### Directors often sticking with sideline shots when it’s unclear if a team plans to punt or go for it on fourth down. If the announcer isn’t telling us quickly, the only way viewers would know would be seeing a shot of the field, not the coach talking on his headset.
### Insults and personal attacks from NFL Network’s Warren Sapp. Everything from calling Matt Schaub “a big game turd” to referring to Brandon Marshall as “a retard.”
### News that really isn’t. CBS’ scroll of “headlines” in December included items such as this: “Phil Simms says the Steelers and Bengals are confident and mad.” And this qualifies as news how?
### Fox’s Daryl Johnston feeling compelled to make the same point repeatedly. Johnston and Tony Siragusa often refer to plays or players as “unbelievable,” when the description rarely fits.
### Johnston, Mike Mayock, Gruden and others relying on football jargon as a crutch --- “Tampa Two defense, gap integrity, leveraged linebackers” –-- without recognizing how tiresome that becomes.
### Annoying new ways of saying simple things. Take your pick: positive yardage, bubble screens, going vertical (what’s wrong with throwing deep?). Mayock said a cornerback was “speed deficient,” because “slow” won’t do. Then there was Dilfer saying Carson Palmer, who was heavily rushed, had “a conflict in the pocket.” If you were watching a game with a buddy and he said Palmer “had a conflict in the pocket,” you would think something was wrong with him.
### NBC’s Rodney Harrison repeating, on air, what his colleagues told him without the cameras rolling. Such as: “Peter King said off the air… he doesn’t believe in the Falcons.” If King wanted to say that on television, that’s his choice, Rodney. How would you like it if somebody did that to you?
### Lack of context with stats. CBS mentioned the Jets were 5-1 with 30 or more rushing attempts, without adding that teams are far more likely to run when they’re protecting a late lead.
### Prediction segments where the analysts rattle off picks without giving a reason or offering an irrelevant one. Such as ESPN’s Chris Berman picking Cleveland because “it’s the last home game for Mike Holmgren and I back my friends.” Or NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk saying: “I flipped a coin and it landed on Seattle.”
### Patriots coach Bill Belichick again refusing to speak to CBS after losing the AFC championship game. Good to see Shannon Sharpe call him out: “Bill Belichick makes it very easy for you to root against the Patriots. You can’t be a poor sport all the time. And he does this every time he loses. It’s unacceptable.”