NFL Coverage Provides Must-Miss TV

By Leonard Shapiro
Special to
Wednesday, October 10, 2007; 10:33 AM

Every Monday, my e-mail inbox overflows with long electronic press releases from all the networks carrying NFL games on Sunday, each one gushing over the so-called best quotes of the day uttered on the air by their in-studio broadcasters.

After you read this stuff, you sometimes have to wonder how some of these guys actually keep their jobs. For example, here's Deion Sanders of the NFL Network raving about New England linebacker Junior Seau, who had a couple of interceptions in the Patriots' thumping of the Cleveland Browns last Sunday.

"He's able to make plays because of his knowledge," Prime Time said of Seau.


Or this from his co-analyst Steve Mariucci, the former 49ers head coach, after the under-achieving Chargers destroyed Denver.

"San Diego is back!" said the Mooch Man.

Must see TV?

Must miss, I'd say, and sometimes, the big-boy networks don't do much better.

CBS rookie Bill Cowher, the former Steelers coach, had this to say in the pre-game show Sunday about his choice for the league MVP at the quarter pole of the NFL season.

"Jon Kitna," Cowher said of the Detroit quarterback, adding that the Lions were "3-1 at this point with a team that has thrown the football as much as they're throwing. Yes, they have a lot of weapons, but without Jon Kitna┬┐"

About 3 1/2 hours later, this was Kitna's stat line: 16 completions in 29 attempts for 106 yards, two interceptions, five sacks for 30 yards in losses, and no touchdown passes in an embarrassing 34-3 drubbing administered by the Washington Redskins on a day the Lions and Cowher's MVP candidate had produced 144 total yards of offense and an average gain per play of 2.7 yards.

CBS hardly had a monopoly on dumb, or dumber.

Over at NBC, there was know-it-all Keith Olbermann describing a savage hit by Bucs defender Kenard Jackson on Colts tight end Dallas Clark catching a pass over the middle.

"That looks much worse than it actually was," Olbermann opined at halftime. "Kenard Jackson nails him and Clark doesn't even miss a series."

But even his two studio colleagues, former players Cris Collinsworth and Tiki Barber, couldn't believe what they were hearing.

"So that hit wasn't as bad as it looked?" Collinsworth said incredulously. "How does he know? It wasn't on him. He was just watching."

Added Barber, "Keith clearly has never taken one of them."

Over at Fox, in their bizarre Grumpy Old Men segment, Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson, two of the more notorious recruiting rogues in college football history, had the unmitigated gall to take a shot at Nick Saban, the new Alabama head coach. Saban had been quoted as saying that the University of South Florida had become a top ten national power because the school was accepting more academically non-qualifying athletes into the program.

Switzer: "Various institutions have a different entrance process and some schools let in non-qualifiers. I think Nick Saban is saying to the University of Alabama 'we need to be doing this.'"

When he coached at Oklahoma, of course, if Switzer said he wanted an athlete for his program, admissions officers immediately genuflected and opened the doors to the football dorm wide open to any and all comers, SAT and ACT scores be damned.

Now Johnson: "Nick Saban is covering his own rear end after losing a couple of ball games. He's probably trying to say 'hey, if I could get these kind of players, I'd probably be undefeated.'"

When he coached at Oklahoma State, of course, Johnson also could get anyone he chose into the program. The only test that needed to be taken was a physical, and if that blue-chipper had a pulse, he passed. Remember former Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley? He played three years for JJ at Oklahoma State, and when he left school, he couldn't read. How's that for an academically non-qualifying athlete?

There were all manner of similar maddening indignities contributed by all of the NFL's so-called "network partners" that kept piling up this past Sunday and Monday night. A brief sampler of what I loathed might go like this:

  • Is it really necessary to have the Visa Halftime Show, the Sprint Halftime Show or the Toyota Halftime Show? Can't it just be halftime, sans sponsor, just like the good old days?
  • Would someone tell the people at Fox their armored transformer robot was sort of innovative when it first was introduced last year, but now has become a major distraction and totally unnecessary?
  • Why is Tony Siragusa doing his alleged analysis on the sideline? I'm assuming his massive frame is probably too big to fit comfortably into a cramped broadcasting booth, but he rarely adds anything of substance, and I'm still waiting for him to actually report some news during a game telecast.
  • It's time to retire some of these commercials. Roger Clemens' cell phone ad was cute once. The 60th time you want to scream "NO, NO, NO!!!!" no more, and we're not just talking about another return to the mound in 2008. Love 'ya Peyton Manning, already a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback in another 15 years, but you're totally over-exposed as a product pitchman, including that big-screen HDTV ad that ends with you begging for more chips.
  • Is there some reason NBC can't give viewers a score crawl during its Sunday night telecasts? Some of us actually try to have a life and do not sit for seven hours in front of the set for the 1 and 4 o'clock games. It would be a great help to see all the scores at the bottom of the screen several times, especially in the first half.
  • I love the electronically-imposed yellow first down marker now being used as a matter of course in all televised football games. But that computer produced arrow branded on the field telling me first and ten is totally unnecessary, what with all the graphic information -- score, time, quarter, down and distance -- already on the screen.
  • At the risk of being accused of advocating the No Fun League, I'd really like to see most of these silly celebrations come to a screeching halt. I mean come on, a guy makes a routine tackle after a five-yard gain and he jumps up, pumps his fist, does a dance, pounds his chest, looks to the sky and finally gets back to the huddle. The Lambeau Leap was fun for awhile, but guys are jumping into the stands at every stadium in America now. Sometimes you wish the fans wouldn't throw them back. Chad Johnson touchdown celebrations? Don't get me started on a guy whose team is now 1-3. Here's how most of it can end. Turn the camera somewhere else.
  • Speaking of focusing elsewhere, there must have been 25 shots of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones up in the owner's box in the fourth quarter of Dallas' remarkable Monday night victory over Buffalo. After all these years, we know what he looks like, ESPN; honest we do, even after the facelift, hair transplants and tummy tuck. It's total overkill and it really should stop.
  • And speaking of overkill, my Post pals Wilbon and Kornheiser are fabulous on Pardon the Interruption, but they're risking over-exposure for that franchise as well. Thirty minutes every day from 5:30 to 6 p.m. seems just about right. It's not necessary during the ensuing SportsCenter, and definitely way too much at halftime on Monday nights. The only good news with PTI on at intermission? At least it keeps Chris Berman off the air following his fastest three minutes in football segment, otherwise known as Chris's Corny Clich? Corner.

E-Mail of the Week

Norman Weiss of Fairfax:

I want to commend you for the article on (Nationals play-by-play man) Bob Carpenter. I certainly agree that he not only deserves continued support but he should have a longer contract than one year. He brings to the broadcast booth intelligence, understanding of the game, a certain irreverence and humor unmatched by most broadcasters. I was shocked when I heard he was not coming back. What in the world were Stan Kasten and the Lerners thinking? If Don Sutton, who I respect and has done a good job, has problems, by all means, let him go. It's not easy to make the games interesting or fun when the team is losing and in last place for most of the season. Yet that is exactly what Bob Carpenter did. I hope very much that they reverse this decision.

Leonard Shapiro can be reached at or

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