There is no programming more valuable in television than the National Football League. Last season an average of 16.6 million people watched regular season NFL games, which was 105 percent higher than the average primetime viewership (8.1 million) for the Big Four networks.
Each NFL broadcaster increased its numbers during the regular season from the previous year, from ESPN (up 20.2 percent) to NBC (16.7 percent) to Fox (12.4 percent) to CBS (6.1 percent) to the NFL Network (48.4). The robust ratings extended into the playoffs with a record 106.5 million watching the Saints beat the Colts in the Super Bowl on CBS, topping the previous alltime mark held by the 1983 finale of "M*A*S*H," which was seen by 106 million viewers.
"Looking at the TV landscape, if you had to pick out one property that you would place some money in terms of stability and consistency of ratings year after year, you would pick the NFL," said CBS Sports and News president Sean McManus. "There is no sport that translates as well to television."
But what about the people who bring you the league you love? Here's SI.com's NFL broadcasting guide to the 2010 season:
The NFL Today -- James Brown (host) Bill Cowher (analyst), Boomer Esiason (analyst), Dan Marino (analyst), Shannon Sharpe (analyst), Charley Casserly (information), Sam Ryan (reporter) and Lesley Visser (reporter).
1. Jim Nantz (play-by-play) and Phil Simms (analyst) 2. Greg Gumbel (play-by-play) and Dan Dierdorf (analyst) 3. Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Dan Fouts (analyst) 4. Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) and Solomon Wilcots (analyst) 5. Gus Johnson (play-by-play) and Steve Tasker (analyst) 6. Bill Macatee (play-by-play and Rich Gannon (analyst) 7. Don Criqui (play-by-play) and Steve Beuerlein (analyst) 8. Spero Dedes (play-by-play) and Randy Cross (analyst)
In what should be an entertaining team for viewers, Eagle replaces Dick Enberg and will partner with the perennially underrated Fouts on the network's third team. Fouts has worked with some of the play-by-play giants of his era, including Enberg, Keith Jackson, Verne Lundquist, AlMichaels and Brent Musburger, and is the rare former star player with experience as a play-by-play broadcaster. He still calls college games for Sports USA.
"Dan understands all facets of broadcasting and that's rare," Eagle said. "Chemistry you can't force, but I've always thought my biggest strength is adjusting and bringing out the strength of my partners. In this day and age you are judged as a combo, and maybe now more than ever. It's not how I sound, how he sounds, it's how we sound together. Dan has a fun side and I think I can bring that levity out. And trust me, over a long season, that's important." (Eagle should know. He's the voice of the New Jersey Nets.)
• Tasker moves up one spot from last season while Dedes, the 31-year-old television voice of the Los Angeles Lakers and a thoughtful game-caller, will be paired with Cross.
Same as it ever was. CBS traditionally preaches understated game coverage and pathologically avoids major shake-ups in talent. The network employs no sideline reporters and keeps the focus on the nuts and bolts of the game.
WHAT WE'D CHANGE
Here's a short definition of hilarious: Chris Rock; The Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner;Chappelle's Show. Of course, on The NFL Today, everything is hilarious based on the amount of laughter on the set. Yes, Sharpe and Esiason are occasionally funny, but given the levels of laughter emanating from pals Cowher and Marino, you'd think we were watching The Office. We're not. Dudes, please dial down the chuckle festival.
• Last year viewers needed to watch ESPN's Adam Schefter or Fox Sports's Jay Glazer if they wanted info on Cowher's coaching status. That's embarrassing. Cowher occasionally referenced that he was not going to talk about any jobs during the regular season, and while one can respect Cowher for not wanting to provide specifics about potential future employers, it's hard to stomach his not confirming for viewers whether he did or did not meet with an NFL team. As I wrote last year, "Such a mild admission would be much better than joking off coaching-search questions with lame segues."
Bengals at Patriots (Sept. 12, 1 p.m.), Colts at Texans (Sept. 12, 1 p.m.) Ravens at Bengals (Sept. 19, 1 p.m.), Dolphins at Vikings (Sept. 19, 1 p.m.), Patriots at Jets (Sept. 19, 4:15 p.m.), Colts at Broncos (Sept. 26, 4:15 p.m.), Titans at Cowboys (Oct. 10, 4:15 p.m.), Dolphins at Packers (Oct. 17, 1 p.m.), Ravens at Patriots (Oct. 17, 1 p.m.), Bengals at Falcons (Oct. 24, 1 p.m.), Patriots at Chargers (Oct. 24, 4:15 p.m.), Titans at Chargers (Oct. 31, 4:05 p.m.), Dolphins at Ravens (Nov. 7, 1 p.m.), Bengals at Colts (Nov. 14, 1 p.m.), Colts at Patriots (Nov. 21, 4:15 p.m.), Bengals at Steelers (Dec. 12, 1 p.m.), Dolphins at Jets (Dec. 12, 4:15 p.m.), Jets at Steelers (Dec. 19, 4:15 p.m.), Dolphins at Patriots (Jan. 2, 1 p.m.), Bengals at Ravens (Jan. 2, 1 p.m.).
TRASH-TALKING THE COMPETITION
"I think we are primarily about the game on the field and I think we've tried to lessen the effect the announcers might have on the game. We've tried to stick to the basic fundamental coverage of the game itself. Not to say we don't have some really good personalities, but we really try to stick to basics more. I think week in and week out for the football fan and the casual viewer that plays very well." -- McManus
OBLIGATORY REX RYAN COMMENT
"For any coach, the most important thing is to be yourself, and I don't think there is any question Rex is the kind of guy players respect because he is very consistent with his message. When he says things, he is still very respectable. He respects the game. He certainly does not lack confidence but this is a football team that needed some. I think in a lot of respects it is refreshing to have a Rex Ryan in the NFL because he is being himself. The one thing you cannot do is be something you are not." -- Cowher
SI.com: Will we see you in broadcasting five years from now?
Cowher: I think it's conceivable but at the same time I am keeping my options open. I had a chance to go to a couple of training camps last year and watching the Super Bowl from the sidelines got my juices flowing. CBS has a family-like atmosphere and I came from one in Pittsburgh. I feel like in the right situation, I would entertain going back, but I feel fortunate and blessed that I am a part of it here at CBS."
Sunday NFL Countdown -- Chris Berman (co-host), Cris Carter (co-host), Mike Ditka (co-host) Tom Jackson (co-host), Keyshawn Johnson (co-host), Chris Mortensen (information/reporter), Adam Schefter (information/reporter), Bob Holtzman (reporter), Rachel Nichols (reporter), Wendi Nix (reporter), Sal Paolantonio (reporter), Michael Smith (reporter) and Ed Werder (reporter).
Monday Night Countdown -- Berman, Carter, Trent Dilfer (analyst), Ditka, Jackson, Johnson, Matt Millen (analyst), Mortensen, Stuart Scott (host), Steve Young (analyst), Suzy Kolber (reporter), Schefter and Michele Tafoya (reporter).
Monday Night Football -- Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Ron Jaworski (analyst), Jon Gruden (analyst), Kolber (reporter), Tafoya (reporter).
"We're going to take it to the next level," said Monday Night Football producer Jay Rothman. And what exactly is the next level? "How we document the game level and how we use our technologies better to help break down the game," Rothman said. "We have a better understanding of each other. It's like a Broadway show. The more you work together, the more reps you have, the better you will be. This year will be hardcore football with an entertaining spin."Along those lines Gruden says he will be more comfortable in his second year in the booth. "I kind of know the drill a little bit but I still feel nervous up here," he said. "I get into the game sometimes too much and forget I'm analyzing it. You have to be a great listener in a three-man booth. The real good analysts stay on line with what's being said up here. What I do well is I try to be myself and hopefully bring enthusiasm and legitimate excitement for every game. I try to be positive whether that's right or wrong. I try to see the good things going on here and call it like it is. I don't want to focus on the negative but I try to see things on the brighter side. And I try to be prepared."
Thankfully, ESPN has put an end to assigning Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic to its opening week NFL broadcast, a designation done clearly to promote the Mike & Mike brand above all. Brad Nessler and Dilfer will call Chargers-Chiefs on Sept. 13, which gives the always prepared Dilfer a chance to strut his stuff in front of a large audience.
Remarkably, the talent above has not changed from last year. Neither has the enthusiasm from ESPN executives for all things Gruden. "He's got the juice, man," said Rothman. "He's got just a unique ability to inform, educate, entertain. He's creative as hell. He looks at things differently. He's fun, energetic; he has the juice, and the glam factor. He's a rare bird, man. He raises the level of camera operators, replay folks, he gets people to perform."
WHAT WE'D CHANGE
This has been said in this space before, but Johnson tends to dominate Countdown far too much, especially since the set should be led by the measured and thoughtful opinions of Jackson.
"I see myself as a kind of a chameleon when it comes to the groupings that we've had, the changes that's we've had, and the adjustments that I've had to make over the years," Jackson said. "I know I started out closer to Boom [Chris Berman].... But I think I have effectively understood more and more about TV, and when more is less and less is more."
• Berman remains a house organ for the NFL but Countdown is where he excels. We'd just like to see him comment as little as possible on issues of relevance because we can already get the same opinion from the NFL's communication department.
• Schefter and Mortensen have increased their reach significantly via Twitter and it's odd that Paolantonio and Werder, both excellent reporters, have not done the same.
• Lastly, Gruden's enthusiasm and knowledge of the game is enjoyable, but he does need to dial down the superlatives. "He's going to be more objective this year," Rothman predicted. "I think it's a goal of his. But to his credit, he's a positive person. I'll defend him by saying you'd see that if you are around him. He's not a negative guy. He's a not a downer or a naysayer. He doesn't want to be critical to create a headline. Yet he can be critical, and you saw that in his "QB Camp" and you'll see more of that."
Ravens at Jets (Sept. 13, 7 p.m.), Saints at Niners (Sept. 20, 8:30 p.m.),Packers at Bears (Sept. 27, 8:30 p.m.), Patriots at Dolphins (Oct. 4, 8:30 p.m.), Vikings at Jets (Oct. 11, 8:30 p.m.),Giants at Cowboys (Oct. 25, 8:30 p.m.), Steelers at Bengals (Nov. 8, 8:30 p.m.), Eagles at Redskins (Nov. 15, 8:30 p.m.), Jets at Patriots (Dec. 6, 8:30 p.m.), Saints at Falcons (Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m.).
TRASH-TALKING THE COMPETITION
"You know what? I think the guys that are calling our game are credible, they work their asses off and they are very much in the know. It's not just reading Internet clips or articles. Jon and Jaws watch every frame of tape and every play and analyze everything, and their analysis and opinions are based on what's on tape. They do read but it's not based on secondhand information. I just think we have two of the most credible guys and I believe our play by play guy is unmatched in terms of his knowledge and talent and how he steers the ship. We have a good thing going and we relish it. We never give up on games. We work until the clock hits zero." - Rothman
OBLIGATORY REX RYAN COMMENT
"I always had this thing about the football Gods. I told our teams that when you die you go to heaven and you watch football games. Acting like that, they'll strike you dead. There's a certain etiquette or sportsmanship we have all been taught since Day One. Don't give your opponent anything to put on a bulletin board. Obviously, this guy is who he is. He sticks to his guns and I do admire people who do that. But I can tell you that it motivates the guys I have talked with." -- Gruden
SI.com:The New York Times wrote that "Jon Gruden must learn to call a game as if he will never coach one again." Can you be critical of players and coaches?
Gruden: I think they want me to call the game and probably be more critical of the left guard or coach, the owners or the facilities. They want me to be more critical, to say the least. It might happen a little bit this year. I've been humiliated on sports radio and I've heard the negative comments, so I'm going to try to be critical the right way. I'm not going to beat a dead horse. There is a lot of negativity that surrounds every player, coach and GM in this league. I'm going to try not to pile on.
SI.com: You turned 47 on Aug. 17. Is it realistic to think that a 47-year-old with your success will never go back into coaching?
Gruden: I want to do this long enough where I can have Jay Rothman or [ESPN president] George Bodenheimer say, "You know, man, you are not good enough. We are going to go in another direction." I'd also like them to come down and say we'd like you to keep doing this. I've done nothing but coach. I want to do this long enough to see if I'm any good at it and if I really like it. But I'm not going to lie to anyone. I love coaching. I love teaching and being with players. And I miss it. But this is exciting and I get to be around guys, which scratches the itch."
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 FoxNFL 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), JasonLaCanfora (field reporter), Michael Lombardi (field reporter), Kara Henderson (field reporter), Steve Wyche (reporter), Stacey Dales (part-time reporter).
POSTGAMENFL 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."