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» Four Downs: AFC North

While the Steelers need pass-rushers, everyone else in this division needs more blockers. The Browns in particular face the difficult task of replacing a Hall of Fame left tackle in Joe Thomas.

21 Jan 2010

Walkthrough: Disruption

by Mike Tanier

Run defense is a tough, thankless job. The Vikings are great at it.

The Vikings finished first in the NFL in run defense DVOA. Five teams allowed fewer yards per rush (3.9) than the Vikings (the Steelers, Jets, Packers, Niners, and Ravens were lower), but the Vikings finished second to the Redskins in Power Success (stopping short yardage runs) and third to the Packers and Giants in stuffs. Their defensive line even has a cute nickname: the Williams Wall. When the line has a nickname, it's a sure sign that they are playing well.

Run defense played a major role in the Vikings' victory on Sunday. The Cowboys wanted to establish the run, but they managed just 92 yards on 25 carries. The Cowboys were coming off 188- and 179-yard rushing performances against a good Eagles defense in back-to-back weeks, so they were expecting more than 92 yards. The Cowboys wanted to establish the run but couldn't, and not because it was a blowout; the score was 17-3 for much of the game, so running was still an option.

Good run defense is always a team effort. Defensive tackles occupy blockers and penetrate the backfield. Linebackers maintain gap responsibility and shed blockers. Second-level defenders diagnose the offense quickly and make plays in the open field. The following example shows how the Vikings did all of those things effectively against the Cowboys.

Figure 1: Vikings Disruption

Late in the third quarter, the Cowboys faced second-and-6 at their own 24-yard line. The score was 17-3, so there was no reason for a great running team to completely scrap the run. To their credit, the Cowboys didn’t. They called an old-fashioned Vince Lombardi sweep, as shown in Figure 1. The principle is simple: both guards pull, the other linemen block down, and Felix Jones (28) sweeps left and waits for a seam to develop.

The Cowboys are good at this kind of running play. Leonard Davis (70) and Kyle Kosier (63) are effective pull blockers. Center Andre Gurode (65) is one of the few centers in the league who can handle Pat Williams (94) one-on-one. Despite all this, the play falls apart because the Vikings do such a great job disrupting the blocking scheme.

There's one mismatch on the line of scrimmage that favors the defense on this play: Kevin Williams (93) against backup left tackle Doug Free (68). Williams easily beats Free to the inside. Free maintains the block, but he is forced to ride Williams into the backfield. Williams is driven inside, so he cannot make a tackle, but he does disrupt both Kosier and Davis as the try to pull. Kosier is delayed as he tries to step around Free and Williams. Davis runs into Williams as he tries to reach the edge. Both are thrown off their timing for a split second, and Jones is almost running up Davis' rear as he tries to turn the corner.

The delay allows outside linebacker Chad Greenway to further disrupt the play. Greenway reaches the edge before Kosier and is in position to shed a block. Kosier tries to cut Greenway, but the linebacker stays on his feet. When Davis finally arrives, with the ball carrier hot on his tail, he's forced to engage Greenway.

Two other Vikings defenders do an excellent job on this play. Gurode fires off the ball and stands Pat Williams up at the snap, but Williams soon breaks free of the block. Williams pursues the play hard from the backside, leaving no cutback lane for Jones. Strong safety Tyrell Johnson does a tremendous job reading this play. He keys on the blocking scheme and attacks the line aggressively; the red line in the diagram represents the ground he covered before the actual handoff. Think of what Johnson saw: Kosier pulling, Witten (the most likely receiver to threaten Johnson on a pass) engaging Jared Allen (69) on the line of scrimmage. He reads run and comes up quickly to stop it.

Johnson tackles Jones for a four-yard loss. The tackle is made possible by Greenway, who eliminates both Kosier and Davis as blockers, by Kevin Williams, who slows the guards long enough for Greenway to get into position, and by Pat Williams, who keeps Jones moving laterally with no cutback options. Johnson gets the tackle for a loss, but four defenders play fundamentally sound run defense, making the play possible.

On the next play, facing third-and-10 instead of third-and-short, Romo throws an interception, and the game turns into a rout.

We think of the Saints as a passing team, but their offense is very balanced. They ran 46 percent of the time in the regular season, just over 50 percent of the time (240 runs to 233 passes) on first-and-10. Some of that statistical balance comes from the number of times they routed opponents this season: when you are up 45-14, you are going to run on first down. Still, stopping the run is a big part of stopping the Saints. The Vikings have proven all season they can stop the run. They proved last week they can do it against a great running team in the playoffs.

The Saints want to establish some semblance of balance. If the Vikings defense plays the way it did on Sunday, they'll have a hard time doing so.

The Land Before Hype

Super Bowl III was a history making, generation-defining event. It was football’s Woodstock, a transitional moment that transcended sport and became part of American culture.

No one thought of it that way when it happened.

As part of another project, I watched the Super Bowl III pregame show. I wanted to see how Super Bowl hype has changed over the years. The Super Bowl wasn’t that big a deal in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but it was still a championship game, one with novelty appeal because the participants played in separate leagues. What passed for hype in January of 1969 would be best described today as understated, detailed coverage. You’ll hear five times more histrionics about Sunday’s Jets-Colts championship matchup than NBC served up in the 30 minutes before the same teams met in Super Bowl III.

Yes, thirty minutes. Four Super Bowl pregame shows from that era could fit into one typical NFL Countdown.

"The name of the game is defense. The offense sells the tickets, but defense wins the ballgame." Curt Gowdy says at the beginning of the show, voicing over a montage of sacks by the Colts and Jets. It was NBC’s theme for the program: instead of focusing on Joe Namath or profiling Colts quarterback Earl Morrall, the network (which at the time broadcast the AFL, while CBS had exclusive NFL rights) planned to spend 30 minutes talking about defense.

Kurt Gowdy suddenly appears in front of the highlights, blinking onto the screen like Endora from Bewitched, wearing a bright green blazer to remind viewers they were watching the Peacock network. Gowdy gives a weather report (rain is in the forecast) and explains the basics: the game is a sellout (this bore mentioning in 1969), the Colts are heavily favored, and so on. Then come the commercials: a guy in a trenchcoat who would walk a mile for Camel cigarettes, another fellow with mint growing out of his Rapid Shave cream.

Gowdy returns from commercial break with a two-minute highlight reel from the league championship games: Jets over Raiders, Colts over Browns. After the montage, color commentator Al DeRogatis appears next to Gowdy. I admit that I don’t remember DeRogatis; he was a broadcast legend from before my time, and I am happy to have discovered him. He looks and sounds like Jon Gruden wearing Clark Kent glasses, speaking a thick pidgin of English and X’s and O's. When re-watching the program, I sometimes fast-forwarded through DeRogatis’ segments, and at double speed, the Gruden illusion is complete: DeRogatis twitches and delivers statistical complexities at machine-gun pace. The former defensive lineman explains the difference between man and zone coverage to the audience. "We’ll be seeing Bobby Boyd coming up, hitting Don Maynard, playing a short area of about 10 yards," DeRogatis explains. "We’ll see Mike Curtis, No. 32 dropping to his left, taking away the short zone." It’s more detailed defensive analysis in one minute than Tony Siragusa has provided in his whole career.

Gowdy then cuts away to pre-recorded interviews with defenders Gerry Philbin (Jets), Bubba Smith, and Billy Ray Smith (Colts). Tobin Rote speaks to the Jets, Pat Summerall to the Colts, and as was the style at the time, questions and answers are shown nearly in their entirety: no jump cuts or sound bytes. Rote’s delivery is slow and quiet, like a librarian explaining a card catalog. Summerall was slightly more animated, but the players responded to each question with a mixture of grunts and polite clichés. It’s more like C-Span’s Book Notes than a Super Bowl pregame show, but there’s just as much actual football information as you’ll hear three weeks from now, maybe more. "Joe sets rather deep, probably deeper than anybody we faced all year," Bubba Smith says, explaining his pass rush technique. "A lot of times this year I know I’ve overrun the quarterback and maybe this time when I come around the corner he’ll be right there."

After the interviews, more breakdowns by DeRogatis. "You’re going to see a lot of red dogging" he says of the Colts defense. "He doesn’t extemporize," he says of pocket passer Earl Morrall. Then, a commercial: A Flamenco dancer stomps on a 19-cent Bic pen, which still writes.

"Now how about stopping the running game," Gowdy says as he returns, 13 minutes into the 30 minute broadcast. Rote and Summerall interview linebackers Ralph Baker and Mike Curtis. More DeRogatis breakdowns follow: The announcer sounds prophetic when he states that the Jets can win if they can get "100-130 yards on the ground ... If they do that, this is going to be a whale of a football game."

(Give DeRogatis some credit here. The old "Run to Win" fallacy wasn't a fallacy in late-1960s football, when teams ran with far more frequency. He’s predicting a run-heavy Jets gameplan, and history proves him to be dead on.)

More than halfway through the broadcast, I start to crave a little hype. DeRogatis is great, and the players are more open when talking about technique than they are these days (when interviewers don’t dare ask such complex, "boring" questions), but the deliberate pace and earnest tone of the broadcast makes it a little dull. NBC’s 1969 coverage was a lot like Football Outsiders coverage, but that’s a qualified compliment. We do what we do because the networks do what they do, and readers like you crave something a little less shrill and more thoughtful. Imagine if we were all you had: Your only pre-game entertainment options were DVOA breakdowns and static play diagrams. After 20 minutes, you’d be begging for a Taylor Swift video and a Go Daddy commercial. A little razzle-dazzle isn’t a bad thing. Somewhere between today’s bleating, low-content pregame hysteria and the meditative documentary tone of 1969 there’s a perfect balance of analysis and spectacle, one nobody in the television industry is searching for.

Finally, it’s time for fluff. Gowdy explains that while the Jets and Colts have never played each other, their players and coaches know each other well from college and other professional stops. "Today’s super-game is really a family feud," he says. The scene switches to a pre-recorded segment of players lounging by a pool somewhere in Miami. One by one, players explain who they played against or roomed with in college or on other teams. John Unitas makes his first appearance, wearing what appears to be a robe while leaning back on a lounge chair.

Think about it: 17 minutes and 33 seconds into the broadcast, and a Hall of Fame quarterback is mentioned for the first time. Yes, Unitas was injured and only available as a backup for the game. Imagine Brett Favre gets injured Sunday, but the Vikings still reach the Super Bowl. Do you think any pregame show would go 17 minutes without mentioning Favre? Seventeen seconds?

You’ll notice something else that never came up: the guarantee. Namath’s famous guarantee isn’t mentioned at all during the pregame show, though Gowdy talks about it as soon as the actual game telecast starts. Namath never speaks during the pregame show, even during the pool montage; I expected him to emerge from a wiggling pile of blonde bombshells to explain that he once met a Colts linebacker at an Alabama sock hop, but it didn’t happen.

After a United Airlines commercial that shockingly suggests that many business travelers are women (Being women, they notice crystal salt shakers, not the boring safety and punctuality preferred by men), Gowdy narrates player-by-player highlight reels for each team. Even highlight reels were slower-paced in the days before digital editing, but at least they’re exciting, with John Mackey running end-arounds and Maynard catching Namath bombs. Highlights, commercials, and a Gowdy wrap-up fill the final six minutes of the telecast. NBC then reminds viewers that Wild Kingdom will be seen right after the game.

Once upon a time, a New York quarterback could boldly guarantee a Super Bowl victory without touching off a 24-7 poop-storm. Namath made headlines and sparked controversy with the guarantee. But 30 minutes of football-related television could pass without 12 different analysts offering their opinion on it. There was no ESPN, no Around the Horn or Rome is Burning devoting hours to telling us how to feel about an off-the-cuff expression of youthful brashness. It was a different world, though not necessarily a better one: a minute of "guarantee" related coverage would have been more compelling than the pool party or DeRogatis’ third dissertation on the Colts linebackers.

During the AFC pregame show on Sunday, there will probably be several flashbacks to Namath and Unitas. There’s a good chance that they’ll be talked about more on Sunday than they were before the game they actually played. The pregame show will be louder and less substantive than the Super Bowl III pregame show 40 years ago. It will also be more fun. I guarantee it.

Saint Expectations

The Saints can be predictable in their unpredictability. Here's a look at what you will see from their offense on Sunday:

Two Tight Ends to One Side

I broke down the Saints' multi-tight end sets earlier in the season. They are still a major part of the typical Saints gameplan. Look for Jeremy Shockey to line up as a wide receiver frequently, with David Thomas as a tight end or H-back on the same side of the formation. This "heavy" personnel grouping gives the Saints extra blocking power to one side of the formation, and it makes it hard for defenses to predict what they will do when they break huddle in a two-tight end personnel grouping.

Seamers off Play Action

Drew Brees has one of the quickest releases off play action of any quarterback in the league. He'll fake the handoff, drop, set, and throw in one smooth motion. Watch for him to throw down the seam to a tight end on quick-developing play action passes. The speed with which these plays develop prevents linebackers from dropping into coverage once they realize the hand off was a fake.

Play Action with Pulling Guards

You didn't think this would all be recycled information, did you? The Saints pulled their guards a few times in play action against the Cardinals. Not only does the guard movement sell the running play, but it allows the Saints to use one of their guards as an exterior pass protector.

Figure Saints Play-Action With Pulling Guard

Figure 2 shows a play-action fake to Pierre Thomas (23) with Jahri Evans (73) pulling. Evans takes the defensive right end in pass protection, allowing left tackle Jermon Bushrod to engage a less-threatening interior linemen. Brees then rolls right in the pocket, giving Evans a better angle to block the speedy end. This tactic can be effective against Jared Allen, who can beat Bushrod easily but may get engulfed by Evans. As diagramed, Devery Henderson (19) runs the kind of deep post that often results in an easy Saints touchdown. Against the Saints, Shockey usually stayed in to block, but the blue route in the diagram suggests a way he can release into the pattern and slip past the defense.

Short Yardage Cuteness

Sean Payton loves to empty the backfield on third-and-short, and he did so a few times against the Cardinals. He'll also do it against the Vikings. On third-and-2 against their defense, what would you do: leave a back in the backfield to maintain the threat of a run (the Vikings aren't really threatened), or spread the field to try to isolate Shockey or Reggie Bush against 255-pound rookie linebacker Jasper Brinkley.

On the season, the Saints were 23-of-28 when running on third-and-short, 6-of-16 when passing on third-and-short. Interestingly, they ran 30 times and threw just four passes on second-and-short. Those four passes netted just six yards: So much for the bomb to Henderson on second-and-1. Payton dialed up a run 10 times but threw just twice on fourth-and-short, a sign that he's grown more conservative in short-yardage situations. Still, he's more likely than many coaches to get exotic during the one situation when most coaches get primitive.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 21 Jan 2010

62 comments, Last at 31 Jan 2010, 5:36pm by Roscoe


by Boes (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 12:35pm

Great article. Thanks. (small issue: Tyrell Johnson, Safety, Minnesota - not Tank, ex-safety Vikings and now Patriot, I believe)

by MJK :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 12:55pm

Not a Patriot anymore, to my knowledge. At least not on the active roster (haven't checked injured reserve). They (the Patriots) experimented with transforming him into a hybrid LB/S, kind of like a "46" defender, but that experiment failed (largely due to injuries). I think they cut him before the season started this year. Not sure where he is now...

by dryheat :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 2:30pm

No, that's Tank Williams. Tank Johnson is a lineman out of Washington. I think he's with the Bengals.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 3:30pm

You are right (though I had to look up where Tank Johnson went to college).

Tank Williams was released by the Patriots in August and as far as I can tell is still waiting for a new job.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 3:59pm

And Tank McNamara, thankfully, was released by newspapers nationwide some time ago.

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 1:56am

Tanks for pointing that out.

by dmb :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:35pm

One other quick issue -- the last sentence in the third-to-last paragraph begins, "Against the Saints, Shockey usually stayed in to block..."

If that was the case, then it's a wonder that the Cardinals only sprang one long run.

Anyway, great article as always... revisiting the SB III broadcast was a great idea, and I really enjoyed reading about it. I occasionally watch old football broadcasts on youtube, but none have been quite that early. It's interesting to consider how the game's presentation has changed.

by bitterbruce (not verified) :: Sat, 01/23/2010 - 4:39pm

After looking at the figure you posted showing how sometimes the Saints will do a play action with the right guard pulling to block the RDE....I hope like crazy they use this multiple times this weekend. NO WAY can any guard have enough speed to get to an unblocked/chipped Jared Allen quick enough to disrupt him from getting to Brees. Just the hesitation it takes to fake a handoff...no matter how quick he does it, will offset the speed of an untouched Allen...and with the right guard solely responsible for stopping Allen...I like his chances.

by bubqr :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 12:46pm

Small typos : "Strong safety Tank Johnson" It's Tyrell, "Against the Saints, Shockey usually stayed in to block", I guess against the Cardinals.

I love Walkthrough, and this was as always a very good read.

I like defense more than offense, so I really enjoy watching Rex Ryan's defenses during these playoffs (even though I would have enjoyed some Sean McDermott), but I have to admit that Payton's creativity on offense is almost as great to watch.

I think that running that many different plays and formations is an advantage that becomes bigger and bigger as the season goes on, I can't imagine how much scouting the Vikings defensive coaches had to do this week...

by Hank (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 12:55pm

I'd like to see the Saints-Vikings pregame refer to the matchup as the Starcaps Bowl

by Chip :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 4:10pm

Can you imagine how different the season would have been with the a four-game suspension for the law firm of Williams, Williams, Smith and Grant? Both teams might have started 2-2 (losses against GB and SF? for MIN; PHI and NYJ? for NO), probably not securing a first round bye (certainly MIN) and likely not ending up in the NFCC game.

by TXNiner :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:06pm

An excellent analysis, as always. Love Walkthrough.

by Nathan :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:06pm

Nice... with the Saints pulling guards on PA will we see some DOUBLE A GAP BLITZES!!!1!!! in certain situations (2nd and 3 from the 50 yards line, etc)?

by are-tee :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:08pm

I was eleven years old in 1969 (still ten when the SB was played in January), and I remember Gowdy and DeRagotis well. Not to mention Jim Simpson and Charlie Jones, staples of the old NBC AFL broadcasts.

I saw a fascinating nugget in last weekend's Newsday: This year's Super Bowl will played exactly 15,000 days after SB III in 1969. I haven't checked the math, but it sounds about right.

by Joe T. :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:12pm

Where can one find this Super Bowl III pre-game show you speak of?

by JSA (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:16pm

NFL Network is airing the full game, though probably not the pregame, Saturday night, 1:30 AM ET. http://www.nfl.com/nflnetwork/networkschedule?selectedDate=01/23/2010&fi...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:17pm

This is likely a line of scrimmage game to a greater degree than the norm. That is, the two teams are fairly evenly matched in terms of offensive ball handlers, and both defensive secondaries have their issues, although issues of a different nature. This game will be decided by the fronts, and although the Vikings have a significantly better defensive front, especially if everyone is healthy, the Saints' offensive line has been better this year than the Vikings', and the home field will help the Saints' linemen, on offense and defense, quite a bit. The Vikings offensive line needs to run block effectively, to lessen the home field edge, and to expose the Saints' weaknesses in the secondary.

The most important play for this game may have been the blocked extra point the Vikings allowed against the Bears almost a month ago, ensuring the Saints home field advantage.

by Temo :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 5:07pm

I'm not sure exactly what problems the Saints have in their secondary now that they're all healthy.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 6:49pm

Their safeties play run support like Paula Abdul. Now, if the Saints get out fast to multipke scores, or the Vikings offensive line doesn't run block any better than they have for most of the 2nd hald of the season, it won't much matter.

by Theo :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 7:04pm

I've seen the Saints play some aggressive defense. With Sharper close to the line, with muliple blitzes (can FO back that?) and a lot of Jets like defense.
Now. These aren't the Jets. The Jets are like the 2000 Ravens, but replace Rayray with Revis Island.
This game will be all offense. It's the one surprise that a defensive coordinator can bring up that will make difference.

If the Saints play their Eagles/Jets plan, they will win, if the Saints play their sit back and lets see what the offense does, they'll be done.
I see the Saints in the Super Bowl. They are too good. Favre is a freak. Don't bet against him. 0/0

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 9:45pm

Yes, Sharper can crowd the line of scrimmage, and occasionally make a play. He is just as likely, however, when asked to move up and fill a hole, to take a hideous angle, and miss any opportunity to make a tackle. He is a great pass defender, of course, and his situation this year has been nearly ideal, in that his weakness in run support hasn't been too exposed.

by Ken (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:17pm

I love the orginal broadcast of SBIII. Did you see/hear the part where someone from the production staff whistled at DeRogatis to get his attention that he was on... hilarious

by dedkrikit (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:22pm

Loved the SB3 pregame write-up. I really like the "odd" stories on this site (the good writing and analysis is still there, but with a new topic).

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:25pm

I've never seen a rebroadcast of the first Super Bowl I have a dim childhood memory of. My impression is that Earl Morrall screwed that game up, big time, and that it benefitted football fans quite a bit, ushering in the merger. I think I will record it and see if my hunch is correct.

by dryheat :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 2:31pm

If possible, watch the re-broadcast. It will be the best announcing job you see this year.

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 2:01am

I was five and don't remember it, except for home movies of the halftime show! (My dad flew down for the game, blew about a month's salary on one bet, never bet on anything again TTBOMK) but I believe Morrall failed to see a wide open receiver in the EZ.

Now why my father flew to Florida with his Super-8 camera to film the freakin' halftime show I will never understand. Maybe I'll call and ask him Sunday morning....

by Bobman :: Sun, 01/24/2010 - 12:09am

For any who care, I asked my father why he took 20 minutes of footage of the halftime show--he told me he threw out the game film (idiot) because he was so disgusted at the Colts loss. Well, probably more his financial loss, as he was and is a Giants fan...

by Theo :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:27pm

Of course is stopping the run a big part of stopping the Saints offense. But isn't stopping the pass a much larger part?

I love the old games. Receivers lining up in 3 point stance...

by Ken (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:37pm

The other great thing about older games is the pace... tv timeouts are horrible... moreso when you're at the game. I understand the network needs to make money, but there has to be a better way. I'd much prefer billboards around the field... hell, I'd take someone using a can of coke as the endzone pylon if it meant 20% less breaks

by Dean :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:40pm

Sadly, it wouldn't mean less breaks. They'll gladly give you more ads, but it won't be a trade off.

by MCS :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 2:16pm

"there was no ESPN, no Around the Horn or Rome is Burning devoting hours to telling us how to feel about an off-the-cuff expression of youthful brashness. It was a different world, though not necessarily a better one:..."

I respectfully disagree. I think the world would be a much better place without ESPN, Around the Horn, Rome is Burning, etc.

You have it right when you say there needs to be a happy medium. Cold analysis + a little spice to add some flavor.

A slightly different issue. Go back and listen to play by play from 15-20 years ago. The announcers actually talk about substitutions and formations. They'll even allow dead air as the viewer is allowed to *gasp* watch the game without their inane chatter.

by MCS :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 2:18pm

By the way, great analysis as always Mike.

by Phil Osopher :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 3:05pm

Agree 100%

by young curmudgeon :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 5:28pm

"The pregame show will be louder and less substantive than the Super Bowl III pregame show 40 years ago. It will also be more fun. I guarantee it."

Call me crazy, but I think a half hour's reasonably serious analysis of the upcoming game sounds like more fun than a couple hours of chortling, wheezing, blathering, and posturing from the likes of Berman, Long, Bradshaw, et al.

Indeed, I'd rather have Ray Scott alone in the booth succinctly describing what's happening on the field than, say, Joe Buck's inane and inaccurate account bolstered by the uninformative prattle masquerading as "analysis" from Simms, Aikman, or Dierdorf.

But, as they say, "that's just me." I'd also rather read The Wings of the Dove than go to see The Book of Eli, so I guess I'm not really much of a judge of "fun."

by Jmagik (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 7:54pm

I'm with you... that's why you have to watch old NFL Films stuff from time to time to keep the memories of the pre-all-that-shit-you-mentioned days alive a la The Altar of the Dead~

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 9:50pm

Every once in a while the Ice Bowl game is replayed, with Scott's call. Great stuff.

by Jim C. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 5:47pm

I think it's interesting to note that Al DeRogatis was moonlighting throughout his broadcast career. His day job was as a Vice President with Prudential Insurance. How times have changed.


by Bobman :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 2:04am

I might as well bring this up now: Did anybody else out there over the age of 40 or 45 grow up thinking his name was Aldie Rogatis? Just the way they said it, the way it rolls off one's tongue....

Okay, I'll go back under my rock now.

by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 10:19am

No, but I used to think the guys on Wide World of Sports was named Chrissy Conomaki and the tough guy from "The Godfather" was Lou Gabrazzi.

by Bobman :: Sun, 01/24/2010 - 12:13am

You mean those AREN'T their names?

Now that you mention it, I don't know if Luca Brasi's name is ever shortened to either first or last names in the book or movie--always the full name. Eh, my middle son is named Luca--if I ever see him mumbling to himself at a wedding about the happy couple's first child being a masculine child, we're gonna have words.

by Dan :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 3:52pm

I was pretty sure that there was a great hockey player named Tae Mussalani.

by Nathan :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 4:09pm

You must be thinking of Teemu Selänne...


EDIT: Oh wait, I see what you guys are doing here.... carry on.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 7:58pm

Your only pre-game entertainment options were DVOA breakdowns and static play diagrams.

Actually, some of us would be fine with that.

by buckturgidson (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 9:13pm

I would much rather go back to the days of Ray Scott and dead air than continue to be subjected to the insipid , inane blabbering that permeates every broadcast . Not to mention the superficial BS that passes for " analysis " on ESPN and others of their ilk ( meaning everything else on TV ) . I'm amazed how few people realize that ESPN sucks , a lot . Maybe it's because they haven't experienced anything better . My dream is to watch the NFL on my 47" HDTV with nothing but mics around the field for the ambient crowd and player sounds . That would be like , surprise ! , attending the game in person . Thanks to FO for a refreshing point of view .

by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Thu, 01/21/2010 - 11:28pm

Dear General Turgidson:

Seems to me you could approach your ideal by turning the sound off completely...you wouldn't have the crowd & player noises, but you wouldn't have to deal with the blather and the commercial sound tracks...I think you'd be 3/4's of the way to nirvana...

by buckturgidson (not verified) :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 1:03am

That's what I do but hearing the crowd and hitting would be better than silence or listening to music.

by surround sound (not verified) :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 1:39am

good trick I employ is to crank the surround sound and lower the sound of the centre speaker this makes it difficult to hear the prattle and all you hear is the crowd and the sounds of the field. takes some work but definitely worth it.

by Podge (not verified) :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 6:23am

Why not just play NFL Films Music throughout the game? It would make even Lions-Rams seem like a classic...

by ammek :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 9:29am

Ah, but a really good announcer would add to your enjoyment of the game. Even for those lucky enough to have HD pictures, there's a whole lot of stuff you won't see. A play-by-play announcer should, after years of calling games, be able to identify significant formations, personnel changes, etc. And the color guy — especially that they're all ex-players or coaches — ought to be able to tell us what we missed after the play, not to mention keeping a track of the trends taking place within the game. Heck, I even enjoy some of the big ol' narratives: the comeback story, the fatal flaw, the guys fighting for their starting jobs, etc...

The problem is, nobody does this. Instead, the announcers make corny quips and the likes of Simms and Theismann fill the airwaves with fatuous verbiage. If they spent more time watching old tape for game-relevant information, and less time dining with players and coaches, so as to regurgitate their PR guff, the broadcast would be more tolerable.

by Roscoe :: Sun, 01/31/2010 - 5:36pm

Hey, I remember Simms saying something insightful once. He was calling a Raiders game, and noted that Jeff George making an odd hand motion right before receiving the snap from center. He warned that George should correct this, because he was tipping the defense when the snap was coming.

Later (I think it was the same year, but memories fade) I was watching the Raiders plan Kansas City, and Derrick Thomas was getting an insane jump on the snap. The announcers (Simms wasn't calling this game) noticed this, and wondered what he was keying on.

by Ken (not verified) :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 9:38am

What gets me is all the hyperbole... every thing is the greatest or the worst ever... week to week it changes. Also aggrevating is that every successful play made by one person turns into a spiel about what a big time player he is/ induction into canton... yap-yap-yap.

One broadcast tried an announcer-free half in the early to mid 90s, I want to say CBS, it was a little wierd.

Being that I'm losing my season tickets next year and will be watching more games at home, I'm thinking that I'm going to mute the tv and go with the radio for the audio. I like the Jets play-by-play radio guy, Bob Wischusen. The color guy and our beloved, Marty Lyons is alright but can be too critical at times.

by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 11:15am

Amen. How many times did we hear "game of the year" this year? 8? 10?

by dryheat :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 11:40am

Probably slightly more than we hear that a player is a "once in a generation talent" around draft time. But only slightly more.

by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 1:45am

When it comes to electronics, I'm barely capable enough to change my lightbulbs. But I swear that when I turn off the TV sound and turn on the sound that's routed from my TV/cable through the receiver and stereo speakers, I get the crowd noise and officials' whistles, but no announcer/theme music/sound effects overlay.

Is this possible, and if so, how?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 2:53am

Somehow, your audio being routed through your stereo is only the crowd feed, which is also the only sound sometimes on a second language feed that some televisions have.

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 2:12am

One more question, probably better suited for two weeks from now:

Who remembers the night-before variety show/roast that used to be on before the SBs in the mid 70s? Super Night at The Super Bowl.

Hey, if Sonny and Cher could have their own show, if Shields and Yarnell (2 mimes) could have a show, why not have Joe Namath (I am not making this up) singing "Big Bad mean Joe Greene (the meanest man on the football team" to the tune of "Big Bad Leroy Brown"??? The pregame shows apparently weren't enough in those days and to rake in more money and generate more hype, somehow they got some NFL stars with Hollywood aspirations, and who weren't part of the big game, to do some football talk, some schtick, and then some jock-sniffing celebrities to join the fun and "entertain." Yes, before there was the KSK incident, Broadway Joe embarrassed himself on national TV in a different way.

Good God, things may be different, but in many ways they aren't all for the worse today.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 11:30am

Before the day of widespread cable and ESPN, didn't the networks often try to give a sports slant to their variety "entertainment"? I'm thinkin' Bob Hope having a real yuk fest interview with some jock who looks like he is having a tooth removed, he's having so much fun.

And as much a I make fun of halftime geezer rock shows, it ain't Up With People.....

by young curmudgeon :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 10:52am

I've cut and pasted some of the descriptions of the work of the on-air announcing or analyzing "talent" from the above thread. Admittedly, FO attracts, in general, a more thoughtful level of fan, but it seems as if there is quite a bit of dissatisfaction here with the state of NFL announcing. Aspects of that announcing are described (including a few from my own comment) as:

inane chatter (MCS); chortling, wheezing, blathering, and posturing...inane and inaccurate account bolstered by the uninformative prattle masquerading as "analysis" (me); insipid , inane blabbering that permeates every broadcast... Not to mention the superficial BS that passes for " analysis " (buck turgidson); prattle (surround sound); corny quips...fatuous verbiage...regurgitate their PR guff (ammek); hyperbole...yap-yap-yap (ken).

That's a small sample size, so I'm not proposing that it is a consensus. At the very least, however, it's first-rate excoriation. If we've missed a condemnatory word or phrase, feel free to join in!

by DFJinPgh (not verified) :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 2:18pm

young curmudgeon = awesome

Well done.

by ammek :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 2:52pm

OK, for Phil Simms: nauseating, rehashed, humorless, meandering drivel.

Oh, and: why does Moose begin every intervention with "You talk about…"? No-one is talking about it, Moose, except you. Endlessly. And not very well.

by young curmudgeon :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 7:51pm

Thanks, ammek, the collection of descriptive words was definitely missing "drivel!" Sadly, your adjectives are appropriate as well.

by Chucky Margolis (not verified) :: Wed, 01/27/2010 - 9:08am

I've always wanted to emerge from a pile of wiggling blonde bombshells....