In the best three-man booths, the analysts complement — not duplicate — each other's commentary and engage in substantive, even whimsical exchanges.
That hasn't happened yet with NFL Network's three-man booth. Instead, we get occasional doses of insight from Joe Theismann and Matt Millen, but generally too much talking, not much chemistry and some observations that either irritate or leave you scratching your head.
• With 10 seconds left in the Ravens-Falcons Week 10 game, Theismann said of the Ravens' offense, "You've got to get something to the sidelines.'' Not true — Baltimore had a timeout left.
• Millen insisted "a game can't end on a penalty." Also not true — it can if it's a post-snap penalty by the losing team.
• Millen frames other remarks to make viewers believe he is sharing greater insight than he actually is. For example, Millen said: "This is what everyone seems to forget about Jay Cutler — his mobility." Who exactly forgot this?
• Theismann kept telling Tyler Thigpen to "relax" and "calm down" during Miami's shutout loss to Chicago. But how was that possible with Thigpen under pressure on nearly every pass play?
• Both analysts talked so much in their first game that on several occasions, they kept play-by-player Bob Papa from identifying pertinent information after plays. And both use football lingo that goes over the heads of some casual fans — Theismann saying the Bears "will play a cover-2 shell" and Millen speaking at length about a "blitz in the 'A' gap."
Perhaps this group will improve. But we're not optimistic.
AROUND THE DIAL
• Pam Oliver's tough but fair interview with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Fox — and Jimmy Johnson's explanation about what it was like working with Jones — was the best segment on a pregame show this season. Every question Oliver asked had value: "How great of a GM do you think you are? ... Is ego getting in the way of giving up your GM duties? ... People are laughing at the Cowboys. Is some of this your creation?" When Oliver said that Jones seems to like to hire yes men as coaches except for Johnson and Bill Parcells, Jones said Barry Switzer once threw a plate of food at him.
• With Philadelphia leading Washington 42-14 in the second quarter of their Monday-night game, ESPN's Jon Gruden said, "I know the Redskins have a lot more pride than what people think right now." What evidence existed for Gruden to say that? If he had any, he didn't share it. A few minutes later, ESPN showed a tape of Albert Haynesworth falling down and not getting up to try to make a tackle, even though he wasn't injured.
• With so many reporters covering the NFL, inconsistencies in reporting are inevitable. But it was especially glaring on the Donovan McNabb story, when three different ESPN announcers gave three different numbers for the size of McNabb's guaranteed money in his new deal ($3.5 million, $10 million, $40 million). Mike Tirico used the $10 million number, as ESPN's scroll repeatedly gave the $40 million sum.
Barry Jackson covers sports media for the Miami Herald.