When networks hire former coaches to work for them, they're usually not the ones breaking news about the coach's potential return to the sideline.
CBS again was left in an awkward position when ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Bill Cowher has a wish list of three teams (Giants, Dolphins, Texans) should any of those jobs become available.
A week later, Cowher mischaracterized Mortensen's report in an angry response.
"For anyone to insinuate that I have a wish list of coaches to be fired at this time of the year, I have too much respect for the profession," Cowher fumed. "I don't wish for anybody to be fired. For someone to insinuate that I'm doing that right now is disrespectful to them, and I'm insulted by it."
Mortensen never said that Cowher was hoping those teams would fire their coaches. And you'll notice that Cowher didn't deny the essence of the report.
Unfortunately, James Brown didn't ask Cowher the questions that he might have been willing to answer: Is he inclined to return to coaching? Will he listen if teams contact him? And Cowher certainly wasn't going to volunteer any of that.
By contrast, Fox's Brian Billick suggested to partner Thom Brennaman in Week 17 that he will explore coaching jobs.
"You have to look at the possibilities," Billick said.
AROUND THE DIAL
• Good for Fox's Michael Strahan for blasting the Giants for blowing a late 21-point lead against the Eagles — even though at least one of his former teammates didn't like it. Strahan was without bounds in calling the Giants "soft and relaxed" during their collapse and saying "they should be ashamed of themselves."
The Giants' Justin Tuck said, "I just don't understand how he can be on our — and I'm not saying he's not on our side — but talking us up one day and the next day say that." Sorry, Justin — Strahan was doing his job. And Strahan didn't let up in subsequent weeks.
• How can Fox justify calling its doubleheader game "America's Game of the Week" when CBS or NBC sometimes has the better game?
• Can't stand it when announcers cite unnamed "people" in making a point. "People have been saying all year long that the Falcons are overrated," Fox's Ron Pitts said. "When are they going to stop saying that?"
Who are these people? And what does it matter if Pitts can't identify them?
• Fox and CBS did good work keeping viewers updated on other scores during Week 17, but CBS' late-season coverage was better because it has a bottom-screen scroll that updated playoff permutations, especially as scenarios were evolving during Week 16. Fox, inexplicably, refuses to run a scroll.
• Fox's Tim Ryan makes sensible points, as he demonstrated in the Week 17 Giants-Redskins game, but they sometimes get lost in all of the football jargon that too often monopolizes his analysis (Tampa-2 defenses, gap integrity, etc.).
• Fox rookie analyst Kurt Warner, who worked a few games, sounds a lot like CBS' Rich Gannon but isn't as sophisticated in his analysis. Gannon, No. 6 on CBS' depth chart, is better than most of the analysts on Fox, especially in his insight into quarterback play.
Barry Jackson covers sports media for the Miami Herald.
The column above first appeared in the Jan. 9, 2011, print edition of Pro Football Weekly, which also features PFW's annual report for coaches, a postseason primer looking at all 12 playoff teams, staff Super Bowl predictions and previews of the four wild-card games. The print edition is on sale at retail outlets across the country, and you purchase a print or electronic (PDF) copy at PFWstore.com.