Albert sharp in return to NFL booth

Posted Sept. 14, 2011 @ 10:23 a.m.
Posted By Barry Jackson

Quick hits from opening weekend: Despite not having called an NFL game on television in a dozen years, Marv Albert aced his CBS debut, reminding viewers why he ranks among the top play-by-play men of his era. On the Bills-Chiefs blowout, Albert was sharp, alert and quick to identify down, distance and the defender.

Albert, who called "Monday Night Football" on radio until 2009, often asks his analyst questions to extract his partner's expertise; he did that with Rich Gannon on a few issues, including how Chiefs QB Matt Cassel can deal with so many voices in his headset. (Three Chiefs coaches have a role in play-calling.) Gannon noted Cassel has had different play-callers three straight years and "that's unsettling."

Albert displayed his trademark dry wit during Gannon's new "Going Deep" segment, which Albert cracked is "thoroughly unsponsored." Gannon noted that Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the few players who wears his wedding ring during games. "This (segment) is going to be very educational," Albert deadpanned.

• Unfortunate moment of Week One: fantasy football reporter Dave Richard inaccurately reported Donovan McNabb was inactive for the Vikings-Chargers game. Jim Nantz relayed Richard's incorrect info on the Steelers-Ravens game.

• A few changes in ESPN's new deal for "Monday Night Football," which will cost the network $1.9 billion per year (up from $1.1 billion) and extend another eight years through 2021: The NFL can give ESPN a wild-card playoff game whenever it wants; "Sunday NFL Countdown" is starting an hour earlier (10 a.m. ET to 1 p.m.); NFL Live expands to one hour weekdays (4 p.m. on ESPN); and ESPN2 adds "NFL32," a studio show at 6 p.m. weekdays, in which Suzy Kolber, Chris Mortensen and others discuss news of the day.

• NFL Network's Kurt Warner (who called three Fox games as a rookie last season) and Bill Parcells (in his third tour with ESPN) were the new studio analysts on opening Sunday. But as usual, nobody was more outspoken than CBS' Shannon Sharpe, who mused, "How many coaches is Alex Smith going to get fired before they realize he can't play quarterback?"

• I like CBS studio analyst Boomer Esiason's work, but his insertion into game coverage on Week One was peculiar. Though Esiason's voice was hoarse, CBS had him share in-game updates with James Brown. (What? Brown no longer can handle the whole 10 to 15 seconds by himself?) CBS also displayed Esiason's Tweet ("can't anyone on the Chiefs cover the Bills tight ends?") on its score ticker at the bottom of the screen. Where did that come from?

• Fox's Joe Buck, who has been dealing with a virus in his vocal cords for seven months, sounded much better but is still not 100 percent. ... ESPN's new "NFL Live" analysts include Jerry Rice, Eric Mangini, Hugh Douglas and Damien Woody.

• Is ESPN's Tom Jackson paying attention to the teams that aren't top contenders? On a Sept. 6 conference call with media, Jackson noted the Dolphins need the pass rushing of Channing "Chowder" — which is wrong on three counts: His name is Crowder (not Chowder); he isn't on the Dolphins anymore (he was released July 29 and is sitting out this season); and he isn't a pass rusher (2½ sacks in six years). And viewers were supposed to trust Jackson's studio analysis for the Patriots-Dolphins Monday-night opener?