'Inside the NFL' needs better Sapp replacements

Posted Oct. 23, 2012 @ 1:06 p.m.
Posted By Barry Jackson

The concept made sense at the time: replacing blowhard bully Warren Sapp with guest analysts on Showtime’s usually first-rate “Inside the NFL.” Regrettably, the execution hasn’t been nearly as good as the idea.

Excluding Bill Cowher, Showtime’s list of guests has been seriously underwhelming. Chad Johnson and Lawrence Taylor were fine talking about themselves — Taylor bemoaned how life has been difficult for him — but offered surprisingly little of substance when included in panel discussions about the sport.

Taylor asserted the Giants’ defensive linemen “are the only ones who play any defense” in the league. What about the 49ers and Bears? Have you watched them, L.T.? He overstated rules changes when he said hard hits aren’t allowed anymore.

Guest LaVar Arrington lost some credibility when he said Peyton Manning can’t throw the deep ball anymore — a point immediately contradicted by Phil Simms, who noted he worked Manning’s previous two games and watched him throw five pinpoint deep balls. (Manning has completed 11-of-21 passes thrown for more than 20 yards.) Oddly, Arrington was invited back for the Week Seven edition and apologized, on-air, for the Manning comment.

Arrington wasn’t awful in his second appearance but said nothing especially insightful. Former Jet Kris Jenkins also was a disappointment in his cameo.

For this “guest analyst” concept to work, Showtime needs personalities who can educate or entertain or, preferably, both. Why not ask NBC or Fox for permission to use Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Troy Aikman, Howie Long or Jimmy Johnson for a week in exchange for promotional considerations? Why not use Shannon Sharpe or Boomer Esiason, considering CBS and Showtime share common ownership? Their exchanges with Simms, Cris Collinsworth and James Brown assuredly would be lively.

Showtime is handicapped because the show is taped on Wednesdays, and players on bye weeks usually are practicing that day. If Showtime fills the fourth chair with a permanent presence next season, NFL Network’s LaDainian Tomlinson deserves strong consideration. 

 

AROUND THE DIAL

• Good Week Seven scoop by Fox’s Jay Glazer, who reported the NFL is investigating the Chargers for using the banned substance known as “stickum” in the Week Six Monday-night Broncos game.

• Oops: NFL Network’s usually reliable Brad Nessler initially saying a critical missed late Pittsburgh field goal was good against Tennessee in Week Six.

• Former Fox comedian Frank Caliendo, added to ESPN’s pregame show, delivered decent Jon Gruden and Rex Ryan impersonations but was even better mimicking Herman Edwards and Chris Berman.

• Some of the logic espoused in NFL Network’s prediction segment is faulty. Marshall Faulk predicted the Vikings would beat the Redskins in Week Six (they didn’t) because Christian Ponder threw two interceptions the previous game and “the Vikings still won.” Huh?

• Good idea from Fox’s Long, who suggested players who cause injuries with illegal acts should be suspended for the same amount of time the injured player misses.

• Smart move by NFL Network to hire Andrea Kremer to report exclusively on health and safety issues. There’s opportunity for good journalism in this role — which Kremer excels at. Her first report demonstrated exactly what happens to the brain from hits such as the one Darrius Heyward-Bey sustained. But Heyward-Bey said he isn’t going to worry about his brain anytime soon.

 

Barry Jackson covers sports media for the Miami Herald.