ESPN's NFL coverage qualifies as mixed bag

Posted Jan. 01, 2013 @ 11:16 a.m.
Posted By Barry Jackson

ESPN does a lot right on its NFL coverage. Among them: producing the most creative, outside-the-box pregame features, and Ron Jaworski dissecting tape with a surgeon’s precision.

But you also see stuff that leaves you shaking your head. Such as:

• Stuart Scott on “MNF” postgame shows. Either he’s overhyping and overselling everything — “You won’t believe what we’re going to show you next!” — or he’s saying things like this: That second touchdown pass by Colin Kaepernick “was straight out stupid. Stupid! Stupid! That means good, Steve [Young].”

• Trent Dilfer and Young treating poor play as a personal affront, as if someone had wronged them. Yes, it’s OK to be passionate, but their reaction to subpar performances often seemed repetitive and excessive.

Dilfer was so angry after the Jets’ awful showing in Tennessee that he ranted as if someone had egged his house. At least Dilfer can poke fun at himself, noting that Mark Sanchez’s play bothered him so much because “I was as crappy as you can be.”

• ESPN on ESPN crime. At least a couple times this year, ESPN reporters contradicted each other’s stories, leaving viewers wondering what to believe. Two ESPN New York reporters said Tim Tebow told coaches he wouldn’t run the “Wildcat” package against San Diego because he was upset about not getting the starting job. Adam Schefter reported Tebow said no such thing. (Tebow denied the ESPN New York story.)

• ESPN taking credit for stories first reported elsewhere. In Week 17, the network scroll cited “sources” in reporting Sean Payton had agreed to a new contract with the Saints. But Fox’s Jay Glazer broke the story earlier. When an ESPN producer tried to defend it, Glazer tweeted: “That may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

• ESPN’s “total quarterback rating.” It took some arrogance for the network to believe it could persuade fans to use a new quarterback rating system instead of the NFL’s longtime formula. Why waste everybody’s time?


• Fox couldn’t have been pleased to lose Cowboys-Redskins to NBC in Week 17, but the NFL did the right thing, because the game would not have aired in six major Western markets had it been a Fox 4:25 p.m. ET game.

• Love those miked-up segments on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL,” with audio captured from NFL Films. Best of the year: Houston’s J.J. Watt telling Baltimore’s Ray Rice — during the game — that “I’ve eaten burritos bigger than you.” Second-best: Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton complaining, during a game, about the NFL not building restrooms on sidelines.

• Here’s what appeared on CBS’ scroll of “headlines” in Week 16: “Phil Simms says the Steelers and Bengals are confident and mad.” And this qualifies as news how?

• Don Criqui was rusty in his first NFL game of the season for CBS (Dolphins-Bills), identifying the wrong city where the game was being played, noting “the second quarter is about to open” a few plays into the second quarter and saying Reggie Bush has “110 yards [combined] receiving and catching.”

• Worst decision of the season: Fox, in Week 16, should have allowed viewers outside Maryland and New York/New Jersey to stick with overtime of Saints-Cowboys instead of switching them to the start of Giants-Ravens.

• Biggest waste-of-time: CBS’ James Brown asking analysts if 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s job will be in jeopardy if Kaepernick doesn’t play well. Of course not!


Barry Jackson covers sports media for the Miami Herald.