Fox made the biggest change in NFL postseason coverage this year when it assigned a divisional playoff game to Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick, instead of Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa. And while Billick wasn’t perfect — he called Seattle the No. 1 seed when he meant Atlanta — his analysis was credible and cogent.
Even better: He spared us from being subjected to the repetitiveness and hyperbole of Johnston and Siragusa, who — many times a game — use the word “unbelievable” to describe plays that aren’t.
Billick, who reportedly interviewed for the Eagles’ coaching job, correctly questioned why the Seahawks didn’t give the ball to Marshawn Lynch on at least one of two failed short-yardage situations, and accurately anticipated that Seattle would victimize Atlanta on intermediate routes in the middle of the field.
But when Brennaman said that Billick has known Falcons head coach Mike Smith “for many years,” he was remiss in not disclosing that Billick is Smith’s brother-in-law.
• CBS’ Dan Dierdorf was exceptional on the Ravens-Broncos classic, including quickly identifying safety Rahim Moore as the Denver defensive back most to blame for Joe Flacco’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones to tie the game with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
But Greg Gumbel was typically delinquent in giving details on play-by-play, ignoring who was in coverage on most pass plays and seldom bothering to note yards gained on plays. Incidentally, the 20.1 rating for that Ravens win was the highest for an AFC Saturday playoff game in 19 years.
• ESPN soon will announce that Ray Lewis is joining the network as a studio analyst, including a role on “Monday Night Countdown.”
• Oops: ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that it’s “essentially a certainty” that Tim Tebow will play in Jacksonville next season — two weeks before the Jaguars’ new general manager ruled it out.
• NBC’s Tony Dungy, whose analysis usually can be trusted, was off base in adamantly predicting Vikings backup Joe Webb would play well and lead Minnesota to a win against Green Bay in a wild-card game. Webb was 11-of-30 passing for 180 yards in the Packers’ 24-10 win.
• NFL Network’s Kurt Warner is cautious in his commentary, so it was a bit surprising to hear him say Peyton Manning “is not in the conversation for best quarterback ever because of what’s happened in the playoffs.”
• ESPN president John Skipper told us he’s optimistic Jon Gruden will stick to TV, though a Gruden associate said a marquee job could still interest him. “He reiterated his commitment to us,” Skipper said.
And Skipper believes his decision to shift Ron Jaworski from the Monday-night booth to the studio was validated. “Jon’s personality came through more,” Skipper said. “I always had a slight bit of trouble telling Ron and Jon apart.”
• Advice to NBC’s Rodney Harrison: Don’t tell viewers comments made by your colleagues off the air, including that “Peter King said he doesn’t believe in the Falcons.” If King wants to say that on the air, that’s his place to do it.
• The latest in a string of odd comments from Fox’s Terry Bradshaw: After the Seahawks’ wild-card win, he was amazed, asserting: “Everyone thought Washington would beat Seattle.” No, Terry — the Seahawks were favored by oddsmakers. And he said: “I’ve never met Jay Cutler, but I don’t think he even likes himself.” How would Bradshaw know?