Thursday, November 10, 2011

NFL TV Announcers

I am not one to pay particular attention to the broadcasters and worry about whether they are dissing my team, giving them their props, showing bias one way or the other, or anything like that. I don't get terribly amped up about it, but I must admit that I do get mildly annoyed and amused listening to their prejudged positions and opinions. In the long run, it really can affect the success of your team, because stars and good teams get coddled and protected by the refs. In the final analysis stars and celebrities are, by definition, made in the media. So, I guess I would have to say that I care a little and that it may even matter a little. One of the reasons I enjoy going to the games is that I don't have to listen to the announcers. When I watch the replay of the game on DVR, I always fast forward through the dead time between plays and go from tackle to snap, so I also avoid listening to their prejudiced opinions. With that introduction, let me present to you a few interesting examples from Sunday's game where the opinions of the announcers played into their call of the game:

When Eli got called for a delay of game at the goal line right before the INT, Aikman railed about how that was inexcusable clock management by Eli. He has to be aware of the play clock and never let something like that happen. He should have called a timeout right there and not incur the 5 yard penalty for his team. (Aside - wonder what they would have done at the goal line at the end of the game with one less timeout, but that's not the point.) Shortly after that, Eli threw the INT in the end zone and Aikman and Buck both came back to the fact that the delay of game penalty contributed to the INT, because it affected the play call at the goal line. However, when Brady had gotten called for a delay of game penalty earlier in the 3rd quarter, Aikman simply said that Brady expected them to reset the game clock. There was an injury timeout right before the play and that messed up Brady's timing and expectation of the play clock, or so said Aikman. I guess only Eli should have seen the play clock, not Brady. Furthermore, there was no mention that the delay of game on Brady may have affected the subsequent play calls, which it definitely did. To remind you, Patriots had a 3rd and 10 instead of 3rd and 5, Brady had to hold the ball longer and it allowed Boley to get to Brady and force a fumble which led to Giants TD.

When Eli threw his INT in the end zone, Aikman and especially Buck went off on Eli about how he always throws off his back foot when he is under a rush, which leads to all his INTs, his inaccurate throws and his inconsistent play. (He has fewer INTs than Brady this year).  However when Brady threw his two INTs it was more about luck in one case (LBs tipped the ball allowing the INT) and about good position by the S on the other throw. Aikman begrudgingly mentioned that Brady tried to fit the throw into a narrow window in the seam. He usually makes that throw, but this one he shouldn't have thrown. It's on him, said Aikman. There was so much rationalization, qualification and explanation that you almost thought that it wasn't an INT at all. Or maybe he was blaming Eli for Brady's INTs also.  Further facts are that Eli's INT was not that bad a throw. It was slightly underthrown perhaps, but was not thrown into double coverage, was not a bad decision and in fact the WR was wide open. It required another DB to fall off his man and make a great play on the ball to get the pick, but you didn't hear any of that from the announcers. By contrast, both of Brady's INTs were the result of poor throws and poor decisions. On the INT by Kiwanuka, he should never have thrown the ball to the middle of the field without lifting it over the LBs who were taking their drops into pass coverage. That is passing 101. On the INT by Grant, the TE was perfectly covered and Brady's decision was terrible to go there with the ball. If he did throw it to the TE, he should have thrown it high so the TE would have had a chance to use his height to get it. Poor decision and poor throw, but you barely heard anything from Aikman or Buck.

Later in the game, on the Giants final winning TD drive, you heard more from Aikman about how two of the incomplete passes that Eli threw were thrown off his back foot, should never have been thrown and should have been intercepted. One was the long sideline throw to Cruz that went out of bounds. It was a slightly risky throw, but I believe Eli had confidence in Cruz that either he would catch it or he would make sure it wasn't picked off. It fell harmlessly out of bounds, even though the Patriots DB was nearby. The really amusing piece was Aikman's expert analysis of the pass to Cruz that resulted in the PI putting the ball on the goal line. Ex-Cowboy Aikman said that he had no idea where Eli was throwing that ball and that if he put it in the right place, it would have been intercepted; Giants were lucky to get the PI call. Here's the amusing part - in the post game press conference, Eli explained that he called an audible at the line of scrimmage changing the pass routes on that play. It was noisy in the building and he realized that not all the WRs got the route adjustment and the play was messed up. Therefore Eli intentionally threw the ball away, just getting it in the general vicinity of Cruz on the slim possibility that Cruz could make a great catch or the Giants could get a break on a penalty, which is exactly what happened. So it turns out that rather than being stupid and making a bad decision by throwing the ball where he did as Aikman said, Eli was particularly cerebral about the game situation, game management and this scripted throw away and was rewarded with the PI penalty for his brilliance.

Finally, when the Patriots scored to go ahead with 1:36 left in the game, you heard Buck throw down the "Eli called himself elite" gauntlet. First Buck said - it was ridiculous to hold him to it, I mean what else is he going to say in response to this (stupid) question on some talk radio show. Then, after calling it ridiculous, he said "but if Eli thinks he is an elite QB in Brady's class, here's his chance to prove it by leading the Giants down the field." He was metpahorically slapping Eli in the face with a white glove. He was challenging Eli by saying in efect: OK, big biy, you're sucha  big talker, let's see you deliver. Of course, after Eli delivered, you didn't hear Buck come back and say - Eli really showed us that he is an elite QB.

The announcers are not stupid, they are hopelessly locked into their prejudged positions and they rarely let the facts get in the way of their opinions.

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