Tonight was the first time I watched an NFL Network game in a setting where I could hear the play-by-play, and the criticism it has been receiving for its broadcast is warranted. To tick them off:
-Bryant Gumbel is the biggest problem. He's obviously a very knowledgable individual, but that doesn't mean that he knows how to call a football game. There is an air of arrogance to the tone of his voice, a no-no for any play-by-play man, but especially for one who does not have much credibility in the sports world. Adding to that, I lost count of how many times he interrupted the commentators, especially poor Dick Vermeil, who could barely get a couple of thoughts out from his hoarse voice.
-Speaking of Vermeil, why would NFL Network trot him out there to do the game knowing full well that he could barely speak? When it was obvious that his inability to speak was taking away from the quality of the broadcast, he was replaced in the second half by Deion Sanders. What an embarrassing gaffe.
-The halftime show left a lot to be desired. In terms of the physical setup of the halftime commentators, why was Adam Schefter smack in the middle, while former NFL coach Steve Mariucci on the side? Who is Adam Schefter?? Why are you making him the center of attention when you have a former coach who is a lot more recognizable to football fans than Schefter, who comes off as very smug. And did they really need to carry around those big honking microphones with the NFL logo emblazoned on them? It was very distracting, and does the mighty NFL really need more brand reinforcement than it already has?
-Aside from that, the content of the halftime show was weak too - too much empty analysis of the first half with no real insight. If you have that much time to fill, at least have a feature to show, like an interview, or something. Change it up a little!
The one bright spot I have to say was Deion Sanders. While he's not the next John Madden, he provided some real thoughtful insight during the second half, particularly when talking about how Marion Barber should be getting more carries than Julius Jones. And when the commentators (Rich Eisen, Mariucci, and Sanders) interviewed Terrell Owens in the post-game show, Sanders wasn't afraid to confront T.O. about his spitting into DeAngelo Hall's face during the game. Owens tried to brush off the initial question from Sanders and treat the incident like it was nothing, but Deion pressed on, essentially scolding him for his actions. Good for him - Deion's probably one of the few people with the credibility to get into T.O.'s face like that on national TV, and he took advantage of it.
Next time, I'll turn the sound down and just listen to the radio.