Have no fear, folks. The Thanksgiving Grinch is here. I'm all about talking about what we're thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what time of year is designated for what we're not thankful for and what needs to change in the game of football?
Call me Negative Nancy if you want, but here are the five football-related things I revile the most this 2018 season.
1. Almost all color announcers
From Brian Griese droning on in a monotone on CFB Saturdays to Jason Witten pulling rabbits out of his head to Dan Fouts' incredible pretentiousness, color announcing in football has never been worse. Associate analysts jobs should be clear: provide added analysis into each play that isn't obvious to the average viewer, understand the rules and don't be afraid to be critical when it's warranted.
When Cris Collinsworth is one of the best at following these three rules of thumb, you know your profession is hurting. People don't like he and Troy Aikman, and I get it, but show me color announcers who are clearly better? There aren't many. In a day and age where we have better, more in-depth analysis from football media than ever before, ex-players are still being handed jobs they are in no way prepared to do well.
Two hot takes for you: Tony Romo, while being one of the best NFL color announcers out there (low bar), can be a bit much at times. His know-it-all ways and constant hemming-and-hawing through every replay with plenty of added side effects can wear on you. He significantly increases the tension of a game with his obsessive commentary style. I like him more than most of his colleagues, but I think he needs to find a little more balance at times.
Another hot take: Jordan Rodgers is the best color announcer in football right now. Not sure how many have heard him on the SEC Network, but he's well-spoken, energetic, critical when needed and understands the game extremely well. For the most part, he doesn't just blow smoke on players because they are popular. His team of Tom Hart and Cole Cubelic should be one of the top broadcast teams in college football.
2. New NFL rules
Everyone agrees on this one. They are absurd. From the string of Clay Matthews' penalties to what we see every week on our screens. The quarterback protection rules and leading with helmet/blow to head rules are so consistently butchered that no one even has a clear grasp of what the rules actually are, including the officials.
Ambiguous rules are a terrible process for anything, and they are predictably yielding an even worse result. The game is being more altered by major penalties than ever before, which is something no one wants to see. The last of consistency among officiating may be the worst aspect however, only adding to the growing controversy around this aspect of the sport. If the NFL doesn't change things in the offseason, the sport will continue to yield compromised results based on officiating gaffes.
3. Results-based analysis
I'm not saying the result doesn't matter, I'm saying the process is the best way to predict general outcome and future success, which is essentially our jobs in sports media. Whether we are assessing how a player, team or coach will be successful in the future, the best way to determine that projection is by looking at the process, not the result.
Look at Sam Darnold's first start. He produced, threw a couple touchdowns and people decided to crown him right then and there. By scouting the box score (i.e. the result), it was easy to convince yourself that Darnold had played at a high level after his game-opening interception, but the reality is that he was pretty average and had a couple other throws that should have been intercepted too, including one that went for a touchdown.
By watching Darnold and scouting how he actually played vs how he produced, it was easy to predict that at least the next several weeks of his rookie season would be a struggle. And it has been. Darnold will be a good quarterback eventually, but people rushed to crown him without proper context, and it led to many looking foolish. This happens weekly in the sports media field, despite the fact that there is no excuse for us given all the information and tape at our disposal.
4. Monday Night Football production
I mean, what can you even say about Monday Night Football's broadcast production at this point? Is there any aspect of it that is good? Booger McFarland's analysis is often straight-up wrong and he dishes on issues he has no real understanding of (his commentary on Le'Veon Bell's situation was nightmarish), but at least he can speak without running out of breath, pronounce most names and understands common expressions. Looking at you, Jason Witten.
Witten is an awesome dude who is clearly just in over his head, so I don't really blame him. I blame ESPN for giving arguably the most coveted color announcing gig in sports to a completely inexperienced ex-player because he was nice to the media during his career. Talk about a bad process.
But it isn't just the commentary (Joe Tessitore is good by the way). The graphics are bizarre and not correlated to the topic or to football in any way at times, the lack of replays is incredibly frustrating and the announcers don't notice non-obvious things that impact the play. Sunday Night Football has its issues, but it is easily a much better product than Monday Night Football has become.
5. NFL Sunday game scheduling
Please, please NFL. Make half of your Sunday games at 1 pm and half at 4pm EST. Having seven or more games at 1 and then 3-4 at 4 doesn't make any sense. Spread the games out so we don't feel overwhelmed at 1 and underwhelmed at 4. Maybe I'm missing it, but I can't think of a good reason not to do this, especially early in the season when no teams are on a bye.