Monday, May 18, 2009


It's been said already (via the AP), but heeeeerrrrrrrrreee’s Chucky!

Obviously, the Internets ablaze with news that Jon Gruden is replacing Tony Kornheiser in the Monday Night Football booth as the PTI host and longtime Washington Post scribe points to his fear of flying as the reason to step away after three seasons.

The criticisms of Kornheiser were well-founded as his detractors note his lack of improvement throughout each season. His attempts at humor fell short more often than not, his friendly arguments with Ron Jaworski took away from the action at times and his constant references to the most (in)famous quarterback in the NFL unnerved many. Yet, Kornheiser played his role as it was detailed; to be the ‘voice of the fan’ by way of the sports editor of the local newspaper who is on a deadline and needs an attention-grabbing headline.

As written about during this past season, he was supposed to be the outsider, chomping at the bit to talk about the topic du jour; whether it was the struggling quarterback, the coach who might be canned after another loss, the wide receiver who can’t seem to shut up or whichever player got arrested during the week. Yet, he was more like Joe/Jaquon/Jane Fan than we care to admit, which might have been the underlying reason for the hate spewed in his direction.

So now, ESPN grabs another coach who was just fired after a disappointing stretch (see Edwards, Herm) in hopes of providing veteran insight from years on the sidelines. A quick Google/Yahoo! Search will provide a range of opinions from overjoyed that Kornhieser’s gone to satisfied that Gruden joins the booth to disappointed that another former jock is actually going to talk about the game (if the latter baffles you, you’re not alone). Yet, the opinions are up to you to share here.

If anything, it would be interesting to see what kind of style producers help Gruden develop. Being media-friendly to the beat reporters and talkies is one thing, but to speak nationally to millions of fans for a few hours is a different story.

As most coaches have varying rapports with media members. From my professional experience, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has certainly become more open to the Giants’ press over his time here and he’s certainly forthcoming and honest towards those that give him respect, even in criticizing some decisions. Yet, he can also be dismissive of certain media types that are looking for a reason to argue with him about the points of the game (and there are several folks in this category).

Now, can these five to ten minute post-game press conferences translate to adding analysis to the viewers for a few hours? That’s pretty hard to determine. It’s been said that Gruden had been pretty good with the media, even taking the Chucky nickname in stride wherever he has gone. In the booth, however, he has to essentially have a conversation with ‘Jaws’, whose breakdown of film and player biographies makes him the preacher to the converted, if you will. He’ll have to work with and around the parameters that Mike Tirico sets as the play-by-play announcer/occasional traffic cop.

What ESPN (and ABC before MNF was moved to Disney’s cash-cow channel) has tried to do was have someone in the broadcast booth that can dumb down the football verbiage for at least the casual or average NFL fan to digest without completely alienating the committed fan. Because the NFL has such a short season (which places games at a premium and captures more attention than the lengthier seasons of other sports) and the constraints of a live broadcast, it is vital for the network to dangle a carrot to those who may pass by the game while flipping through the channels.

You have to wonder if Gruden will be asked to fill that role in any degree. Jaworski is rather entrenched in his role as the breakdown analyst, but I can imagine that going into a fourth season, he’s figuring out how to either add explain the game’s language a bit more or cut down on its use. Gruden could bring the maestro elements of being a coach to the booth; in other words, explain the reasoning behind a play or what the guys in the headsets see and hear. He could also be asked to preach to the converted as Jaworski does and Tirico may have to bring in the casual fan a bit more.

It’s difficult to say how he will do in the booth considering that he hasn’t done it before. Outside of his work with the NFL Network as the Draft neared (which was well-received by some), he doesn’t have any body of work to suggest that he’ll be great or terrible. While he’ll make his debut during the preseason, everyone is working out the kinks from the players and coaches to the media to the concessionaires. It won’t be until the lights come on for the season opener between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots on September 14th that we’ll find out how ‘Chucky’ does.

Say What?!?!: Ladies, if you want the fulfill your fantasies, just know that he wears protection. This ad is great (at least to me)!

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