The Wise Guy: Critiquing Collinsworth

As I’ve mentioned before, Cris Collinsworth is the best color man in the business.  The genius of Collinsworth is that while other analysts will simply explain what you just saw, Collinsworth will tell you what you didn’t see and why it affected the play.

His analysis of the quarterback position provides the best example. All the TV can show is the QB dropping back and throwing the ball, as the camera then pans to the intended receiver.  Viewers can only tell whether the QB evaded the rush or threw a good pass.  Most analysts will break down what you saw.  Collinsworth, however, reads the entire field and will instantly tell you whether the QB made a good decision—i.e., whether the QB diagnosed the coverage and threw the ball to the right person at the right time.  When a QB makes a mistake or takes a sack, almost invariably, NBC will show the replay and you’ll see that Collinsworth was right.  No other analyst in the game gives you that kind of rapid insight.

Big head = big (football) brain

The other defining attribute of Collinsworth is his brutal honesty, providing biting criticism that is only rivaled by Johnny Miller in golf (which nobody watches anymore).  For example, last week against the Giants, Collinsworth commented on the Bears “putting a tent over this thing, because this is a circus.”  Great line.  And when LeSean McCoy inexplicably slid before the first down market last night, Collinsworth was quick to criticize.

Now I generally love Collinsworth’s penchant for snark, but sometimes he goes too far.  Especially when you’re a fan of the losing team, like the Bears and 49ers the last couple of weeks, Collinsworth has innate ability to “twist the knife” with criticism that significantly heightens the pain.  This was the case last night, and in my humble opinion, the commentary crime was enhanced by the fact that he was off base, which happens to the best of them.  I’m talking, of course, about Alex Smith, who was serenaded to chants of “We can Carr”—perhaps the greatest insult that could be heaped on a starting quarterback—after his fourth quarter fumble/touchdown that put the Eagles up by 14.

The chants were to be expected.  The Niners are 0-4 and, well, they’re fans.  But you expect that an analyst of Collinsworth’s quality will look past the mob mentality and see the bigger picture.  The 49ers were losing on all facets of the game: Frank Gore had two fumbles and the 49ers run defense was getting gashed, and Alex Smith was actually playing a decent game before the fumble.  Instead of pointing this out, Collinsworth chose to pile on with unnecessarily harsh criticism of Smith as a QB, criticism that was belied by the fact that Smith almost singlehandedly led the team back to win the game.  It is OK to be snarky; it is not OK to be snarky and wrong.

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