The Wise Guy’s Media Watch: Analyst Overload

It’s time for another version of The Wise Guy Media Watch, where I chronicle the most notable weekly developments in the world of NFL media coverage.  This week, we have the official release of Fox’s broadcasting line-up, more additions to our endless supply of talking heads from ESPN and the NFL Network, and a prediction on the outcome of negotiations for the first 8 game Thursday night package.

NFL Networks/ESPN Analyst Wars: Yesterday, ESPN announced its additions of Jerry Rice and Bill Parcells to its pool of NFL analysts.  Parcells will work on the Sunday and Monday Countdown programs and also contribute a pair of 90-minute specials on the Super Bowl and NFL Draft.  Rice will contribute on SportsCenter, NFL Live, and Audibles.

Meanwhile, the NFL Network recently announced that it has signed Kurt Warner to an exclusive, multi-year deal to contribute to the network’s “NFL Gameday Morning” and Total Access” shows.

Suffice to say, there is no shortage of talking heads on either of these two networks, ready and willing to provide you with analysis and prognostications for the upcoming season.  Let’s take a look at each network’s line-up of pundits:

ESPN: Bill Parcells, Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, Matt Millen, Steve Young, Eric Allen, Tedy Bruschi, Trent Dilfer, Mike Golic, Herm Edwards, Tim Hasselbeck, Merril Hoge, Antonio Pierce, Mark Schlereth, Marcellus Wily, Darren Woodson, Andrew Brandt, Lomas Brown, Jon Ritchie, Kordell Stewart, Ross Tucker, Damien Woody, Hugh Douglas, Eric Mangini

NFL Network: Brian Baldinger, Brian Billick, Charles Davis, Jamie Dukes, Marshall Faulk, Michael, Irvin, Jay Glazer, Daryl Johnston, Michael Lombardi, Steve Mariucci, Mike Mayock, Jim Mora, Deion Sanders, Warren Sapp, Sterling Sharpe, Joe Theisman, Kurt Warner, Tom Waddel, and Solomon Wilcots.

Eyes spinning yet? Each network could, literally, field an actual football team with their talking heads, and likely beat the Bengals!  Frankly, I think we all need to turn the TV off sometimes and read a book, er, our Twitter feeds.

Thursday Night Football Negotiations:  A fascinating story in Sports Business Daily ponders the fate of negotiations for the first 8-game Thursday night package that is now in play with the new collective bargaining agreement.  What we have here is two purely content providers, Fox and ESPN, negotiating against two vertically integrated operations, Turner and Comcast, who have both content and distribution via their network of local cable companies they own.  And the kicker: Time Warner is one of three cable companies (Charter and Cablevision being the others) that does not carry the NFL Network!

What does this mean?  As the SBD story points out, there is potential that these negotiations could be more about than broadcasting rights, and that the winning bidder might actually take an equity stake in the NFL Network.  There seem to be clear synergies with this outcome given that the NFL Network will still be broadcasting the 8 final regular season games.  So what better negotiation partner than Turner, which can offer not just money but distribution rights for the NFL Network? Turner builds its content brand (I’m guessing TNT) while at the same time increasing the value of its equity stake in the NFL Network.

Can Charles Barkley do the NFL?

(As an aside for antitrust geeks out there, this is why you have to be very careful about allowing companies to vertically integrate, like Comcast and NBC Universal recently did.  It can give you a huge negotiating advantage against companies who only can provide one portion of the distribution chain)

Fox Broadcasting Line-Up Set:  As I reported last week, there were some major shake-ups in NFL broadcasting crews during the lockout period.  The musical chairs continued this week, as Fox released its official broadcasting line-up for the coming season.  And the Internet let out a giant, “meh.”  The only thing this announcement did for me was make me think, “wow, Fox has some really crappy announcers.”

At any rate, let’s take a look at Fox’s line-up, now that it is official:

Team 1: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman & Pam Oliver

Team 2: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston & Tony Siragusa

Team 3: Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick & Laura Okmin

Team 4: Dick Stockton & John Lynch

Team 5: Chris Myers & Tim Ryan

Team 6: Ron Pitts & Jim Mora

Team 7: Sam Rosen & Chad Pennington

Team 8 (selected games): Gus Johnson, Charles Davis & Tim Brewster

For detailed (and snarky) analysis, you can check out  But I’ll just make a couple points.

First, I can’t believe they haven’t put Dick Stockton out to pasture yet.  Using my advanced sabremetrics, I’ve calculated that Stockton messes up a names/penalties/down/yardage 13.2 times each game.  The man is seriously senile and needs to go.  Like now.

Second, Fox has some decent color analysts after the top two (Billick, Lynch, Mora), but its play-by-play guys are really subpar.  Are you telling me there’s no place for Gus Johnson in this line-up outside of selected games! (The crappiest games, mind you, beginning with the mammoth Redskins-Rams showdown in Week 4).  Maybe the guy wants to stick to college, but I haven’t seen this kind of waste of talent since Ted Williams.  No, not that Ted Williams.  This Ted Williams.

Third, the only true wild card in this line-up is Chad Pennington who now takes over for Kurt Warner after Warner inked an exclusive deal with the NFL Network (see below).

Finally, I don’t quite understand all the hate for Joe Buck. He’s got a great voice, knows the game, and generally stays out of the way.  What else do you want in a play-by-play guy?  I’d take Buck over Michaels (know-it-all) and Nantz (cheesy) any day.

Meanwhile, CBS has yet to announce its line-up for the 2011 season, so stay tuned for that bombshell.

Jon Gruden is Back!:  Finally, if you weren’t paying attention, there is real, live NFL football starting tomorrow!  Of course, after the first series, the glitter will soon wear off to reveal the turd sandwich that is the preseason (especially without “Hard Knocks”). The only exception? Tomorrow’s ESPN’s coverage of the Seahawks-Chargers, because we’re treated to a tantalizing appetizer of Grudenisms.  Please check back here after the game for my long-running segment, “Positively Gruden,” which reveal his top ten lines of the night.