Week 1: Kenny, Moose and Goose
For three guys who go by Kenny, Moose and Goose, Fox's No. 2 broadcast team is remarkably buttoned-down.
Don't get me wrong -- it's a solid group, comprised of veteran play-by-play guy Kenny Albert (son of legendary sportscaster Marv Albert), color commentator and former Cowboys fullback Daryl "Moose" Johnston and sideline reporter Tony "Goose" Siragusa, a former defensive tackle who split 12 NFL seasons between the Colts and the Ravens.
Albert and Johnston have a seamless rapport, Siragusa provides a sliver of comic relief -- something Albert should steer clear of, but more on that later -- and the result is good commentary that isn't distracting or extraneous.
But man, when the Philadelphia Eagles are leading the St. Louis Rams 38-3 in the fourth quarter and quarterback Donovan McNabb comes out for Kevin Kolb -- seriously, Kevin Kolb -- it's time for Albert and Johnston to loosen up just a smidge, because we all know how this one's going to end (for the record, the score remained 38-3).
The contrast between the man down on the field and the men up in the booth was striking. While Siragusa imitated contestants from Fox's new game show, Hole in the Wall ("Put your leg up, or something like this," -- extending his right arm and leg out to a 90-degree angle -- "and try to fit through it," -- folding his large frame in half, arm and leg still extended -- "It's tough to do. It's not easy. 'Hole in the Wall,' man."), Johnston and Albert agonized over the nuances of a 35-point game.
Let's backtrack for a minute, though. Overall, Johnston and Albert are truly better than any of the "higher-ranked" broadcasting teams at the textbook-type stuff; explaining and analyzing the game. So let's take a look at the highs and lows of the entire broadcast:
How the Announcers (Johnston, Really)
Expected It to Play Out
1. The Rams' decision to defer after winning the coin toss was smart, because "you don't want your offense out there early. Send your defense out there, try to get a three and out, establish field position early."
2. The Rams will be all over undersized Eagles rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson from the line of scrimmage, and "they're gonna challenge his release all afternoon."
3. The speed of the Rams' linebacking corps will pose a major threat to the Eagles.
4. St. Louis running back Steven Jackson will "get a good test" from Philadelphia.
5. "Randy McMichael will be as important as anybody in [the Rams'] offense."
How it Actually Played Out
1. The Eagles scored on their opening drive. "Maybe that wasn't the best decision" by St. Louis to defer, Johnston said later.
2. The Rams were all over the field, but they couldn't come close to Jackson ("It's just 11 guys going in 11 different directions," Siragusa sagely noted late in the second half).
3. Do the Rams even have a linebacking corps?
4. It was a good test, and Jackson failed.
5. This is true, but probably not in the way Johnston intended. Nobody was important in the Rams' offense on Sunday.
Breaking Down the X's and O's
When the Rams got burned on a McNabb pass deep down the middle to Jason Avant:
Siragusa: "That looked like busted coverage from down here."
Johnston: "Hey, Goose, there's nothing worse than when you have a big play and all of a sudden you have three or four guys on defense looking at each other. I mean, the safety, the corner and the linebacker all stare at each other after this play. Quinton Culbertson, Corey Chavous and [hard-to-decipher name], they're all trying to figure out who's supposed to be covering Jason Avant down the seam."
As a contrast, ESPN's late Monday night dream team of Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic and Mike Ditka broke down most plays in the Broncos-Raiders game like this: "Ohhhhh!"
Try Not to Overdo it, Though
Albert, pointing out McNabb's signal before a short touchdown pass to Brian Westbrook: "He goes and taps his butt, right there. You see that?" -- circles McNabb's butt on the screen -- "Right there, in that area."
Highlighting the Changes
Upon kickoff, Albert explained the NFL's new rule for deferring kickoffs. Two and a half minutes in, he discussed the coach-to-defensive player helmet communication. Other broadcasters treated the changes -- which are important -- as asides and didn't mention them until after halftime.
Good Goose Moments
Siragusa on the Rams in the second quarter: "I'll tell you what, it's flat down here. Their sideline, I'm watching 'em now -- they're dead." (St. Louis Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz agreed: "I don't understand how a team can prepare for months to play its first football game, only to emerge from the locker room looking like dead men walking. No heart, no guts, no pulse ... nothing.")
With two minutes to go in the third quarter, Marc Bulger nearly got picked off for the third time. Johnston: "He just doesn't have any confidence in his guys up front."
Siragusa: "Well, he shouldn't after looking at that replay right there. I mean, they're just getting beat at one-on-ones. That's just -- that's just plain football, man."
'Funny' Isn't Your Thing, Kenny
Albert, commenting on a shot of a bird on the field coming back from a commercial break: "A bird of a different feather joins the action." Forced laughter.
Albert, upon seeing another shot of (presumably) the same bird following the very next break: "It's the bird's eye view." More strained chuckling. Ohh, it hurts.
They Still Love That Quarterback
He's not a Packer anymore, but the all-media man-crush on now-Jet Brett Favre hasn't diminished a bit.
Albert: "At least he's still wearing green."
Johnston: "The guy's amazing. Absolutely amazing."
After a Favre touchdown highlight, Johnston wonders aloud if Favre would line up and kick the extra point for injured kicker Mike Nugent, too.
Albert: "If anyone could, it's Brett. He's so dreamy."
(Okay, so Albert didn't actually say, "He's so dreamy." But he might as well have.)
For all that was said about Rams offensive coordinator Al Saunders, there was not one mention -- by anyone -- of his last two seasons with the Redskins. Given, there's not much to talk about, but it might have been worth noting that while Saunders' schemes from his earlier days with Kansas City could translate well into the St. Louis offense ("Steven Jackson as Priest Holmes. Randy McMichael as Tony Gonzalez," Johnston suggested), they essentially fell flat in Washington.
Johnston: "[The Rams] are starting out in terrible shape. ... Couple of penalties now, sitting at, uh- What're we at now, Kenny, second and ... 17?"
Albert: ... (It was second and 16, for the record).
The mention of the late Gene Upshaw (who players are honoring all season with black "GU" uniform patches) was too glossy. Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players' Association who died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 20, certainly left an indelible mark on the NFL, leading players through a strike in 1987 and negotiating with league owners to secure better salaries for players. But his tenure was also marked by controversy and criticism, which shouldn't have gone unmentioned.
Clichés in Football Are So Cliché
Johnston: "It's so important to get off to a good start in the opening week of the NFL, and in the opening month. I've always said, you don't win a championship in the month of September, but you sure can cost yourself the opportunity to compete for one."
Another cliché, this time a botched one, by Johnston: "Everything that was a concern coming into this game, [the Eagles] have passed with flying colors."
Lighten Up, Moose
When St. Louis wide receiver Drew Bennett fractured his foot on the Rams' first possession of the game, Johnston was inexplicably distraught: "This is really frustrating to me. Drew Bennett can't stay healthy, for whatever reason. But nobody wants to be on the field more than Drew Bennett."
With about four minutes to go in the first half, the Eagles had a solid 14-0 lead. This made Johnston nervous: "I'm starting to get an uneasy feeling about the Eagles. ... They're letting the Rams stay in this game when they shouldn't be here right now."
... Really? With zero points, the Rams are staying in the game?
Summing It All Up
Look, Albert and Johnston are a little bit too serious. It would be nice to see them have some fun, but that's okay -- they've got the rest of the gig down pat. Anyhow, it's not like they're Joe Buck-reacting-to-Randy Moss-serious. Albert and Johnston would probably laugh if Randy Moss fake-mooned them. And that, all else aside, is why Kenny, Moose and Goose are better than the higher-profile alternative.
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