ESPN NFL Studio and Monday Night Football Conference Call Recaps
ESPN hosted media conference calls this week with members of its NFL studio and Monday Night Football teams in preparation for the 2009 NFL season. Full replays of both calls are available here (access to the calls requires login/password). Select comments from both calls:
From the Monday Night Football call with Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski and senior coordinating producer Jay Rothman …
Tirico on a likely “must-see” MNF game: I’m so filled with anticipation of Oct. 5, when Brett Favre in purple steps out of the huddle and looks at the Green Bay Packers defense for the first time. That’s going to be a pretty special moment.
Jaworski on NFL offenses this season: What we’re going to see as we look in our crystal ball is offense this year that a lot of people haven’t seen. … We know there is going to be a spread offense, wildcat phenomenon this season. They’ve been working on it behind closed doors. It’s an exciting time in offense in the NFL.
Gruden on Peyton Manning and the Colts: I don’t know who is doubting the Indianapolis Colts, but I’m not. I think Peyton Manning is kind of like doubting Tiger Woods. He’s going to win. He’s going to be in the money till the end.
Rothman on Gruden: I was fortunate over the last eight years to sit in production meetings with Jon, when he was in Oakland and with the Bucs. Every time we sat there, in the back of my mind, I said, ‘this guy could be a superstar in this business.’
Rothman on pairing Gruden with Jaws: We’ve seen the combination of head coach and point guard or quarterback work in our NBA model with (Jeff) Van Gundy and Mark Jackson and (we) thought this could be that and even more.
Tirico on Gruden: I’m lucky to do a variety of sports and I’ve seen a lot of ‘new analysts or first time analysts’ come in, and I’ve never seen anybody bring the passion and the desire to be terrific at this the way Jon has.
Jaworski on Gruden: I’ve learned more football in the last three months than I have the last 10 years. I love working with Jon because he challenges everything. He makes me better, he makes our booth better and he makes our entire MNF team better – and that’s a couple hundred people.
Gruden on his first year in the MNF booth: This is a point in my life where change is good. I’m getting an opportunity to see the game from a totally different angle. I’ve always taken one step at a time. I try to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to me. This opportunity obviously doesn’t come along very often. I think this is as good or better than any media job that exists and it’s a tremendous amount of responsibility. I want to deliver. I want to be a great teammate and be part of a great team.
Jaworski on performance of Vikings and Brett Favre from MNF preseason game Aug. 31: I was literally blown away. … It was all very impressive, not only the arm strength but the accuracy and the leadership (from Favre). … As I look at this Minnesota team, the addition of Percy Harvin gives them that explosive play which means more points on the board and their defense playing for the lead can be absolutely dominating.
Gruden on Favre and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson: I think Brett Favre coming to Minnesota in a system that he’s familiar with is a tremendous, tremendous thing. I saw Favre dominate for a long time in this offense and he looked very comfortable and in rhythm the other night. … Another point is that it’s not all about Brett Favre as it was about Brett Favre in Green Bay. He’s got a great supporting cast. They play defense. They’ve got an outstanding running back. Matter of fact, he (Adrian Peterson) might be the best back play I’ve ever seen play in my lifetime. I think Peterson and the Chester Taylor change up is extraordinary … I really think Brett Favre has gone to Minneapolis as I said the other day, and attached jumper cables to the entire organization. He’s revved up the enthusiasm. The expectations might be at all-time high and I think the Vikings players can respond to that.
Gruden on Eagles head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Michael Vick: I give Andy a lot more credit than just bringing in Michael Vick and using him as a wildcat. … What Andy is doing is getting Michael Vick re-acclimated to being a quarterback and that could take a year. If it develops during the season — that there is a package here or there for Michael Vick — so be it, but this is clearly Donovan McNabb’s show. Clearly this guy is a dominant quarterback and he has been for a decade. I think Michael Vick, as he gets reinstated and gets re-acclimated to the NFL, Andy Reid’s creativity will take over and he’ll find a role for him.
Gruden on Brad Childress, the Vikings and Brett Favre: No disrespect to Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels but they are not Brett Favre. They just aren’t. Brad Childress has a system that calls for Brett Favre. Brett Favre has the tools that will help the Minnesota Vikings I think immeasurably. I really think it’s a great move for Minnesota and both of these guys (Vikings and Eagles) could be meeting again in the playoffs this year.
Gruden on Lions rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford: This guy has a rocket for an arm, and he can throw the ball to one of the most talented wide receivers in football, Calvin Johnson. I really think Stafford’s going to be outstanding. He needs to play. He’s physically capable of taking some beatings. And I think he has the right stuff. I really think this guy’s gonna be special. Let him play. Let’s get on with the season and let’s build our football team a young trigger that can get it done.
Gruden on the firing of Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski: I just got fired from Tampa Bay, so I’m sensitive to that. It’s strange. It’s uncommon because all I’ve read is how excited they were about the acquisition of Coach Jags. I’m just eager to hear what transpired to cause this. Obviously, they feel they have someone in house to take the reins, but they really don’t have a lot of time because the regular season is closing in.
Jaworski on Jagodzinski: Now, if you’re looking at the quarterback situation in Tampa right now, you’re bringing in a rookie in (Josh) Freeman, you’re bringing in a new guy in (Byron) Leftwich and you’re in this system and you’re learning this system. Now all of a sudden here you are, 10-11 days before your opener, and the guy who has been implementing this system is gone. That’s a setback. I’m not privy to any information as to why that happened, but it’s a setback. When you have as much change as the Bucs have had already, I think it makes it very difficult to start the season focused.
Gruden on the Dolphins: At the end of the year, Jason Taylor is going to give them some critical snaps and passing situations. I’m a big Chad Pennington fan. I don’t think he got near the credit he deserved for going in there and completing the number of passes he completed. Their turnover ration was extraordinary. … 11-5 is hard to duplicate. It will be challenging for them, but they have great leadership at the quarterback position and their head coach did an outstanding job. It wouldn’t surprise me.
Gruden on the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers: They didn’t have a lot of defections in free agency, number one. Secondly, they haven’t had any catastrophic injuries to this point. … Thirdly, I think their schedule is much more favorable this year than last year, at least on paper. Fourth, after spending a few days with the Steelers, this is a very good football team. They’ve got two Super Bowl MVPs playing wide receiver. They’ve got a great quarterback who gets out of trouble and makes play after play after play. Their defense is just downright nasty. They have to be a front runner at least in my eyes.
Jaworski on Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald: There’s no question that Larry Fitzgerald is an elite receiver in the NFL, arguably the best receiver in the NFL. … When you’re around him, the leadership qualities that he exudes are invaluable. He’s an unbelievable character person, tremendous work ethic, great locker room guy. Those are the intangibles that I love about Larry Fitzgerald, not only his receiving skills but what he can mean to a guy in a locker room.
From the ESPN NFL studio call with Chris Berman, Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson, Steve Young and senior coordinating producer Stephanie Druley …
Johnson on why wide receivers are so outspoken: When you look at the position itself, we’re pretty colorful. We’re the nice looking guy. We’re the thin guy, drives the nice fancy car, wears the nice suits. We’re the outgoing personality. … Ultimately, at the end of the day, all the negative falls on the quarterback and all the positives go to the quarterback, so the receiver has to create his own atmosphere, his own media, his own hype. … The quarterback has people around him that protects him and puts him in position, but offensive lineman they’re colorful too.
Johnson on the Patriots and Tom Brady: I think they’re in a great position. Tom Brady looks like Tom Brady of old. To me he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat, but if they can’t keep him upright and he continues to get hit, then all quarterbacks are the same. When you hit them upside their head, they’re a different breed. Eventually, they have to figure out what to do with their offensive line, whether it’s a protection issue or changing some guys out and getting guys to really shore up things and protect him.
Carter on NFL athletes and the quality of play today: I know fundamentally the receivers are not better. Athletically, they have more at their disposal like weights and supplements, so it gives them the ability to have more muscle mass. Technically, they’re not better. More kids are playing in spread offenses but the passing game hasn’t improved. The reason why is that they’re not running routes. They can’t run routes and they don’t know how to run routes.
Young on Brett Favre and retirement: Your desire is to keep doing what you’re great at. That call that Brett keeps hearing, or all of us … Brett’s kind of opened the book on the difficulties of actually making that decision. It’s been at times comical, at times heartbreaking, and at times difficult to watch. You’re watching it play out right in front of you. The longer you play the harder it gets.
Carter on Favre and retirement: People underestimate when you are great at something, and regardless of how humble Brett would try to be there’s no denying his greatness in the National Football League. And there’s no job to transition to. I’ve got a great job at ESPN, but it’s not the NFL. It’s not like being a starting receiver for the Minnesota Vikings. It’s totally different. … I think a lot of people, we know how to get in the league, but we don’t know how to get out of the league … And most guys wouldn’t quit if they were healthy and someone would pay them to do it.”
Berman on the Cardinals: When you push the envelope on one side of the ball as they can with those receivers and with that quarterback who gets it … then you have a chance to win any game. … There’s room for improvement with them, probably in attitude, but when you can score 30 points a game against most teams, it’s nice to have (that) in your hip pocket.
Young on whether Browns quarterback Brady Quinn can be successful in the NFL: As long as he doesn’t try to win the bench press contest — which I’ve never seen a quarterback win before and be really good. I think he’s starting to understand how to review his workout so that he’s got that flexibility and ability to move around … They have a unique situation. I’ve been there. It’s not fun. It’s competitive and difficult daily. I think if he’s really got all that goodness or greatness in him, he’ll find it somewhere. If not there, somewhere else. He’ll battle through this. I see all upside for him. I see no reason why he can’t be a very good football player.
Druley on women doing TV or radio NFL play-by-play: Pam Ward does games for us on the college level and I think she does a really nice job. I think in general the NFL from a broadcasting perspective is a really hard group to crack if you look at the guys that are calling it now … People are used to a certain voice and think people have adapted to Pam on a college level … I think certainly there are women who know the game better — in some ways better — than the guys do because their perspective is different. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Monday Night Football kicks off its 40th season with a season-opening doubleheader – Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (7 p.m. ET) and Chargers at Raiders (10:15 p.m. ET) – on September 14. The season-opening edition of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown pre-game is Sunday, Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. ET.