“They are going to be in the playoffs this year because of Andrew Luck. They believe in this guy.” – Tony Dungy on Andrew Luck
“Mark Sanchez had 12 weeks to prove himself, and now it is time for him to go sit on the sideline and mentally heal.” – Rodney Harrison on the Jets
NEW YORK – December 2, 2012 – Following are highlights for Football Night in America. Bob Costas opened the show live from inside Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the Dallas Cowboys are hosting the Philadelphia Eagles. Costas was joined on-site by Sunday Night Football commentators Al Michaels (play-by-play) and Cris Collinsworth (analyst), and Hines Ward, the former Steelers wide receiver and Super Bowl MVP.
Dan Patrick co-hosted the program from Studio 8G at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios and was joined by Football Night in America analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, and NFL insiders Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. Carolyn Manno reported from M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., on the Steelers-Ravens game and Randy Moss of NBC Sports and NFL Network reported from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on yesterday’s tragedy.
Following are highlights from Football Night in America:
Costas, Michaels and Collinsworth gave their brief thoughts on the Eagles-Cowboys before turning it over to Patrick in New York.
ON CHIEFS TRAGEDY:
Moss reporting from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City: “I spent some time in the Chiefs locker room after the game and the Chiefs players downplayed the victory as a very small piece of a suddenly very large puzzle. They were effusive in their praise for Romeo Crennel, whose talk to the team last night was inspirational in this sense. Defensive lineman Shaun Smith told me, ‘As Crennel was trying to help the team and was rock solid, players were looking at him and thinking wait a second. With what he personally saw with his own eyes, we are the ones who should be trying to help him.’ The players were also very much in agreement with the decision to play the game. Dexter McCluster said, ‘This is a game we love, the fans love and Jovan loved.’ But reality really hit defensive lineman Eric Winston hard. Winston said that he and his teammates were still struggling to reconcile the Belcher they thought they knew, with the man who committed those horrible acts yesterday that left the three month old girl orphaned. As the game clock today was winding down, Winston said, ‘It was confusing, tough and at the end of the day, I still could not stop thinking about that little girl.’ Dan it was a very emotional day here.”
Patrick: “There is nothing in the coaching handbook here guys. Tony, as a former head coach, how do you deal with this?”
Dungy: “Romeo Crennel, you heard it in his voice and you heard what Randy Moss said about those players talking about Romeo. That’s one thing the fans don’t realize. They look at you as a coach. They see wins and losses and what happens in that 60-minutes, but they don’t realize that you’re coaching 53 men. You’re coaching 53 families. That is a lot of people you’re involved with and Romeo Crennel was very emotional, but those are his guys. Those are his girls, his people and he did a fantastic job through this. People can’t understand how tough that is.”
Harrison: “Dan, obviously you have conflicting emotions because you are angry. The reality is a young man took two lives and he deeply affected so many other lives. As a teammate it saddens you. You went to war with this guy and you loved him and you cared for him. As a player, even walking over here to the studio people were asking me, ‘How could you play this game today?’ I said, ‘We play because this is what we have been programmed to do. To play football and overcome adversity. And we also play it because we love and respect the fans. We want to provide enjoyment and pleasure to the fans.’”
King: “I talked to Romeo Crennel after the game today and I asked him what he said to his team after the game, after such an emotional weekend. He said that he told them at the end of his conversation with them, ‘Look, this is not over yet. In fact, for some of us, it’s not going to be over for the rest of our lives.’”
Florio: “I talked to Carolina coach Ron Rivera after the game. He said the team left Charlotte on Saturday, not knowing whether or not there would be a game. They were prepared to defer to whatever the Chiefs and the league decided to do. Coach Rivera also told me that before the game he talked to Romeo Crennel and he saw just how emotional Romeo Crennel was. At that point coach Rivera called his team together and said, ‘Guys, the Chiefs are going to be playing with a lot of emotional energy today. If we can’t match that, we have no chance.’”
King: “We need to clarify exactly what happened at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday morning with this tragedy. Now, according to a source close to law enforcement officers on the scene, Jovan Belcher, and General Manager Scott Pioli, arrived in the parking lot outside the team’s Arrowhead training facility at about the same time, right around 8 a.m. on Saturday. Belcher seemed very upset. Pioli tried to calm him down, according to police. He (Pioli) couldn’t calm him (Belcher) down, but Belcher did say to Pioli, ‘I want to thank you very much.’ Pioli is the General Manager who took a chance on Belcher as a free agent out of the University of Maine in 2009, an undrafted free agent. Then he said, ‘Can you please call down, can you please ask Romeo Crennel and Gary Gibbs, the defensive coordinator, to come down?’ They both came out. He thanked them profusely for the chance that they gave him. Romeo Crennel told me after the game today, ‘I wasn’t able to reach the young man out there.’ Then, Jovan Belcher turned around, turned his back to them, and shot himself in the head.”
BOB COSTAS HALFTIME ESSAY
(Essay aired during halftime of tonight’s Eagles-Cowboys game)
You knew it was coming. In the aftermath of the nearly unfathomable events in Kansas City, that most mindless of sports clichés was heard yet again, ‘Something like this really puts it all in perspective.’
Well if so, that sort of perspective has a very short shelf life since we will inevitably hear about the perspective we have supposedly again regained the next time ugly reality intrudes upon our games.
Please. Those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports, would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective. You want some actual perspective on this? Well a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock, with whom I do not always agree, but, who today, said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article.
“Our current gun culture,” Whitlock wrote, “ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions, (and its possible connection to football), will be analyzed. Who knows? But here, (wrote Jason Whitlock) is what I believe, If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
Dungy on Colin Kaepernick: “It has to be Kaepernick. If you are Jim Harbaugh and you have a team that is in first place, the worst thing you can do is flip flop on who your leader is. Play Colin Kaepernick. You are going to have some ups and downs, but overall he is going to be fine.”
Harrison on the Jets starting QB position: “Not Mark Sanchez. McElroy came in and he gave them a spark. Mark Sanchez had twelve weeks to prove himself, and now it is time for him to go sit on the sideline and mentally heal.”
Dungy on the playoffs: “If McElroy gives them a spark, they can make the playoffs.”
Dungy: “They are playing better on defense, but I’m still not sold on them. But that offense is playing at a high, high level.”
Dungy on Andrew Luck: “This is a team that won two games last season. They are going to be in the playoffs this year because of Andrew Luck. They believe in this guy. This is what they did not have last year, faith that they could win these games.”
Dungy on Russell Wilson: “I saw Russell Wilson play against Oregon in college. He’s a winner. He’s a leader. He’s mobile. He can do all the things that you need from a quarterback.”
Harrison on Wilson: “What I love about him is the maturity. The fact that he went into that huddle and he said, ‘Hey guys, we’re going to go down and we’re going to score a touchdown,’ the poise in which he showed.”
Dungy on Wilson: “Those players love him and Pete Carroll loves him. Remember now, he benched a guy that they paid a lot of money to get, in Flynn, and went with Russell Wilson as a rookie.”
Dungy: “Pittsburgh was sinking and Cincinnati was coming on. Cincinnati won today and this is really going to set up that Week 16 battle between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. I think that is who is going to get that second wild card spot.”
Harrison on Charlie Batch: “Sorry Charlie. You finally stepped up and made the plays. I like Charlie Batch. He made some key plays in the fourth quarter and showed poise and confidence.”
Harrison: “This was a huge loss for Baltimore because I think they’re going to probably still win the division, but now that number two seed is in jeopardy.”
Dungy: “This was a huge game. With Indianapolis winning, and Pittsburgh winning, they had to win today and they did it on the west coast.”
Dungy on making the playoffs: “It’s going to come down to Week 16, playing against Pittsburgh. They are going to have to win that game to get in.”
Collinsworth on Dez Bryant: “At some point, he has to take over and say, ‘This is who I’m going to be.’ I think he’s moving in that direction, I honestly do. I hope he is another one of those success stories.”
Ward: “All these guys are interviewing for jobs next season, not only for the Eagles, but for other general managers and other teams. Tonight is a part of the evaluation process for the Eagles organization, to find out which players are going to go out there and continue to fight, and which players are going to go out there and quit.”
DEMARCUS WARE WITH BOB COSTAS
On the Cowboys record this season: “We have not been the team that we want to be, but we are on the road to where we need to be.”
On the Cowboys and the playoffs: “You say four of the five, but you need to look a little bit more than that. We need to try and win all five.”
On being held in the same regard as Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White: “Coming in and being a pass rusher, those are the guys that you look up to. Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Lawrence Taylor, those are the guys you try to idolize your pass rush skills after. To be named with those guys is a great honor.”
On playing for former Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells, and how often Parcells spoke about Lawrence Taylor: “When I first came to Dallas, he (Parcells) said this is who you need to play like. This is who you need to pass rush like. You need to have the same relentless demeanor. He stuck that in my head. Off the field, you are two different guys. On the field, this is how I want you to play.”
On being featured in a new cartoon on Nickelodeon: “The NFL and Nickelodeon teamed up, and I’m one of the characters in an episode that comes out soon. My character was all about being a leader and adapting to your environment. It’s weird to have my kids watching their dad on television.”
BOB COSTAS ON THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
(Essay aired during Football Night In America, prior to Eagles-Cowboys game)
Andy Reid is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL, but his 14th season with the Eagles has come undone. The team is 3-8, and has lost its last seven games.
Reid has taken the Eagles to the playoffs nine times, the conference title game five times, and the Super Bowl once, but high hopes for the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl title last season evaporated with a poor start, and an ultimate 8-8 finish. And this year has been worse.
Things actually began well for the Eagles in September, with a one-point win over the Ravens in Week 2, and then another close victory in Week 4 over the Giants on Sunday Night Football. The team was 3-1, and atop the NFC East, but they haven’t won since.
Michael Vick, whose dramatic return to prominence in 2010 appeared to create a new franchise cornerstone, has instead transformed into an ongoing question mark. The QB’s turnover-prone and inconsistent play had many calling for a change when the team began to sputter. But Reid, under the microscope of the ever-unforgiving Philadelphia sports scene, ultimately chose to stick with him, at least until Vick was knocked out of action with a concussion three weeks ago.
Reid did decide to make a big change on the “defensive” side of the ball in mid-October, firing coordinator Juan Castillo, who’d been a controversial hiring two seasons ago when he was moved over from offensive line coach. Still, the results since have been awful. The Eagles have given up at least 28 points in each of its last five losses, the worst defensive streak in franchise history.
And it’s been the way they’ve lost, as much as anything. After last week’s loss to Carolina, tight end Brent Celak didn’t disagree when a reporter suggested other teams were “laughing” at the Eagles.
And remember, just a year ago, Celak was one of the big-name playmakers on the NFL’s so-called “dream team” – along with Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and on defense, Nnamdi Asamougha and Jason Babin. They were expected to lift the eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl title.
Instead, it’s all fallen apart with this week, Jackson placed on injured reserve and Babin released.
-NBC SPORTS GROUP-