MNF’s Conference Call Recap; ‘Sunday NFL Countdown’ Previews Pro Bowl
Conference Call Recap: Monday Night Football Team Discusses 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIV
ESPN hosted a media conference call Wednesday to discuss the 2010 Pro Bowl telecast (Sunday, Jan. 31, ESPN and ESPN HD at 7:20 p.m. ET) and the Indianapolis Colts-New Orleans Saints matchup in Super Bowl XLIV. Monday Night Football commentators Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworksi and Jon Gruden, who will call the game, were joined by senior coordinating producer Jay Rothman. A full replay of the call is available here. Select comments from the call:
Rothman on producing the Pro Bowl telecast …
“We had it a couple years in Hawaii. It’s an opportunity for us to do a lot of things we’re not able to do during the regular season. The big thing for us is access in this game. We’ll be pretty aggressive at mic’s on players, including all the quarterbacks and other players as well … aggressive with interviews on the sidelines and bringing the stars to the fans. We will have cameras in locker rooms, pregame, halftime, postgame and huddles. We’re also excited about Super Bowl participants there including Drew Brees and Peyton Manning on the field with Chris Berman.
“We’ll have a ton of production elements, video packages and special graphics that we bring into the game because another thing is celebrating these athletes who made it into the Pro Bowl and celebrating their season. We have 25 cameras for this game, but it’s a little different plan for us. It’s more about maximizing all the audio we have versus the game coverage.”
On the new Pro Bowl format before the Super Bowl XLIV …
Jaworski: “To a certain degree the format negates some of the stars being able to play in the game. The fact that Super Bowl participants won’t be able to participate in the Pro Bowl you knock out some of the talent level, but clearly what I saw this morning at practice was an incredibly talented group of players … there’s elite talent on the field.”
Gruden: “It’s a change. The NFL wants to try something different and I’m eager to see how it works. It certainly will add some momentum, I think, to the Super Bowl. Every year there are players that choose not to play in the Pro Bowl with the regular format, whether it be for injury or whatever the reason may be. There is a talented group of players on these rosters and I think it’s going to be a great setup for the Super Bowl.”
On the Colts’ running game …
Gruden: “The running game for the Colts is always set up for play-action pass. The Colts will only run the football when Peyton Manning diagnoses that they have the proper look. You’ll see two safeties back there. Peyton Manning will not waste runs. He’s going to use the running game to set up the sting of their play-action pass, which is as good as I’ve seen in football over the last 10 years.”
Jaworski: “Balance is always important for an offense – some illusion of a running game if not a solid running game. …They’re a team that likes to draw the pass rush. They like to create seams by bringing those ends up the field … Never ceases to amaze me that they will run the play-action pass against cover 2.”
On Drew Brees and Peyton Manning and what they will do best against the opposing defense in the Super Bowl …
Gruden: “The key to Peyton Manning is his ability to use a snap-count in different tempos in terms of the entire game. He’ll jump a no-huddle and they’ll play fast. … You’ll see a lot of theater before the ball snap. It looks like Manning is calling an audible when he’s really not. … This is the ultimate CEO quarterback. Nobody in my lifetime I have ever seen does as much as Peyton Manning does on game day before the ball is snapped. And I don’t know anybody who has the freedom that he has to run the skills on offense.”
“As far as Drew Brees, I spent a lot of time there in New Orleans watching this guy. He is the surgeon. He will cut you up with three-yard passes. His guys will take those three-yard passes and they can run with it after they catch it. They can line up any formation and any personnel group you give them. They might line up in 30 different formations on the first 30 plays of the game. Drew Brees is totally on-line with Sean Payton, it’s a two-headed monster. Those two guys have been together for a long time and it shows on the practice field, it shows in the meeting room. They will put a full-court press on the Indianapolis defense with formation, personnel groupings and the talented group they send out there.”
On experiencing the Saints’ return to the Superdome post Katrina on MNF in 2006 …
Jaworski: “Despite what had happened, there was an incredible experience that the Saints were back, the Saints were playing, New Orleans was back or pride was back — it was an incredible feeling … I was standing right by the Saints tunnel when they came on the field. I don’t know if it was an illusion I was having, but the Saints players were three feet off the ground. That crowd, that noise, when they came on that field they were in the air. That’s how much that crowd impacted that football team. … They played a fantastic game and won that game. It really is a moment in time I will never forget.”
Tirico: “I’ve never seen a game matter more to the fans … because 13 months ago it was a place of last resort … Going from there 13 months later, it was the introduction to the rest of the world that New Orleans was open for business and could still in some ways be similar to the city we knew it as for many years. I don’t remember a crowd being louder at any event I’ve been at … I get chills talking about it. … I think it’s important because it was the first connection to everybody else that the city could come back. It was a symbol of hope unlike athletics has been to a city before, and a lot of the key faces on that team are still key faces on that team in Sean Payton, Drew Brees and Reggie Bush. The link is honest, legitimate and I do believe there is a tighter bond between that franchise and that city than any other professional sports team right now.”
On whether this Super Bowl matchup shows offenses can win championships …
Jaworski: “It started last year. As we watch the evolution of the NFL, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind it is a passing league. Look at the quarterback play, look at statistically the profile of teams and their numbers, efficiency of quarterbacks, the yards per game. Teams are building now for the passing game.”
On the NFL’s ratings success this year …
Tirico: “I don’t think we have a guess if this is a crest or (if) it can keep going. … Football fits our lives in 2010 better than any other sport. You can give six hours of your week to football and watch the game, pregame, postgame, surf one or two shows during the week and be pretty darn good and well-versed in your team. … I think the competitive balance of your team yells out to me too. You have national teams in small markets. You have not heard the word small-market once regarding Indianapolis, New Orleans, or Minnesota and they’ve driven unbelievable ratings. … You have a league of stars. It’s a league where stars are available on TV. It’s not oversaturated. Football goes away here after Super Bowl for six months and you’re dying for a taste of it in the preseason. I think the way the game has been put together in terms of competitive balance, it’s not oversaturated and the best players are playing at a very high level right now. … It fits our style. I would say overall once we hit the recession, leading into this year, people started being more careful with their discretionary spending, seems that more people are sitting at home and watching TV and family events around the TV. Football pulls a lot of people in under your roof to watch for three hours. I think it was a variety of things that come together all at once.”
On what Colts quarterback Peyton Manning does better than anyone else …
Gruden: “I don’t think anybody works harder than Peyton Manning. … He’s there early, he’s there late, here’s there all the time. He’s demanding. He’s able to adjust. … It doesn’t matter who’s around him, the guy is brilliant. He’s a superb gameday player. His preparation is rare. He’s got a tremendous strong, accurate arm. He’s tough as nails. He’s an all day, every down problem for anybody, every week.”
Jaworski: “I thought from a cerebral standpoint, it was Peyton Manning’s best game of his career. … The speed with which he makes decisions is incredible. … He just has a brilliant mind. By the time that ball is snapped from the top of his drop he knows exactly where everyone is. He sees the field with incredible clarity and he is really smart. That’s not even talking about the physical attributes and how he threw the ball with incredible accuracy.”
On Drew Brees’ size and ability …
Jaworski: “You’ll see Drew get up on his toes to throw over people. He’s not a long strider. … I think he’s just uncanny with his movement in the pocket, the ability to find the lanes and throw from different platforms. He’ll move his passing slot to get to an open receiver. The accuracy is absolutely amazing. He didn’t have his best game last week so I do expect him to rebound in the Super Bowl.”
Gruden: “I stood there behind the Saints in training camp asking myself that very question. I stand back there and I can’t see two feet beyond the line of scrimmage. He can throw sidearm, he can throw off his back foot. He can reset, start one way, reset and get rid of the ball. When the ball comes out of his hand, it’s quick. Tremendous pocket presence and he is a way better athlete than people realize.”
On Brett Favre’s season with the Vikings and the possibility of him coming back …
Jaworski: “I have no inside information, it’s just an instinct, but I do believe Brett Favre will come back. I believe when he sits back and reflects upon the experience he had in Minnesota and what he did for that franchise, what he did for his teammates what he did for that city, he’s going to think very positively of it. I believe disappointment of that last play will be motivation for him to believe that his career didn’t end on a bad decision. He played great in that game. … The guy had a phenomenal, phenomenal regular season. He played terrific in that game. I think when he looks back and thinks about it, his body heals again, he’s 40-years-old, but I can tell you this, the guy can still throw the football with anyone. … Once his body heals, his mind will heal as well and he just loves to play the game. My instinct tells me he’s going to come back.”
Gruden: “I think when the dust settles, if we can just let Brett alone, I really think he’ll surface again and come back and play great again. I think he’s at the top of his game, why would he walk away? Unless he feels like he accomplished what he set out to accomplish, that’s the only thing he might say. He took the Vikings further than they’d been in a long time, he beat the Packers twice in a convincing fashion, and maybe he just wants to hang it up for that reason. I really believe the competitor that he is, once the grass starts smelling a certain way around football season, he’ll be back. Because the NFL needs him and he loves it. That guy loves to play.”
ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown to Preview the 2010 Pro Bowl Live from the Sun Life Stadium
ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown will preview the 2010 Pro Bowl live from Miami in a two-hour special Sunday, beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET. The program will feature host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson, with senior analyst Chris Mortensen and NFL insider Adam Schefter providing headlines and league news.
Countdown will lead into the Pro Bowl game telecast at 7:20 p.m. with Monday Night Football commentators Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski in the booth. Reporters Suzy Kolber (AFC) and Michele Tafoya (NFC) will cover the Pro Bowl teams. Countdown highlights:
C’MON MAN – A three-part edition of the popular Monday Night Countdown segment as Berman and the analysts share their head-scratching plays from the 2009 NFL season.
SOUNDTRACKS: PRO BOWLERS – A special edition of Soundtracks will feature some of the best in-game audio of the season through the eyes of Pro Bowl players.
THE ALL-DECADE TEAM – Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Baltimore Ravens defensive leader Ray Lewis have been among the perennial Pro Bowlers over the past 10 years. Countdown will unveil the players who accomplished enough to make the NFL’s All-Decade team.
SUPER BOWL XLIV PREVIEW – The analysts will preview Super Bowl XLIV, focusing on how the Colts defense can slow down quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints’ big-play passing game.
FIELD PASS – A Pro Bowl edition of the recurring Monday Night Countdown series featuring an all-access look at pre-game preparations as the players get ready for kickoff. Analysts will also breakdown the important storylines and key players before the game.
In addition, Monday Night Football’s Tirico, Jaworski and Gruden will preview the Pro Bowl matchups.
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