ESPN hosted a media conference call yesterday with the longtime NFL studio duo of host Chris Berman and analyst Tom Jackson – entering their 25th season together on Sunday NFL Countdown this weekend. They were joined by ESPN’s newest analyst, Hall of Fame San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, and senior coordinating producer Seth Markman to preview the 2011 season. Below is a transcript of the call.
BILL HOFHEIMER: “I would like to thank the members of the media for joining us. We’re joined with members of our NFL studio team, including long‑time Countdown host and analyst, Chris Berman and Tom Jackson, working together for their 25th season together this fall, and we’re joined by arguably the greatest player in NFL history, certainly at his position, Jerry Rice, one of our newest analysts, who will be part of Audibles and other shows, and finally Seth Markman who oversees all of NFL studio shows. I will turn it over to Seth.”
SETH MARKMAN: “Thank you, Bill. I want to say that we are ready to go and excited about this upcoming season – couldn’t be more proud of the team that we have this year. There’s no more passionate group that you can find about this game, who love this game and love doing what they do every week on every show that we ask them to do.
“For Chris and Tommy, I can’t say enough about what they’ve done over the years, and to be together for 25 years is really unchartered territory in this business where you turn over people so often, and to do it at the level that they’ve done it for as long as they’ve done, it’s just incredible.
“I do want to welcome Jerry. To have the opportunity to work with a player of his caliber, what a great opportunity that came up for us this year, and we’re excited to add him to these shows. Also happy to have Bill Parcels come back to ESPN and some of the other people. We can’t wait to kick this thing off.”
BILL HOFHEIMER: “Thanks, Seth. Chris, a few remarks from you?”
CHRIS BERMAN: “Thanks Bill and Seth. We’re all excited about football, of course, every season, this one being different with the three and a half months of uncertainty, but my goodness, the excitement, you talk to people in every city, what they’re going through in Green Bay and cities like Detroit and Cleveland, hope is legitimate, we think, and on down the line. I mean, it’s football, it’s great, you feel it in the air, it’s awesome.
“To welcome Jerry Rice, finally I’m going to know what Joe and Steve – Joe Montana and Steve Young felt like, finally I get to throw one and it’s going to get caught! For Tommy, the only thing I would say is who would have guessed in 1987 after a stellar 14‑year career – people forget how good of a linebacker Tom was for the Broncos. When we got together in ’87, which was Jerry’s breakout year. Jerry was always very good but he was to the moon at that time, and for us to be together in this business as a team for 25 years, I know Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon were together 31 years.
“It continues to be more fun every year, and we can complete each other’s sentences, which is dangerous at times, and he makes me smile every time I see him and hear him. So make me smile, Tom, I’m thrilled for year No. 25, I didn’t know we were that old.”
TOM JACKSON: “Boom, I’m elated that we have football. It did cross my mind that if we had this first weekend somehow without the National Football League, how disastrous in many ways it would have been, so I’m grateful to the powers that be that worked it out. I’m looking forward to another season. I know people will ask often this year what’s the key to our success? Boom just told you, we are friends. In many ways after a quarter century, we are a family.
“It has been the extraordinary experience of my life, working for ESPN. Teaming with Boom, I am looking forward to this season, maybe more than any other that I’ve had so far with ESPN. I guess I want to say to Jerry Rice – Jerry, I grew up in Cleveland, and I was always a believer that Jim Brown was, in fact, as my dad took me to games, the greatest football player to ever play, and the only thing I can say to you is that you have, time and again, made me second guess that! (Laughter.)
“I am certainly glad to have you on board and it’s going to be a fun ride. Boom, I love you, don’t have to tell you that, but if people are looking for a reason why it works, that’s the reason it works.”
JERRY RICE: “Boom and Tom, you guys have been together over 25 years. I want to congratulate you on that, but I’m happy to be part of a “team” again, joining ESPN. Believe me, every little move that Boom and also Tom is going to make, I’m going to be right on their tails, because I know that these guys, they know everything about the game, and, you know, how to break everything down. I’m hoping to really be insightful for the fans, give ’em an inside look, my thinking, my approach to the game.
“Hopefully that can help them with their knowledge about the game, but the main thing for me is “team” and it was all about teamwork when I played the game, and it’s going to be about team work with joining ESPN.”
HOFHEIMER: “Thank you, Jerry. We’ll open it up to media questions.”
Q. For Tom and Jerry, I wondered what you thought about the Dolphins and if you see any possibility of them rising even to second in this division.
JACKSON: “I think there are a lot of question marks with them, and I’m going to point out two we all know: It’s a quarterback‑driven league, so no matter how you play defense or run the ball, even if you have one of those ‑‑ my wide receivers tell me you have to have “one of the guys” Brandon Marshall exemplifies that, but this season is about Chad Henne and coach. I think the coach has to loosen his grip on the offense, be more imaginative and his quarterback has to play better. For them to be projected as the possibility of second place in that division, I don’t see it happening.
“No one knows what can happen over the course of a season, but if you’re going to overtake the Jets and the New England Patriots, then you’re going to get improvement at those two levels that I talked about.”
RICE: “I think exactly what Tom said. Brandon Marshall, he’s ready to take his game to a different level, but it’s going to come down to the quarterback and being able to run the football. This team has to work together as a cohesive group and if they do that, if they’re able to elevate their game just a little bit more; they have a chance.
“You’ve got to go out there every week, you’ve got to compete and you’ve got to try to win football games.”
Q. With all the question marks about Peyton Manning, do you think the Colts are going to make the playoffs this year? And there has been debate during the preseason about Tim Tebow, can he be a starter in the league?
JACKSON: “Well, I’ll take them in reverse. Tim Tebow, if he’s going to be a starter in this league, it’s going to be a long‑term project. I’ve talked to people who get a chance to watch him practice and watch him work. He is certainly as competitive as anybody that you’re going to meet. He has character. He has the will. But in this league, you have to be able to throw the ball from the pocket, and that is the thing that you hear consistently from people who get a chance to watch him play and who, in fact, are in charge of whether he’s going to play or not. I think that there is an inordinate amount of pressure brought to him because he is Tim Tebow and because of where he was drafted.
“If he was a fourth or fifth‑round pick, he would maybe get the time that he needs to develop. When you make the money that he makes and you were drafted in the first round, expectations go up. So I think in answer to that, we will not know for a while. I knew that he was actually, in terms of his performance level, he is actually the third guy in terms of the quarterbacking with the Denver Broncos – Orton, Brady, then Tim Tebow. So he starts in a hole, he has a chance to dig out. If all of those intangibles have anything to do with playing the game, then I think he will be successful but it will be somewhere down the road.
“In terms of Peyton Manning, I’m one of those skeptics right now. When you can’t practice in this league and you have the resume that Peyton Manning has, I think this is much more serious than the Colts are stating, and although Peyton has said very little … I would ask you to think of all of the guys over the years that have had neck surgery of any kind where they had to cut open your neck, an invasive surgery, and they came back and played professional football.
“I think that’s what Peyton is up against right now.”
RICE: “I think with Tebow, what they asked of him at Florida he was more of a guy that was going to drop back and run the football. That’s not going to happen in the NFL. So just like what Tom said, he’s going to have to be able to stand back there in the pocket and throw the football. I honestly think right now he’s playing catch‑up football.
“Maybe down the road I can see him as a starting quarterback, but right now with his experience right now, I don’t see him as a starter.
“I think with Peyton Manning … there is something a little bit more serious going on here, because I know Peyton Manning and what type of competitor that this guy is. If he can get out there on that football field, he would be out there. So he keeps saying that it’s going to be maybe a couple of weeks, who knows. I think it’s more serious than we know. I think we have to wait and see how it’s going to play out.”
JACKSON: “Let me interrupt one more time because I think the question was asked, would they make the playoffs? No.”
BERMAN: “If it comes back, Tom?”
JACKSON: “I don’t want to oversimplify, no.”
BERMAN: “Let’s say he misses four games and let’s say he plays the fifth game to make it mathematically easier, so they go 1‑3, I’m not even looking at the schedule, that’s not even important. So now how precise and how good do you have to be in those 12 games, 9‑3, 10‑2, to make it with that kind of false start, if you will, by the Colts which you got to anticipate they’re certainly not going to be as good without him, how could they be?
“So it becomes math. If 10 wins is enough, and he plays 12 games, does he have to win 8 or 9? I don’t know. We’re all just guessing on the amount of games he might miss, 3, 4, 8. When they got Kerry Collins, they knew this was more than one game, I think.
“As for Tebow, nobody will work harder than him, when you ask, and I think there has been a mean spiritedness, meanness, toward him. I think he’s a guy that you can root for, personally I am rooting for him, but can he be a starter – did they make the wrong move on going with Orton over Tebow? Of course, not. John Fox has forgotten more football than I’ll ever know, not to mention John Elway. But do I think Tebow can be a starter down the road, in the next year or two? Yes, I do, and I’m rooting for him.”
Q. I have the tale of two cities here, I cover Baltimore and Washington – Your thoughts on the Ravens and the Redskins, this year?
BERMAN: “Let me jump on the Ravens and then I’ll get out of the way. Pittsburgh with Roethlisberger, that’s a team they haven’t beaten, doesn’t mean they won’t this Sunday. I’ve just outlined the problems, they know them, you know them. How long do we get Ray Lewis and Ed Reed playing at the level they did last year, though Ed was hurt a lot last year, and when he was playing well he was awesome, as was Ray. And it’s Flacco’s fourth year, and John Harbaugh is an underrated coach. Can they get to the Super Bowl? Maybe. Will they? Maybe. Sunday, we will get an answer. That’s like “old time” football, Baltimore and Pittsburgh at 1:00 p.m. ET on a Sunday, that’s the old days, it’s great!
“But I think they could easily represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, okay? And I think they think that, too. As for Washington, you heard the sigh. They started off well last year, which was a head scratcher with the way they ended. They’re probably going to be a little better than we think, but in the end, I don’t know that they get out of the basement in the division. The division is pretty good. Dallas can be better and the Giants are always all right, and Philly, we know what they are and even at 8‑8 they could be last. Go ahead, fellas.”
Q. I’m sure they would take 8‑8 right now.
BERMAN: “They would and they might get that, Jim, but it might be last in that division anyway. Rex Grossman, not Sonny Jurgensen anyway.”
JACKSON: “My feelings about the Ravens are a little different. I think Chris is on target with the Redskins. The Ravens – I always question them on a little bit of identity. This is not the first nor the last time I’m going to say it. You are either a tremendous running team. And the defense, as long as Ray’s play is up to the standard that it is, and he drives the rest of that unit, they’re always going to play pretty outstanding defense.
“Coach Harbaugh is an outstanding coach in this league, but there are times when it looks like they’re struggling to figure out whether they want to be the power running team that allows the quarterback to develop through play action off of that or whether with the acquisitions they’ve made at wide receiver they want to be that “slinging” New England Patriots‑type, Indy‑type football team. When those roads cross, is really when they have a problem.
“Now, you have to win your division. If you want to get to the Super Bowl, you can get there as Green Bay did, you can go on the road, win games, but for them, I think it’s about beating the Pittsburgh Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger is playing, which they have yet to do with Flacco, and somehow playing some of those games at home. Because I think that the exercise for them getting to the playoffs is so brutal that it takes its toll and going on the road is a bit too much for them.
“For the Washington Redskins, Coach Shanahan, as soon as he is able to establish the run game, I think we will see massive improvements with that football team. Last year was an aberration in terms of the way he likes to coach and I thought it was all due to personnel, but ending up 30th in the league running the football is not where the Washington Redskins can be if the coach is successful with his system. But I will say this: He got the drama out of the building, he’s absolutely in charge and, I hear, dedicated this year to making this team 8‑8 would be good, competitive again.”
RICE: “I think with Mike Shanahan, if anybody can do it, he can, and he got that bad blood out of the locker room, and now they can just play football.
“Joe Flacco has a new toy now with Lee Evans, and Boldin, he has two great receivers. With Lee Evans, he’s going to bring a dimension to the game where he’s able to stretch the field and give him that deep threat. Running the ball, they’re going to have to be able to run the ball; they’re going to have to pound it. They have to beat Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh knocked them out of the playoff two of the three times that they’ve been in the playoffs.
“So they’ve got to win their division but I think it’s going to go with Joe Flacco and the way he plays. Of course the defense got better this year so it should be quite interesting.”
Q. I will start with Tom for obvious reasons, the Texans last year didn’t work out, your pick. But their outlook may be more sunny this year. This is their fifth year, they have yet to make the playoffs, just your thoughts on this year, and what it’s going to take for them to make the playoffs.
JACKSON: “I think offensively they’re so productive and Aaron Foster, if he has the kind of year that he had last year … if he can have a similar year to what he had, their offense is as productive as any in the league.
“… they get a healthy, good, solid running game, I might pick ’em again, I’m stubborn. I think they’ve got a chance to be really, really good, and they’re certainly going to feel the sense of urgency after what’s happened to them thus far over the course of this football team’s history.”
RICE: “I want to talk about André Johnson here. He’s probably hands down one of the top receivers in the game, but this guy ‑‑ he’s been under the radar just a little bit because of other receivers winning football games, being on winning teams.
“Now this is an opportunity for him to shine and I think with Houston, what they can accomplish this year, if they have a good team, a good scheme, one of the best receivers in the league and I really think they have a legitimate shot to win their division and really go far into the playoffs.”
Q. I’ve got a question for Jerry. You played with the 49ers, when they went from Montana to Young, to Garcia. Has it bothered you to see the way they’ve struggled since Garcia left and with Harbaugh’s arrival does it give you hope that they might turn things around?
RICE: “Yeah, it has. With Alex Smith this is his ninth offensive coordinator in seven years. It’s going to be part of a process for him. It’s unfortunate because I really felt Alex would go somewhere else. He wouldn’t have all this pressure on him right now, because if he doesn’t live up to what is expected of him, he’s going to get booed here and if he had gone somewhere else he could have started over.
“But it’s going to be up to Jim Harbaugh to really help get this guy’s confidence up because Jim played the position. Also I feel like they feel like they have a relationship, but it’s going to be other players to factor in, Braylon Edwards coming from the Jets, I think he’s going to add a dimension to the game that’s going to help Alex to build confidence, because Alex is not the type of quarterback that’s going to elevate other players’ game. It’s going to be other players having to elevate his game.
“I think with Braylon and Crabtree, if they can get along in the locker room, because you got two guys with really big heads and they’re going to have to work together as a cohesive group of receivers, to get this job done. With the signing of Frank Gore, that’s going to help the running game and I think with Jim Harbaugh, that’s what he’s going to want to do, run the ball and get the ball out of Alex’s hands as quickly as possible with the quick passes and all of that.
“Defensively, Patrick Willis is the key back there and he’s got to hold things intact but it’s going to boil down to Alex Smith. If he can win football games I feel like they have a chance of winning the west.”
Q. For Tom and Jerry, are you guys surprised Rex Grossman is getting another shot and is the criticism warranted?
JACKSON: “He turns the ball over too much. It’s weird because Rex obviously has some skills when it comes to throwing the football. I think he’s a smart kid, he seems to really understand what he wants to do when he’s out there taking snaps, but when you watch a guy over a period of seven, eight, nine years, do the exact same thing, I think it becomes hard to take.
“Now I always have to remind myself that he took the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl and he was the exact same quarterback. Jerry said something very interesting because it’s a great comment. A quarterback who doesn’t necessarily lift the play of guys around him, but needs to be supported by that cast around him to lift his play, I kinda put Rex Grossman in that same category and I think as we discussed this during the preseason, Boom, we went through the whole thing of John Beck, the unknown, versus Rex Grossman, the known, and how would Coach Shanahan make that pick and he ended up with Rex Grossman but I think the plan has to be to have a tremendous running game, ask everybody else to lift their play and somehow get Rex Grossman to change his DNA, basically, from a guy who just drops the ball ‑‑ and I’m as concerned with the dropping of the ball as I am throwing it to other people. He just turns the ball over too much to win games.
“I think the criticism has been warranted and I think that Mike must think he can turn that around.”
RICE: “I think with Rex Grossman, exactly what Tom said, his DNA, he turns the ball over a lot. At the quarterback, I want to see a guy with emotions and if he makes a mistake I would like to see him react to the mistake and that was something I didn’t see with him when he was in Chicago. And if anybody can do this, and I firmly believe in Mike Shanahan, he’s an exceptional coach but it’s going to boil down to this guy making good decisions on the football field and I would love to see emotion from this guy.
“The worst thing is to see a quarterback on the side lines completely has this look on his face of “I don’t care” and that’s what I saw from him and hopefully he can just turn it around.”
Q. I wanted to ask you guys what receivers in the National Football League and what receiving corps, groups of receivers, on particular teams do you have the most regard for – most respect? I’m curious to see if Tom and Chris’s versions of that answer would be the same as Jerry’s.
JACKSON: “Versus the line backing core? I like the guys that are more innocuous. I’m going to say the Green Bay Packers, because they work so well as a unit … What strikes me is the team. The fact that they don’t have to work out, I’m one, he’s two, I’m three ‑‑ I like that.
“The New England Patriots, I’m going to include their tight ends, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Ochocinco, who will be good under the coaching of Bill Belichick. I don’t think it’s a matter of the guy who is the most talented because André Johnson may be the most gifted and talented receiver in the NFL, but he needs supporting cast as well. I’m drawing on those two groups right there, they’re two pretty good teams with good receiving corps. But I think they are made all the better, New England Patriots and Green Bay, because of the way that they do things.”
RICE: “I would have to agree with Tom with New England and Green Bay, with Brooks and Jennings, what they are able to do on the football field. They know what a receiving core is all about. It’s not about “me, me, me” it’s about the team and I think that’s why they have so much success on the football field.
“I think what Julio Jones is going to bring to White in Atlanta with Matt Ryan calling the signals, he’s going to add a dimension where you will not be able to double White anymore and I’m looking for big numbers there. And the possibility of Braylon Edwards and Michael crabtree, if they can live in the locker room together and if it doesn’t become an individual thing, where it’s a team concept I feel like they can put up great numbers, also.”
BERMAN: “I think in this day and age, the last 20, 25 years, more so, and part of it is west coast, but part of it isn’t, is when you have a tight end that is ‑‑ well you want ’em to block some but is such a receiving threat underneath that he makes the other receivers so much better. Jerry made the comment and Tom alluded to it that the quarterback makes the receivers around him great. Certainly, Peyton Manning makes his receivers great, and Reggie ‑‑ Tom mentioned the New England Patriots tight ends.
“… Philly is interesting but I wouldn’t call them the same group yet as far as production but as far as athletic ability you have to look at Jackson and Maclin and right on down the line as, boy, I would like to buy my ticket and watch these guys play.
“That will be interesting to bear out but Green Bay is at the head of any list and Aaron and Mike McCarthy not so much underrated play-callers, but years in the league he was under rated, we can’t under rate him anymore, can we now?”
Q. This is for anybody, just two teams kind of people are talking about the Jets and the Cowboys, wondering what you think the key to the Jets would be if they finally get over the hump from being a contender to actually making the Super Bowl, the key points with them, and also the Cowboys as far as getting back to being a playoff team, what would be the keys to them?
BERMAN: “Well on the Jets, look, two championship games in two years with Rex, pretty good. I don’t worry about Sanchez as much as others do in New York. “Worry” is that the right word? And with Holmes, they have ‑‑ and with Plaxico Burress ‑‑ that’s a receiving core we didn’t mention in the previous question, because I think Keller is good and the line is good … This is a team that made the Final Four the last two years, so could they do it again? Absolutely.
“As for Dallas, I mean, all eyes are on Tony Romo, although, you know, they couldn’t run ‑‑ how good is Felix Jones and with Wade Philips, except for last year they had a very good defense the year before but now with the other Ryan, the twin brother, Rob, where does that put DeMarcus ‑‑ he’s already been great. Yes, Dallas, they can certainly contend this year, they’re under the radar this year, not many years when Dallas is under the radar, agree, guys?”
JACKSON: “I agree, Boom. I think you covered a lot of the stuff on the field. I think for the Jets I’m going to go on the periphery. You’ve got a young quarterback, a coach, defensive minded who believes in running the football and they’re going to pressure the other team into mistakes. You don’t have to score 30, 28 points a game in order to win.
“But you can’t win your division, so you’re always on the road playing football in the playoffs. How about if the New York Jets got a chance to play in front of ‑‑ and I played ’em in their stadium with those frenetic fans, what if they got a chance to play there to get a chance to move forward.
“Again, don’t want to oversimplify, good football team been in the last two championships, find a way to play those games at home. You’re putting too much pressure on yourself by going on the road ‑‑ obviously they beat New England Patriots but the teams in the AFC trying to win three weeks in a row.
“For the Dallas Cowboys, Austin, Bryant, Whitten, so Tony Romo is blessed with one of those receiving corps. Now it’s a matter of him focusing on the task at hand. Last year obviously he got hurt. Focusing on the task at hand and making that the only task at hand.
“I don’t know what Romo’s day‑to‑day life is like. I do know that it doesn’t scream of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, I’m eating, sleeping, absorbing nothing but the National Football League for the time I’m playing and that’s all I do. Let’s see how that works.”
RICE: “Tom, I think you hit it on the nose, it’s going to be Tony Romo, if he’s going to raise the bar and play to his potential. With Bryant and Miles, you’ve got a good offense and a good defense intact, but it’s going to boil down to Tony Romo stepping his game up.
“When you talk about the Jets and Mark Sanchez, you’ve got Holmes, he signed a big contract, Mason coming on board, and Burress. If this guy can come back and be the old Plaxico that can make the incredible catches, the big body down field that can position himself to make the catch and Mark Sanchez is going to orchestrate this offense and he’s going to do a fantastic job, L.T. carrying the rock, then on defense, of course, Revis, and the shutdown corner, that should be exciting. They have to win their division and Rex Ryan can do all the predicting he wants to do but it’s going to be up to this team to win their division. If they should do that then hopefully they can move forward.”
Q. Hey guys. Just following the NFL this off‑season, I had this memory of the days when the NFL wouldn’t let people do their touchdown dances in the end zone because it was too expressive of their personalities, against the “team” aspect of the game. This year the players are tweeting all kinds of things, lashing out at fantasy football fans, even the owners are starting rumors about quarterbacks on Twitter. Teams, like the NFL, have come so far in the engagement of fans. It’s almost like you feel like you know these players now. I’m wondering if you could give me your thoughts on that, how things have changed over the years. What’s been striking to you as you’ve watched this happen?
RICE: “Chris Johnson from Tennessee lashed out at some of the fans on Twitter. He said something about ‘I don’t care what you guys think about me and my quest to get money and bling bling bling’ then this guy signs a contract for $53 million, $30 million guaranteed. That’s pretty much what this is all about right now. The communication and stuff like that, you got Facebook, so many other things where you can communicate with people, but I thought that really was funny for him to lash out like that and then he gets a contract for $53 million and $30 million guaranteed.”
Q. It seems to be working, though, doesn’t it?
BERMAN: “That’s a good question. I’m thinking about it because that’s not one of the norms. Look, again, let’s go back a quarter century, which I know seems like ancient history, but to me and Tommy it’s not …
“You used to not be able to change your teams so much … unless there was a new draft pick ‑‑ if you were bad the year before you were going to be mediocre this year, so the fans knew their players on the teams even though they wore the helmets and the pads, they knew who No. 80 was on their team.
“Now a quarter or a third of the roster is a turnover. So getting to know players in other ways is a good thing for the NFL because the fans who buy their season tickets and show up week one, they don’t know a third of their team except they follow them and et cetera ‑‑ so some of that is good. Some of it is a sign of the times and what is “acceptable” but the NFL has to make sure that it stays ‑‑ and I don’t know if the right word is “police” but when you talk about Twitter and all of that, it’s not all classy and the NFL is walking the line of still being “classy” but letting people know the players during a time when the turnover is high. So, it’s good but the players have to be careful that they’re not so well known that they’re known for other things and not playing football.
“I don’t know if I danced around it but ‑‑ some of it is a sign of the times and a lot of it is, but they have to be careful because there is a “class” level you have to worry about.”
RICE: “Boomer, don’t you think with Twitter and stuff like that, players talk about what they’re going to do to each other, you know, leading up to that week and stuff like that. I know you stand that you’ve got to be able to police this and stuff like that, but I feel ‑‑ and the reason why I made that statement about Chris Johnson is because the fans are entitled to their opinion, and for him to respond back the way he did, and then for the Tennessee Titans to turn around and pay him a lucrative contract like that, you know, I found that a little weird … That goes to show you that there are so many lines of communication now, just like what Boomer said, you’re going to have to be careful because there are going to be battles that will be started over the Internet and just from guys tweeting and from Facebook, et cetera.
Q. I want to get your opinion on the NFC west and is Kolb a difference maker for Arizona?
BERMAN: “Could be. He’s pretty good. He’s a coach’s son. He’s got Larry Fitzgerald and it’s a division with 9‑7 can win it as Arizona did at that mark and went to the Super Bowl. Needless to say the door is open in that division.”
RICE: “Yes, it is! That door is wide open in that division, so I’m excited to see who is going to step forward to walk in that door. I think with Kolb coming over and Larry Fitzgerald, he’s all happy about that and I think Larry had a real quiet year last year. I think with Kolb coming over that’s going to elevate his name. And Larry cut a deal for $20 million, I’m sure he’s expected to put big numbers on the field.”
JACKSON: “If, in fact, the quarterback position plays as projected, if Kolb does what he’s supposed to do, coach is pretty smart out there, he’s knowledgeable what he wants to do if he’s got a quarterback who can do it and not to oversimplify but they’ve got a good running game, offensive line is certainly capable. And that division is so “average” I would think that Kolb would be the difference. You win nine games you probably win that division.”
Q. ESPN’s first Monday Night Football game of the year is Dolphins/Patriots, what do you think the Dolphins have to do to pull off the upset?
BERMAN: “Whatever they’ve got in the oven for Reggie Bush, this would be a good time to take it out. Not that he’s the answer every week, but you do have one advantage. New England Patriots is already preparing for their 2014 schedule, by the way, nobody has seen Haynesworth play in‑season football, but Reggie Bush, no one has really seen that! You’re going to have to score. And that’s what I would take ‑‑ right, Tom? What I was impressed with last year was they played hard most of the time.”
JACKSON: “I think you hit the key, Boom. Offensively, I think that they have the ability if Henne plays well … But what New England is right now is the best scoring team in the National Football League on a year‑in, year‑out basis. They put up more points than you and they win games. Now I’m going to say something that is going to stick. When Tom Brady is standing tall in the pocket and not getting hit, the New England Patriots will win and they will win almost every single game they play. And if he’s getting knocked down and being hit to the ground, then the New England Patriots are a different football team.
“So I’m going to put it on Cameron Wake and Chowder and all those guys up front if Miami wants to pull the upset against New England – it’s a simple matter of knocking Tom Brady down and knocking him down allot. If you do that, everything about New England’s offense changes.”
RICE: Tom, you hit it on the nose. I have nothing to say against that because I think you have to knock Tom Brady down. If you let that pretty boy stand up and he’s going to be able to deliver the football he’s going to be able to find all those receivers and he’s going to be unstoppable. It’s up to that defense of Miami to get around and put pressure on him and tap him to let him know we’re going to hit you the entire game!
HOFHEIMER: All right, I want to thank the media for joining us as well as Chris, T.J., Jerry, Seth, I want to apologize to the media, we ran out of time. There will be an audio replay of the call as well as a transcript that we will send later today. We will kick things off this weekend with the season‑opening edition of Sunday NFL countdown this weekend, thank for joining.
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