THE MODERATOR: Welcome to today’s Sunday Night Football season kickoff conference call. Joining us today are Sunday Night Football coordinating producer Fred Gaudelli, and our on air team of Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya.
This season marks the 10th year of Sunday Night Football on NBC and begins with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the New England Patriots next Thursday in the NFL Kickoff Game, followed by the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys in our Sunday Night opener.
NBC Universal will also carry four Sunday Night games this year plus two playoff games in Spanish, with the first being the Giants Cowboys Sunday Night opener. As a reminder, we’ll have a transcript of the call later on, on NBCSportsGrouppressbox.com.
Before your questions we’ll start with some opening comments from the team, looking ahead to our 10th season and a thought on our two opening weekend games.
With that I’ll turn it over to our coordinating producer Fred Gaudelli.
FRED GAUDELLI: Thanks. It’s hard to believe that 10 years have gone by. When this series was launched, the big question was could America shift its viewing habits from Monday night where the premier primetime game had aired for 35 years prior to Sunday night, and I think we all know the answer to that question. For the fourth straight year, Sunday Night Football finished as primetime’s highest rated show.
We look forward to continuing that streak this year. Obviously, a really attractive game on Thursday night with the Patriots and the Steelers, and then what’s become a Sunday Night staple, the Giants and the Cowboys.
We’re excited to get going. We’re excited to keep that No. 1 streak alive, and with that I turn it over to Al Michaels.
AL MICHAELS: Funny, it’s amazing how many memories we’ve been able to make over the last nine years. Maybe we have a rabbit’s foot with this series, too, because we’ve had so many fantastic regular season games, and we’ve had the chance to do three Super Bowls in those nine seasons, and every one of them went down to the final gun, including, obviously, what took place last year between Seattle and New England. So we’re looking forward to another great year.
Our schedule, every year we say it and you guys have heard about it every year when we have this conference call, the league has given us a terrific schedule. We start with a game a week from Thursday night, and we still don’t know who’s playing and who’s not playing, so that continues. But no matter what happens that night, people are ready. They can’t wait for football to come back. Giants-Cowboys is the first Sunday Night game, and just to take a look ahead seven days after that, Seattle goes to Green Bay. It really can’t start any better than that for us.
After this whole after season of craziness and headlines having very little to do with anything that takes place on the field itself, there almost seems to be in a wild and wacky way even more interest in football going into the season because a lot of people who only tangentially follow the sport want to know what in the world is going on with this thing. Deflate Gate has been going or for seven months. We still don’t have a resolution. We have the game that brings it all back, but it’ll be fantastic to be able to talk about real games with real strategy and games that have meaning, and off we go a week from Thursday. What do you think, Cris?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: Ordinarily at this time of year, I’ve got the game films out and studying every player and every position, and this year I’ve got my law books out and making sure I understand all the contracts and torts and everything involved in this game. It’s remarkable. It’s like back in the day when you used to watch “Dallas” and you had the cliffhanger that you couldn’t wait for the first show of “Dallas” every year because you had to find out what happened to J.R.; well, we’re kind of in that same sort of situation here. It’s amazing, and I’ve got to think the New England Patriots are beside themselves right now thinking that they’re really not even sure who their quarterback is going to be on opening day at this point.
It’s a very interesting way to start the season, followed by probably the most memorable moment that happened to us all year last year with the Odell Beckham catch in Dallas against the New York Giants game. So, nothing but excitement. I know for Al and I and Freddie and Michele, we couldn’t ask for a better weekend of two games to open this year, and we’re fired up and ready to go.
Michele, what do you have?
MICHELE TAFOYA: Well, I’m excited about the schedule, as well. I have to say, though, just off of football a little bit, every Thursday or Sunday, every night we’re going to go on the air, we hear the Carrie Underwood theme music, “Waiting All Day For Sunday Night,” and it becomes it’s just that last shot of adrenaline that you get before you go on the air, which I find really fun, and it just sets the mood for me to jump into the game.
We have yet to see this year’s version of the Carrie Underwood open, and I’m excited to see it. I’m excited to see the new players that have been added to it. I think it brings so much, I guess, excitement and a little bit of glitz to the beginning of the game, and it’s always fun to watch what’s happened to that open, how it’s changed from last year to this.
In addition to all the games, to me that is one of the highlights of the season is in that first meeting when we all get to see the open for the very first time, and I’m looking forward to that.
Question for Cris: I’m dying to know your thoughts on the Cowboys and whether or not they can repeat what they did last season, specifically get to that NFC title game, or do you think maybe they topped out where they were a year ago?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: I just got finished watching the tape of the Cowboys, their last preseason game, just maybe a couple hours ago. But I don’t like the Orlando Scandrick injury. In some ways I think he may be their best player on defense. I’ve seen games where he was that.
But this is a really good looking team. I mean, their offensive line, even without Zack Martin in there, still moving people. I think Darren McFadden looked better than I had seen him in a while. Randle made some nice plays.
This is a team, provide it, run it and protect again, and then we all know what’s going to happen on the back end with Greg Hardy coming in eventually, and Randy Gregory looks like a player, Mincey looks sharp. It’s great to see Sean Lee back in there again. I really think it comes down to how their secondary hold up.
But I really like this team. I think they have a legitimate shot to do anything this year.
Cris, just wondered your thoughts on Miami after adding Suh, some new receivers, Jordan Cameron, do you look at them as a fringe playoff team, something more, something less?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: You know, they’d better be a fringe playoff team. This is a team that it’s time. They’ve got experience now with their quarterback position. They’ve added receivers, assuming they’re all healthy at the end of this thing, and I like their style of play. I like their offense. I think that they have a certain bit of that Philadelphia edge to them.
I can’t wait to watch what Cameron Wake does with Ndamukong Suh on the inside and being able to attract blockers in there, as well. DeVante Parker I thought was tremendous coming out. So they’ve got the players.
But you still have to go beat New England, and now you look around that division, and it’s a defensive loaded division. If Miami ends up being what I think they could be this year, we certainly know what Buffalo and the New York Jets are going to be able to do on the defensive side and the Patriots are world champions.
But the pressure is on. This is it. I don’t know every bit of what’s going on, but I think Joe Philbin is kind of this is the team he put together. This is his quarterback. Lamar Miller is a fine player at running back. They’re good enough to win right now. I think getting Branden Albert back should make a huge difference, and that was a big loss last year. They’ve got their offensive line back to the way it should be now. No excuses. It’s time.
Al, Cris, Michele, you’re talking about your schedules. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, maybe you can assign a number to the chance that you will be part of an NFL telecast scheduled somewhere in LA in 2016, and then maybe you can explain why you picked that number.
AL MICHAELS: 24.1 percent. Here’s basically the deal: Every day there’s a new headline. I’m reading a bunch of stories today, you live in the area, this has been going on for a long, long time. Will it come to a head? Maybe, I don’t know. There are some people who are very close to the situation who described it, as we said on the air the other night, kicking the can down the road. There are others who say the league will have some sort of a resolution and have some sort of a plan in place by October. It depends what day you wake up and what you read and what you hear and it’s to the point where there are so many people asking other people who are outside the realm what they’re hearing, so that’s where we are right now. I don’t know what the league has in mind, but I’m giving it like 23.4 percent.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: I wish I knew. I talked at length with Mark Davis the other night, and I got the feeling that he didn’t really have a great feel for it. You know, it’s interesting that clearly two of the worst stadiums if not the worst stadiums in the league are both in California, and it was all three of the worst stadiums were in California until San Francisco built their new place. So do those teams need new stadiums? I think that’s fairly obvious. But obviously you’ve got a little history with the Rams and what might happen with that situation, but you also have that being the one situation where it looks like the city is working really hard to keep that team.
How this thing ultimately shuffles out, I don’t think anybody knows, but nobody knows how to play this game better than the National Football League, so I’m sure we’ve got cliffhanger No. 2 coming up.
MICHELE TAFOYA: I guess if you’re saying 2016, I would say maybe pretty slim. Maybe an 18 percent chance. I’ll take a page from Al’s playbook. But if you ask further down the line, I think it’s growing increasingly viable, and like they’ve all talked about, the teams involved, they need it so badly. So I think it’s more probable than not, but I don’t know but for next year, I don’t see it.
Cris, you’ve seen the Eagles as much as anyone. What do you make of the changes that Chip Kelly has made and what looks different on film in these first three preseason games?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: I don’t know that anything looks different. It’s still that system. But I’m kind of blown away by the guts of the guy. You know, I mean, I know he’s always going to have a job coaching football no matter what, and you always want to have the football guys make those decisions, but I mean, to trade for Sam Bradford and just to have him able to play at this point was a risk. Obviously you had somebody in Nick Foles who was young and healthy and had the one sensational year. To make the trades and to get rid of two superstar players in the way that he did, you know, it was all sort of mindboggling to the average fan, and you kept thinking, boy, if Sam Bradford gets hurt, he’s going to get crushed up there in Philadelphia. I know what it’s like in Philadelphia.
And then to watch him go 10 for 10 in that game the other night, you start thinking, oh, man, what could this be. When I heard the logic of what it was that they were thinking there, that you don’t get one of these great quarterbacks unless they’re injured. Peyton Manning didn’t move until he got hurt, Drew Brees didn’t move until he got hurt, and so I guess that’s where they put Sam, and so far you’ve got to say it was the right decision. Who knows what happens with the regular season. You wondered at the time why would a guy that they liked to have a bit of a running mobile quarterback that can do some of those things in Chip’s offense would you go get Sam Bradford, and so far he’s proven to be smarter than everybody put together.
Fred, anything new on the production front this year in terms of technology? Are we going to see more player tracking type stuff? And anything about the return of the 3D, 360 degree replay system?
FRED GAUDELLI: Yes, we’ll have a 360 (degree camera) in Dallas on the opening Sunday Night game against the Giants. We’ll have it in November when Philadelphia comes in for that game. We’re also looking at it for the two Baltimore games because they’ve had it installed in their stadium, and I saw it in preseason and it looked very good in Baltimore. So we’ll have to see how the season evolves at that point. But we’ve added more of the ultra slow-motion cameras this year. We’ve added two more of those.
Player tracking, we’re not sure at this point if we’re going to go with the next generation stats or not. We’re still trying to evaluate whether or not that’s the best move for us. We can do player type tracking without that. But those are I would say the main things.
Sky Cam or Cable Cam, which we’ve used in the past, developed a new system that has a much wider footprint in terms of how much ground it can cover on the field. It’s faster, it’s more stable, we’re able to take data out of the lens. We’re able to have a weather station on top of it that gives you accurate wind and temperature and things of that nature. So those are the things that at this point you’ll be seeing on Thursday night.
For Al and Fred, it’s a little bit outside the box. Both of you have been in the business long enough to have worked with analysts who are considered nontraditional analysts, Al, obviously very famously with Al Michaels, Cosell was out there. I’m wondering if you think as we head forward, is the potential for somebody like a Dennis Miller, a Tony Kornheiser, to exist again, or has that kind of experience gone by the wayside and as we head forward we’re only going to see traditional NFL people in an analyst’s chair?
AL MICHAELS: Well, you’ve been in the business long enough to know that occasionally you’ll run into an executive or a producer who wants to do something to shake things up, so I would not close the door on anybody ever appearing in any booth at any time in any sport. I think it can still happen.
I think for the most part, though, people want to listen to the game and listen to it being broadcast and analyzed by people who they’re comfortable with and can trust and all of the rest, and it’s not to say if you’re outside the box that you can’t do it that way. I just think occasionally you have to think do I want to do something on the short term and create a big splash, or do I want to bring somebody in who I can know will be a part of the show for 10 years or 15 years or even longer.
So, I don’t close the door on the possibility that anything will exist. Look, this was the case pretty much in 2000 when Don Ohlmeyer came in, he just felt that Monday Night Football needed to be shaken up, and Don was a master at creating a parlor game for the country, who was going to be in the Monday Night booth. He played it out for about five months, it turned out to be Dennis Miller. It got a tremendous amount of buzz. He ends up on the cover of your publication, Sports Illustrated, so I’m sure there are other executives and producers out there saying, you know what, if we need to shake something up, we’ll go outside the box.
FRED GAUDELLI: I would add to what Al said in terms of short term versus long term because I remember when I inherited the job from Don and then speaking to him a couple years afterward and him telling me, look, I never looked at that as a long term solution, I looked at it as a way to breathe life into Monday Night Football. I don’t know. I mean, obviously Cosell had a long run in the Monday Night booth and the baseball and the Olympics and all of that, but I don’t know that there’s another personality right now in our country at least that could have that kind of run.
I think people when they watch the game, they want to enjoy the game. They want to be taught things about the game, and to have an outsider and have it have a lasting effect, I think it’s a real long uphill putt.
Cris, I just wanted to get your reaction on the situation with Geno Smith in New York, if you can remember a story sort of that crazy, and then also, if you think that Ryan Fitzpatrick can maybe win that job away from Geno Smith if he performs well enough at the beginning of the year.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: Sure, I think anybody’s job is open if you end up playing well enough. Can I remember anything quite like the Geno Smith? Not really. One time, and I won’t say who, have I been in a locker room where I saw a quarterback pinned up against the wall by a teammate, and man, we all came running fast.
I guess they just didn’t have a feel for it was going to escalate to something like that that soon, but it’s bizarre, and poor Todd is up there trying to figure this whole thing out, and Chan Gailey and all those guys are trying to piece it together.
But sometimes a calming hand, and I think that’s what Ryan is, you know, if you go back and look at what he really did last year, he’s pretty good. Because you don’t want that team, I don’t think, really being a 35-passes-a-game kind of a team. You watch them play defense against the Giants and you go, boy, I’ll tell you, they could be something on that side of the ball, so if they’re not giving away games on the offensive side, then you’ve got a pretty good chance, and you just don’t think Ryan is going to do that.
If the formula starts to work, and with some of the corners they have on that team, the formula could work. It worked in Arizona, and it could work again, then you want a little more cautious hand at the quarterback position. So I don’t think they would change if it were working when Geno got back.
How tired are you guys of Deflate Gate, and do you sense among players just a fatigue about the subject, that this is much ado about nothing?
AL MICHAELS: I think everybody is tired of it because it’s been going on for seven months, and no football has been played, or meaningful football except for preseason games, obviously, during that period of time.
We don’t hear much about it. I talked to a bunch of players in the off season, and it comes up, but somebody put it the other day that it’s a gigantic story in New England over maybe a five- or a six-state region, and you get away from New England and out to the other part of the country, and you don’t hear that much about it. People are interested in it. As I said before, people are confused by this. They want to know what in the hell happened and what is this all about. It’s about did you actually try to circumvent the rules of the National Football League.
It’s now down to a case of who has the power. The NFLPA gave most of the power to the Commissioner. They probably regret that right now. This is what we’re talking about as we get to where we are right now with Judge Berman, and don’t forget, Bob Kraft said recently that the way to get a deal done is to take the lawyers out of the room, so now you have the lawyers in the room and a judge in the room. I can’t remember who wrote it yesterday, but I thought it was a perfect description: This thing could have been settled by Judge Judy in 30 minutes.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: It really is about the power of the Commissioner. I don’t think this has hardly anything to do with anything else. The Commissioner determined in his one powerful tool that he has at his disposal what he can do if you don’t tell the truth, or in this case when evidence was destroyed. I don’t think this case is being resolved on so much some smoking gun that they think is obvious what Tom Brady did. I think that they’re trying to protect their right to say, hey, you have to be forthright with the Commissioner, and if you destroy evidence, the assumptions have to go against you on those points.
Al hit on it. It’s a collective bargaining issue, as well. I don’t think the owners are going to give up any rights or any power that the Commissioner currently has, because even if they wanted to give up those rights, they would keep them in their hip pocket for the next collective bargaining session because they could bargain that away for concessions or something that they really did care about.
As usual, politics involved, it’s going to drag right into opening week, which is almost unbelievable. I don’t think I would have ever guessed that coming out of the Super Bowl. We had the great pleasure of getting to deal with this at the Super Bowl and now we have the great pleasure of getting to deal with this on opening night, as well.
MICHELE TAFOYA: If I could just chime in, as well, too. It basically comes down to this: The rule is kind of whether or not there was that kind of air in the football, people almost really don’t care about that for a variety of reasons. What they care about is whether or not this guy, Tom Brady, told the truth, or cheated. There’s that integrity of the game thing. But I think as opposed to being fatigued by it, and I think we all are to an extent, now we’re just kind of waiting with great interest – is Tom going to play next Thursday or not? Is he or isn’t he? I think we’d just like to cut to that chase as soon as possible.
Cris, this is for you: This is year seven for Matthew Stafford in the NFL. I was just kind of curious where he falls in the quarterback rankings for you and what you make of his success or lack of success, I guess, depending on how you define to this point so far.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: I think he’s a good player. I don’t know that I’m ready to go beyond that yet. I think there’s a lot of guys in that top 15 kind of category that sort of come and go.
I am anxious to see what happens this year with the full complement of receivers. Of course Galvin was out last year. I thought Golden Tate played great. I just thought that he was tremendous. Now you throw Abdullah into that mix. I saw a lot of Theo Riddick at Notre Dame, and I thought he really helped them some last year.
Talent wise, there’s no doubt that Stafford, you don’t become the No. 1 overall pick if you don’t have that kind of talent. He’s still, I guess, relatively young on the quarterback scale as you look around at who some of the great ones are. A lot of times those are the guys that are into their 30s and we’ve seen a lot of people transform themselves then.
But I think he’s good. Do I put him in that elite top 5? No, I don’t think he deserves to be there.
If I could just follow up, they lost Ndamukong Suh. If they need more out of Stafford and the offense this year, how far do you think he can carry this line?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: It depends on what those weapons look like around him. The one thing I do like is a guy like Abdullah, and Theo, too, I call it cheap yardage. I think Shane Vereen was like that and will be for the Giants, was for the Patriots for a long time. Just somebody that every once in a while, man, you’re getting rushed and you’re getting hit and things aren’t going well and you flip something out to a guy like Abdullah and all of a sudden he breaks through tackles and you have a 20 yard gain and you’ve got a drive started and your quarterback had nothing to do with it. But it’s a completed pass and he gets a little confidence. Those kind of guys sometimes can just be so valuable to an offense.
If he ends up being what he feels like so far, and Tate somehow matches some of the elusiveness and what he did last year, this could be a fun year for them.
Cris, you mentioned earlier the Odell catch, which is a pretty remarkable play, probably one of the better ones any of us have ever seen. As players work on those one handed grabs, do you see them becoming more common in the game? It seems like the evolution from a lay up to a slam dunk in basketball.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: I used to play with a guy named Pat McInally who was from Harvard, and as he will tell you repeatedly, he was the only guy to ever score 50 on the Wonderlic, a perfect score. For as brilliant as he was, all he ever wanted out of life was one day in practice when we were doing sort of the pat and go, our warm up drills where they just run down the field and they lob one to you, was to be able to pin one against his helmet. So he would try to catch the ball and just strictly catch it, have it land on his head and pin it in a pure catch, and he finally did it and absolutely lost his mind after 15 years.
So, as receivers we all dream of having that one catch, that one moment that lives for a lifetime, and Odell did, and we were lucky enough to be there for that moment. I think anybody who was watching just couldn’t believe it. I know I was in that category. I just couldn’t believe that he stayed inbounds and he caught it cleanly and the ball didn’t bobble when he was taking it to the ground and all the different components of that catch. Having said all that, there’s a pretty healthy debate going on right now about the gloves in the National Football League, too. I’ve heard people say that it’s gone too far, that catches that weren’t possible before are possible now and are being made on a weekly basis, and is it too much.
For me, you know, I understand the argument. I mean, you don’t want flypaper, obviously, where you don’t have to have any skills at all to catch the football, but at the same time it’s really fun to watch plays like that. It’s fun to watch these remarkable, leaping athletes stick three fingers in the air and make a catch.
I go back and forth on it a little bit. I never wore gloves until my last year in the league, and it obviously helped, but I enjoy the show. I enjoy watching what these guys can do now.
I’m not sure I want to see those gloves go. I kind of like to watch the catches.
Do you see guys practicing that play more?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: All the time. Oh, for sure. Well, because what’s happened is it becomes a weapon for you because what defenders want to do is you stick your hands out, and especially if you reach them over your head, they want to stick their arm in the gap between your arms, and so there’s no way to pry the ball down. So there are two defenses for that. One, you never bring it down, you just hold it away from your body, which helps to have those great hands and strong hands like that, and the other one is to catch it with one hand and fend off the guy’s arms defending you with the other hand, and guys are getting really good at that, too.
So, between those two drills, the cat and mouse game that happens between receivers and defensive backs is getting more and more interesting all the time, and the one handed catch now has become very much a strategic part of the game.
This is the Lions’ first appearance on Sunday Night Football. I wonder how much of that is from the development of the team, they made the playoffs a couple times in the last three, four years with some marquee players and also the development of the city, climbing out of bankruptcy, was a national story for two or three years. I just wondered what of those components are putting the Lions on Sunday Night Football?
FRED GAUDELLI: Obviously, last year they were one of the better teams in the league, lost a very controversial playoff game down in Dallas, and you know, have marquee players. We’ve had Matthew Stafford on before, we’ve had obviously Calvin Johnson on before, but it looks like it’s a team on the rise, and usually on Sunday night we will get all of the playoff teams from the year before. It was pretty well known obviously in our building and in the broadcasting department of the NFL that Sunday Night Football had never broadcast a game from Ford Field. Al’s, Michele’s and my last game at ABC was Ford Field, but at Sunday Night Football we have never done a game there. I know that we said, hey, we’d love to do a game in Detroit. The league obviously wanted to give the team and the city its exposure on Sunday Night. So I think those were the reasons that went into the Lions having a home Sunday Night game.
This would be for Al, Chris or Michele. What’s your favorite team/stadium/fan base when you go in to cover, to do Sunday Night Football?
AL MICHAELS: Well, the stadium that Jerry Jones built in Arlington, Texas, I think is head and shoulders above anything I’ve seen, and I’ve covered events around the world. I mean, it’s almost perfect. I know a lot of people say, well, it’s almost too pristine and all of that. But it’s the only stadium I’ve been in where no corner was cut. Everything is perfect. I can’t believe it’s already seven years old.
So, it’s a great place to do a game. The Cowboys for years, even when they’re not very good, they’re a team that people want to watch.
In terms of a fan base, pretty tough to beat Green Bay. The Packers are Green Bay. Green Bay is the Packers, whichever way you want to slice that. So you go in there, it’s a different feel, the tradition and all of that and the Green Bay Packers, one of the iconic franchises over and over and over.
Kansas City is another place. To go into Kansas City, it’s very close to a college atmosphere. Not to diminish the fan bases in any other venue, but Green Bay and Kansas City would certainly be in the conversation.
MICHELE TAFOYA: I was going to totally ditto Al. Dallas is fun for so many reasons. That stadium is incredible, and you know, you always know eyes are on Dallas when you’re there, and that’s a fun, exhilarating feeling to be on primetime with that venue. But then I would go along with Al, as well, that almost to the other extreme, in Green Bay the fans are tremendous, they’re fun to interact with. I don’t love it in December, but I do love it in December. It’s unique, and it’s special. It’s especially fun that they’re also very good. Those are my two favorites, as well.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: Every fan in America thinks I hate their particular team, so I think I’m going to take a pass and try and take a little pressure off of that question from time-to-time.
Cris, from what you’ve seen of the Giants this preseason, do you think they have any chance of getting back to the playoffs?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: Rule number one that I live by is pay absolutely no attention to preseason, zero attention to preseason. So that being said, I will say they have not had the best of preseasons to date, although that last drive that I watched right before the half, I guess, started to look like their team a little bit.
If you want to look for some good news, I think Ereck Flowers is playing really well at left tackle. Boy, when Will Beatty went down, I thought, oh, my gosh, that was one they just couldn’t have happen, and Flowers has stepped in there, and I’ve seen two of their tapes now and really been impressed. I thought Justin Pugh might fit in a little sooner than what he’s done, but I still have hopes for him. I think Vereen will give them a little bit of an uptick there and hopefully Victor gets back soon, and the safety position has been an absolute mess for them over there, so they’ve got to get some of that stuff resolved.
I’ve said that so many times, that, oh, the Giants look bad in preseason, they don’t have a chance. Oh, the Cowboys look bad in preseason, they don’t have a chance. I mean, if you remember, I think it was before last year was the year that everybody had completely written off Dallas, that there’s no way, and this is going to be the worst Cowboys team ever, and even Jerry wasn’t enthusiastic, and then they have their best year in years.
I just don’t believe that. I think the schemes are so basic. Great coaches make a huge difference on game day. I think Tom Coughlin falls into that category. They’re in the second year of Ben McAdoo’s offense. They get Spagnuolo back who was the guy for their Super Bowl runs. I just think there’s going to be some things that are going to surprise people once we hit the regular season that will make them forget the preseason, or at least I hope there is, at least on opening night.
For each of you, in terms of the Beckham catch, your favorite memory from that night, whether it was the immediate reaction or before you left the stadium what your thoughts were, just what you had seen there?
AL MICHAELS: Well, I watched it the other night again. We’ve all seen it 100 times, and when I was struck by were two flanks come in. Number one, it’s a case of what just happened, did he make the catch, and it took us just a second did he really hold it and did he have possession. Was he inbounds was the other thing, and then he got the flags. There was 100 things going on at one time. It really took you to the first or second replay to really absorb what had taken place and how amazing it was.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: I knew because of the nature of that catch with the three fingers on it and falling to the ground, which meant that he was going to land out of bounds, that meant that not only did he have stay inbounds, which I wasn’t sure about, because of whatever, the foul and all of that, and not only did he have to catch it, but he had to land on the ground falling completely backwards with one hand on the football and have that ball not move or wiggle at all, by the rules of the National Football League, to be a catch. And I had already dismissed it, that he was either out of bounds, didn’t really catch it, or it moved by the time he hit the ground. And it was like we started taking those shots one at a time. Freddie showed and Drew showed he was inbounds and then he showed the catch and then he showed him going to the ground, and I just remember thinking, that’s the greatest catch I’ve ever seen, and I think I actually said that.
MICHELE TAFOYA: Yeah.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: The one thing, you get trained in broadcasting is that if you really want to get humiliated doing something, say something is the greatest of all time, and people just make a fool out of you, right? And I quickly went through some catches in my brain, and it was just like, that’s the greatest catch I’ve ever seen. Those are fun. When you get to be in a stadium where it’s something that you think is the greatest thing you’ve ever seen, it’s a lifetime memory. It really was.
MICHELE TAFOYA: And at the risk of patting our network and our group, our production group on the back, I will say this, that what I remember most about it was the sequence of how it appeared on television, because Freddie, didn’t the sort of montage of his pregame catches, you guys rolled that in before, didn’t you?
FRED GAUDELLI: Yes.
MICHELE TAFOYA: Yes. The timing was unbelievable to me. As good as the catch was, the good luck of having just rolled in that montage of his pregame catches, it was set to music and it was fantastic on his own, and then to see one in a game, and then to have the reaction from Cris and then to have the Tweet from I think it was Lebron James, the whole sequence of television to me, like the stars couldn’t have aligned any better for a sequence of television sports, and honestly that’s what I remember from it the most. I was just standing on the sidelines watching it and then turning to my monitor and watching how this whole thing had unfolded. To me it was like, again, the stars aligned and it was perfect.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everybody. We’ll see you next Thursday.