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Shutdown Corner

ESPN exec’s tip for Jon Gruden: Recognize when not to speak

Chris Chase
Shutdown Corner

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(AP)

Norby Williamson and I agree on the principle of this point. Our philosophies differ in the application.

ESPN's executive vice president of programming wants Jon Gruden to be more judicious with his words on "Monday Night Football." Presumably, this means he'd like the former coach to stop talking over plays, replays and Mike Tirico.

I say, why stop there? Shakespeare wrote, "silence is the perfectest herald of joy." If Gruden were quiet for the entire game, think of how loudly his passion for the National Football League would echo.

In an article about the firing of Ron Jaworski from "Monday Night Football," The New York Times mentioned the suggestions for improvement that Williamson has given to Gruden:

[He] said that in providing feedback to Gruden, he has told him not to overuse "great" in describing players; to recognize when not to speak; to anticipate strategy during replays rather than always examining the play that just occurred; and to be clear about the film-room terminology that he often uses.

"Our fans like that sort of stuff, but you don't want to leave them in the dark," he said. "We feel our fans are very educated, but coaches can go places that fans can't, so you need to explain the jargon."

Those are the four tips he gave him? Of all the things that guy does in the booth, the main points were to not overuse the word "great"? That's like criticizing Nicki Minaj's Grammy performance for using bad lighting.

When the games are awful (like most of this last year's slate), I derive most of my "Monday Night Football" enjoyment from Gruden. I watch how he sits in the pregame and listen closely to every word he says. Let me tell ya, of the dozens of tics, habits and crutches I've noticed, an excessive use of "great" has never come up.

If he does, it's like his 50th biggest problem. What about the "that guys" and "this guys," and his aversion of finishing -ing words? No mention of pants tents or stool discipline?

Is saying "great" that much of a problem? Better for Grudes to use that word than to break out a thesaurus so he can over-enunciate longer synonyms for the word. What's worse? Gruden calling Eli Manning "great" a few times per game or Gruden breaking out sentences like "Eli Manning of the New York Giants is a spec-TAC-u-lar quarterback in the National Football League."

Williamson's other problems aren't real problems either. Gruden's lack of strategic talk isn't a problem; his lack of coherent analysis of the actual game being played on the field is the issue. Watching "Monday Night Football" is like listening to the commentary track on Madden. Every word sounds prerecorded. When Ray Lewis makes a tackle on Sunday night, Cris Collinsworth looks at the replay and breaks down how Lewis shed his blocker, found the hole in the offensive line and cut off Ben Roethlisberger's first step. When Ray Lewis makes a tackle on Monday night, Jon Gruden talks about what a warrior he is.

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