A friend of mine called at halftime of the New York Jets-Cincinnati Bengals game Saturday to complain about NBC's announcing booth of Tom Hammond and Joe Theismann. Or, to be more accurate, he called to complain about Theismann:
"I'm flipping back and forth between other stuff, but every time I turn on the football game, Theismann is interrupting or rambling or making a completely obvious point about the merits of returning kickoffs 60 yards rather than 20."
"Yeah, well at least [our favorite football coach of all time] Joe Gibbs is in the booth," I said.
I'm sure he wasn't the only one who forgot Theismann's former Washington Redskins coach was the third man in NBC's booth yesterday for the first Wild Card game. For most of the first half, Gibbs was hesitant to speak up, only giving his thoughts in short bursts while Theismann was taking a minute to breathe.
Richard Sandomir of The New York Times broke down the numbers:
It should be no surprise that there was a distinct lopsidedness to Theismann's and Gibbs's contributions. Theismann spoke 149 times during the game, taking up 28 minutes 31 seconds of airtime. Gibbs's 83 moments of airtime added up to 15:24.
Some halftime adjustments were made -- Gibbs spoke more after the plays and seemed to offer more analysis, but it was clear the choice to put a reticient, rookie announcer in the booth with a guy who loves nothing more than the sound of his own voice was a poor one.
Cohesion and competence in the booth should have been far more important than name recognition for NBC's early game. People weren't tuning into Jets-Bengals because Joe Gibbs and Joe Theismann won a Super Bowl together in 1983, they were tuning in to watch the game. Networks too often forget that the game itself is the show and everything else around it can be a distraction.
On the bright side, at least NBC didn't move Jay Leno to the booth.