Welcome to the Wednesday War Room, where your favorite Yahoo Sports NFL writers weigh in on the most serious and critical NFL topics of the day. Read on for how you can join in. Today, we’re talking how to fix the NFL on TV, and suggesting second sports careers for your favorite NFL players. Onward!
Question 1: With the news that NBC is looking to move to fewer but longer commercial blocks, what improvement would you like to see in NFL broadcasts?
My vote: go to the soccer broadcasting model. Let someone “sponsor” the scorebox, let a company pay to have its logo in the corner during replays, put company patches on the uniforms, and the only actual commercials we see is during halftime. A lot of people watching at home who are watching just one game at a time are probably doing what they can to zip through the commercials anyway, or getting up during commercial breaks to refill their cup of salsa, use the bathroom, whatever. This way, the games get shorter, there aren’t as many delays, and game play might be smoother too.
Get team-specific announcers. No, this isn’t an anti-Joe Buck stance, though I won’t complain if you want it to be. I just don’t understand why fans of a team can’t get the same set of announcers for all 16 games of a season. As it stands, NFL games are called by a rotating cast of broadcasters who parachute into town and recycle the same notes prepared by the media staff week after week. Plus, if your team sucks, you’re stuck with an uninteresting down-roster duo from CBS or Fox. (The sound of Kenny Albert or Sam Rosen’s voice is instantly depressing to any lower-tier NFC team.)
Yes, getting a dedicated hometown call might open the door for over-the-top homers and it might cost the league a few more bucks. But it would expose fans to more informed analysis about their own teams and less annoying gushing over whatever opposing player is picking your team apart. It’d also allow the broadcast to nurture a stronger bond between team and fan as the broadcasters would give the audience someone to celebrate or cry with.
This wouldn’t be new territory, either. Turner has broadcast the last few Final Fours on three different channels: One with the national Jim Nantz call and the other two featuring announcers associated with the schools. At the very least, the NFL could just pipe in the local radio broadcasts — though that would prevent us from hearing a hundred promo reads for whatever season of “24” or “The Amazing Race” they’re on. (See, this isn’t such a bad idea, is it?)
Second screen, second screen. I’d like to see a dedicated second-screen experience for your phone or tablet, the way that some TV shows already use. Question about whether Leonard Fournette got into the end zone on a dive? Five different camera angles all at your fingertips. Aaron Rodgers throws a miraculous touchdown? Boom, a window’s right there to show you all his best Hail Marys. Antonio Brown hurdles three defenders on a breakaway? Hey, here’s a link to a story about how he trains to get ready for game day. Plus, you can have all your fantasy stats updating in real time along the sidebar. This is a genius idea, and in case anybody is already thinking about it, this is my proof of concept, copyright 2017 Jay Busbee and Yahoo Sports.
The XFL made many mistakes (please, don’t make me list them all) but it also had some great ideas. The best idea it had, aside from “HE HATE ME,” was a general one: Give fans more access. More players and coaches mic’ed up, more cameras on sidelines, more anything that brought fans into the game. The NFL has improved that part of its broadcasts (which, ultimately, is the legacy of the XFL, as told so well in the recent XFL “30 for 30”), but the inside-football stuff still is scrubbed up so we rarely hear what’s really being talked about on the sideline. We’ll never get real-time sound from players or coaches, because NFL teams guard everything like war-time secrets, but it sure would make broadcasts a lot more fun if we could.
I assume this will do away with the touchdown-commercial-extra point-commercial-kickoff-commercial cluster we were forced to deal with, which would be nice. I truly think the next advancement is the inclusion of an analytics expert — either in the booth or back in a studio who can provide on-the-spot nerdy numbers. The game has been trending that way during down time, so why not during games when it matters most? Another one would be a former coach who can talk game-management strategy. To me, so few people understand how to manipulate the clock, timeouts and the like, and that includes the people calling games.
Question 2: Tony Romo recently tried, and failed, to play golf at a professional level. What NFL player would you like to see try another sport? (Gronk, everyone’s favorite answer to every NFL question, is not permitted to be used in this exercise.)
No Gronk, eh? I guess Chris Hogan playing lacrosse is a crummy substitute then. So is Nate Ebner playing rugby, because we all had our chance to actually watch him last summer. (Admit it: You missed that.) I think for the sake of the Seahawks I might gently request that they trade George Fant to a D-League team if he’s not going to get better at blocking, and it’s not his fault; it’s the team’s for thinking he could handle NFL pass rushers. I’ve heard Drew Brees is a sick tennis player. That’s cool. And there’s obviously a lot of former baseball and basketball players who could hold their own. But I might nominate Josh Lambo, who was a first-round pick in the MLS. Dude made the right choice, salary-wise, but I want to know how good a soccer player he really is.
Awww…no Gronk? Imagining Gronk as a no-holds-barred (pun intended) WWE champ or Charles Barkley-esque rebounding machine is fun. But since we’re not supposed to go that route, how about the return of the two-sport athlete? There has to be someone out there like Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders, able to excel in the NFL and MLB or even NFL and NBA. LeBron James is too old to jump into football, and it’s been years since new Colts signee Mo Alie-Cox, a power forward at Virginia Commonwealth, played football. But with the sheer off-the-charts athleticism we’ve seen from athletes in recent years, it has to be possible.
I want to see James Harrison in an MMA fight, not because I think he’d necessarily win, but because I want to see dudes 20 years younger than him shattering their fists on his jaw like he was Luke Cage. I want to turn Julio Jones loose against LeBron James in a one-on-one matchup, any sport. I want Julian Edelman and Conor McGregor to have a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all, Axe-Body-Spray Bro-Off. And I want to bring back “Battle of the Network Stars” from the 1970s and watch Martellus Bennett compete against Cersei Lannister, Negan, and the “Stranger Things” kids in a potato sack race. My wishes are not un-do-able, folks.
We’ve seen a few players make the basketball to football jump look easy, but it’s rare to see high-level football players shift to hoops (we see you, Charlie Ward). Terrelle Pryor was a top-30 basketball recruit in the class of 2008, pretty much a borderline McDonald’s All-American. Guys like Iman Shumpert, Klay Thompson, Isaiah Thomas and Draymond Green were ranked outside of the top 30 in that class. That doesn’t mean Pryor would have been an NBA star like Thomas if he chose basketball, but he’s a certified athletic freak. Making the transition from failed NFL quarterback to 1,000-yard receiver had only been done by Marlin Briscoe before Pryor did it. There’s no question Pryor had the athletic skills to make it in the NBA. And hey, he’s only 27. Who needs a 6-foot-4, 223-pound small forward?
This is a trick to get me to write something about Tim Tebow and hockey/WWE/poker isn’t it? I, for one, am not biting (though if Tebow wants to give bull riding a try, I’m on board.)
There you have it. Weigh in with your own thoughts below. Got ideas for future questions? Email us and you might just find your name in lights. Now, start creating your catchphrases; Monday Night Football might have a job for you soon.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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