The storylines that ESPN forgot

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 05, 2009



We agree with the broadcast team at ESPN: We wish BrettFavre could play quarterback for both teams in every game ever played forever and ever.
 
But here's where we part ways with the worldwide leader in beating a dead horse: we wish BrettFavre could broadcast his own games from the booth, too. 
 
Now that'd be impressive.
 
Naturally, being BrettFavre, the commentary he provided of his own play would exceed in tone, intellect and comedic value the verbal circle jerk we hear from the actual announcers at ESPN every time that BrettFavre plays on national television.
 
It ruins virtually every BrettFavre broadcast on ESPN. It's lazy sports journalism at best and it makes it difficult to enjoy one of the great players of our time or appreciate the fact that there are 89 other players in uniform each time he steps on the field. Yes, believe it. There are other players.
 
Football fans deserve better. BrettFavre deserves better. In fact, BrettFavre could do better.  
 
For example, consider the postgame interview after BrettFavre's Vikings bested the Packers, 30-23, on Monday Night Football. When reminded by Michelle Tafoya that he is now the first quarterback to beat all 32 NFL teams, BrettFavre dead-panned, "Well, I guess you gotta be remembered for something."  
 
It was the best line of the night, mocking himself and the hype that surrounds him with a spur-of-the-moment
quip on national TV.
 
But it was not the best moment of the night. That highlight came during a commercial break, where BrettFavre played a Sears shopper mocked by a sales associate for his waffling indecision and cold feet.

show video here
 
 
It's an awesome commercial. Coupled with the postgame zinger at Tafoya, it's apparent that BrettFavre has a better sense of his own self than anybody in the studio or in the booth, where it's a race to fellate the star of the show with the same lusty passion of a Bill Clinton or David Letterman intern.  
 
You know the old ESPN storyline, the one that we've been force-fed by Tafoya, Stuart Scott, Chris the Anti-Christ Berman and the rest of the gang since the first BrettFavre farewell tour in 2004 (chronicled in such great detail by CHFF all those years ago). It's a storyline that's so tired now it falls asleep at the wheel of the broadcast booth:
 
BrettFavre is a lot of fun! He's just having fun out there! He's like a little kid on the field!  
 
Here are some of the lowlights from the Monday Night Favreball broadcast:  
 
Steve Young (after pregame show opening montage of BrettFavre highlights, 7:33 p.m.): "It's a lot of fun to see those game-winning throws!"  
 
Chris Berman (pregame, 8:01 p.m. ET): "You gotta love him. He's like a little kid and almost 40! "  
 
Mike Tirico (8:53 p.m.): "That moment has arrived. BrettFavre and the Packers are on the same field, but on different sides. Now a bunch of flash bulbs are going off like it's the first kickoff of the Super Bowl!"  
 
Great, so 55,000 morons in Minnesota without a telescopic lens on their digital camera have a picture in which you can't make out what's happening down on the field, let alone being able to capture BrettFavre's  historic moment as he stood on the sidelines and watched kickoff.   
 
Mike Tirico (8:46 to play, 2nd quarter): "The receiver's covered but BrettFavre takes a shot anyway!"
 
The ball that BrettFavre tried to jam into coverage fell incomplete. But by Tirico's reaction you would have thought he just invented the pro football offense of the future by diagramming a play in the huddle.  
 
Ron Jaworski (6:41 to play, 2nd quarter): "That's that little boy ... what a throw by BrettFavre!"  
 
Jon Gruden (just after BrettFavre INT in the end zone is overturned by controversial penalty): "What he's putting on tape now cements him as a living legend!"  
 
Wait, according to ESPN, he was a living legend back in 2004. Now we're really confused.  
 
Jon Gruden (at halftime, ear to ear evil Chucky grin on his face): "I loved being associated with that guy. I miss him!"
 
Jon Gruden (6:30 to play, 4th quarter): "That's Brett Favre ... he's having more fun than he's ever had"  
 
Stuart Scott (postgame interview with Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian ... we can't make this stuff up): "What's the funniest thing that BrettFavre said on the sidelines during the game?"  
 
It must have taken every fiber of Berrian's inner strength not to blurt out, "Are you f'in serious?" Apparently, Scott confuses ESPN's well-worn BrettFavre highlight montage with real life: like he's just a non-stop tornado of mirth, balancing all the fun he's having on the field with a Steven Wright-style stand-up act on the sidelines:
 
"You know Chilly, I wish somebody would invent camouflage condoms. That way nobody would see me coming."
 
***  
 
In our world, though, with the more entertaining and informative BrettFavre calling the game, here's what he would have talked about in addition to himself during the Packers-Vikings game:  
 
Jared Allen, the most important defender in football
The Vikings defensive end was easily the best player on the field Monday night, sacking Aaron Rodgers 4.5 times, while forcing the Packers quarterback into a critical fumble.  
 
The turnover killed Green Bay's opening drive deep in Vikings territory and set up Minnesota's first touchdown and a 7-0 lead – a critical play in a seven-point game.  
 
ESPN could have cut into a few more minutes of BrettFavre time to tell us that this was the most productive game of Allen's career. He smashed his personal best of three sacks he had recorded with the Chiefs back in 2005.  
 
More importantly, ESPN could have spent some BrettFavre time highlighting the dramatic change in defensive fortunes that took place when the Vikings acquired Allen from the Chiefs, a turnaround that CHFF has marveled at numerous times over the past year.  
 
For example:   
  • Allen's Chiefs ranked No. 5 and the Vikings ranked No. 14 on our 2007 Defensive Hog Index.   
  • The Allen-less Chiefs fell to all the way to No. 32 and the Vikings climbed to No. 4 on our Defensive Hog Index in 2008
  • Here in 2009, the Allen-less Chiefs are still mired in misery, No. 27 in the Defensive Hog Index. The Vikings are No. 5 on the Defensive Hog Index.

As we saw last night, the Vikings are among the very best defenses in football at getting after the quarterback (they force negative pass plays on 14.7 percent of opponent drop backs, thanks largely to Allen).   

But as we didn't see last night, a good Vikings defensive front became a great Vikings defensive front with the Allen acquisition, while the Chiefs have simply fallen apart defensively and as a team without him (Kansas City is 2-18 since he left).
 
BrettFavre would have devoted much more time to his teammate, arguably the greatest impact defender in football today.    
 
Minnesota's epic run defense
As Cold, Hard Football Facts readers know, the Vikings are trying to become the first team in history to lead the NFL in run defense for four straight seasons
 
But ESPN viewers do not know this, despite the network's vast resources. In fact, given an entire five-hour broadcast Monday night, ESPN made one single reference halfway through the game to the fact the Vikings have led the league in run defense for three straight years.  
 
They did not mention that no team in NFL history has done it four years in a row. They did not mention that the 2006 Vikings in particular are among the greatest run defenses in history. They surrendered just 2.83 yards per rush attempt, the third best mark of the Super Bowl Era. And they were just one of two defenses in the Super Bowl Era to hold opponents below 1,000 yards for the season. The other was the famous 2000 Ravens.
 
But these accomplishments were barely mentioned, while the Vikings run defense in general over the past few years merited just one mention by our count.
 
BrettFavre would have let us known much more about the historic Minnesota defense ... and perhaps marveled at Green Bay's ability to generate 6.8 yards per play on offense against this unit.
 
The struggles of the Black & Blow division
As a student of football history, BrettFavre certainly would have noted somewhere during the five-hour broadcast the futility of football's most famed foursome, known traditionally as the Black & Blue Division, but known to him and to us as the Black & Blow Division.  
 
The NFC North is the only grouping that looks exactly like it did when the NFL went to a divisional format in 1967 (Lions, Packers, Bears, Vikings), back when it was called the Central Division  
 
The Packers won the first two Super Bowls (1966, 1967), but since 1968 this glamour group has probably been the least successful foursome in football – certainly the least successful group of old-school teams. They've won just two Super Bowls since Vince Lombardi's Packers dominated the NFL (1985 Bears, BrettFavre's 1996 Packers). The Vikings, famously, lost four Super Bowls. The Lions are the worst franchise of the Super Bowl Era.  
 
Here's how this famed division stacks up against the rest of the NFL, measured by Super Bowl championships:
  • NFC East – 11 Super Bowl victories
  • AFC North – 7 Super Bowl victories
  • AFC East – 6 Super Bowl victories
  • AFC West – 6 Super Bowl victories
  • NFC West – 6 Super Bowl victories
  • NFC North – 4 Super Bowl victories
  • AFC South – 2 Super Bowl victories
  • NFC South – 1 Super Bowl victory  
Only the AFC South and NFC South, divisions comprised largely of expansion teams (Bucs, Texans, Jaguars, Panthers), have fared worse than the old-school NFC North.
 
So as BrettFavre and the Vikings battled Rodgers and the Packers last night, they were not only jockeying for position in the division. They were fighting to lift the division back to a nationwide prominence it has not enjoyed since the late 1960s.  
 
BrettFavre's broadcast might have included a historical montage of the Black & Blue Division, from its earliest star-studded days of 1967, to its under-reported struggles of recent years. In the process, football fans might have discovered (contrary to Cris Carter's seeming assertion in the studio Monday night) that BrettFavre did not invent football at Southern Mississippi in 1991.
 
Adrian Peterson is a mere mortal
It was obvious to everyone that the Packers did a tremendous job of stuffing Minnesota's great running back, forcing BrettFavre to shoulder the load, which he did admirably in the winning effort.
 
But ESPN spent no time in its breathless BrettFavre proclamations to note that Peterson had last night what we'd call one of the three worst games of his career and easily his worst home game since being drafted by Minnesota in 2007.
 
Here are Peterson's three worst game:  
  • Dec. 9, 2007 at San Francisco: 14 carries, 3 yards, 0.2 YPA, 0 TD
  • Oct. 6, 2008 at New Orleans: 21 carries, 32 yards, 1.5 YPA, 0 TD
  • Oct. 5, 2009: vs. Green Bay: 25 carreies, 55 yards, 2.2 YPA, 1 TD 
BrettFavre's broadcast of his own game would have included a bit more praise for Green Bay's defense and a look back, taken just a few moments away from coverage of himself, to acknolwedge that the great Adrian Peterson is a mere mortal.

And maybe, just maybe, if BrettFavre were in the broadcast booth, we might discover that he's not the only guy "just having some fun" out there.

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