By Winning Tebow Tug-Of-War With NBC, CBS Actually Loses

After several meetings with the NFL between CBS and NBC on Wednesday regarding which network should be granted the right to air the Broncos/Patriots game in Week 15 – NBC wanted to flex out its “Sunday Night Football” matchup for that week in favor of Tom Brady and company vs. Tim Tebow and his football disciples, while CBS flexed its muscle against NBC’s flex move – NBC reportedly gave up and allowed CBS to carry the game as originally scheduled on December 18, at 4:15 PM ET.

I hope CBS is satisfied with themselves. True, they had every right to fight tooth and nail to keep the game on their air, which they did successfully. But by not having the best interest of all football fans in mind – or at least foremost, before your finances – they have now denied viewers in some parts of the country the right to see the Broncos/Patriots game.

That’s because scheduled at the same time are two other games that are currently scheduled to be carried by CBS in that window: the Browns’ road contest at the Cardinals, and the Jets’ visit to Philadelphia, the game that CBS originally had protected when prompted by the league back in Week 5.

Naturally, Week 5 was around the time Tim Tebow was named the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos.

So who wouldn’t blame CBS for expecting Tebowmania to take off so soon. Who wouldn’t blame CBS for thinking that the Jets wouldn’t underachieve down the stretch like they have, or that the Eagles would indeed fail to play like the “Dream Team” that they had set out to be. (Losses to the Seahawks and the aforementioned Cardinals? Please.)

Who wouldn’t blame CBS for not realizing that football is a sport where on any given Sunday, any team – regardless of their record, the Vegas odds or what the talking heads prognosticate on the pregame shows – can beat any other team.

Give me a break.

While broadcast networks are competitive by nature, CBS, NBC and Fox should be considered brothers in arms by way of their lucrative deal with the NFL. This was CBS’ one chance to be a team player and allow NBC to air the game. Instead, they committed a huge touchback on their part.

Was there no compensation that CBS would accept in exchange for letting NBC air what is expected to be a ratings bonanza? Maybe even – I don’t know – get one of the Broncos games involving an NFC team from Fox, just as the NFL stepped in and took last week’s Broncos/Vikings game from CBS and moved it to Fox, as a result of Fox losing Lions/Saints to NBC?

As luck would have it, there’s one scheduled for this very weekend – Bears/Broncos. And I realize that such programming decisions are made a dozen days in advance of game day in order to accommodate travel and other factors for the network crews working the games, but I wonder if CBS ever proposed getting the Week 14 Bears/Broncos game from Fox, not only to compensate for losing Patriots/Broncos to NBC the following week, but to be “even stevens” after the Broncos road game in Minnesota originally scheduled for CBS ended up being a Fox game. Stranger things have happened – such as, well, a game with an AFC road team airing on Fox – this is the first time that has happened in the “flex scheduling” era of the NFL.

And based on the announcers that Fox has calling their games this week, you’d think they wouldn’t mind, or care, if Bears/Broncos went to CBS; you’d expect their “A” team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to be in Denver. Instead, they’ll be rolling out their “B” team of Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston. This is not meant to be a slight on Kenny and “Moose,” but with Tebowmania hard to ignore, Buck and Aikman should be calling that game. Instead, they’ll be in Nashville, where the Tennessee Titans host the New Orleans Saints. (Something tells me that Joe and Troy would be a lock at Mile High had the Broncos been playing the Giants this week, or the Cowboys – both of those teams happen to be playing on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 14, hence the odd assignment for Fox’s top booth.) That being said, I’m sure Albert and Johnston will do a reasonable job calling the game.

And so, there will be no changes to the Week 15 NFL schedule. No Tom Brady vs. Tim Tebow in primetime. I can just hear Jay Leno writing jokes for his monologue aimed at CBS, as a result of NBC losing the Tim Tebow tug-of-war. Likewise, I’m sure David Letterman would have had a barb or two for his former network if things went the Peacock’s way.

And when I say there’s no changes to Week 15, it means that NBC will stick with the originally scheduled Sunday night contest of Baltimore at San Diego. You would think that, after all of that bickering with CBS about the Patriots/Broncos game, as opposed to the Jets/Eagles game that CBS had protected at first, NBC would go ahead and snag Jets/Eagles from CBS for Week 15. Even if the matchup did lose some of its luster as the season has wore on, it might have been more appealing to a national audience than Ravens/Chargers.

And it also would have done some viewers a favor – at least those Tebowmaniacs in the Northeast – by taking Jets/Eagles from CBS, because viewers in New York and Philadelphia likely would have been able to see New England/Denver (CBS carries the rotating “double header” that week; Giants play Washington earlier in the day).

The least that CBS could do, in the wake of winning the Tebow tug-of-war with NBC, is negotiate with the NFL to perhaps move up the start times of Jets/Eagles and/or Browns/Cardinals to the early game window. That way, it would allow more viewers across the country – especially those in Ohio and Arizona starving to see what is expected to be a competitive football game – the opportunity to watch the Patriots/Broncos game. Since it is their “double header” week, it implies CBS stations in most areas will carry two games on Sunday. I believe the NFL enforces a rule where there are at least two games being played in both windows of a network’s “double header”. But with a game of this magnitude, one that saw the league make an announcement on the following week’s flex-addled game changes (or ultimately a lack thereof, in this case) on Wednesday for the first time, I’m sure the NFL would have made an exception.

Remember back in 2007, when the NFL Network – which was in far fewer households back then – had a Patriots/Giants game scheduled on a Saturday night, and the Patriots happened to be 15-0 at that point? So the league struck a deal with CBS and NBC to simulcast the game? You would think that one option would be for the Patriots/Broncos game in Week 15 moving to primetime, but allowing both CBS and NBC to carry it. One would believe that “Survivor” plays second fiddle to Tebow Time.

Alas, now Al Michaels will have to wait his turn – perhaps Wild Card Weekend – to call a Broncos game with Tim Tebow under center.

Now that would be a fair consequence for CBS keeping the Patriots/Broncos game: should the Broncos make the playoffs (which it appears may very well be the case) and they are in action on the first weekend of the playoffs, NBC should carry the AFC matchup that the Broncos are involved with by default, as a result of CBS winning Tebow tug-of-war earlier in the season.

Especially if Denver ends up facing New England in the first round.

It might irk Robert Kraft, but at least it would allow NBC to finally cash in on the Tebowmania that had eluded them in the regular season.

And on a far grander stage than a regular season game. The playoffs.

And, yes, in primetime.

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