Seahawks Are "The Team To Beat," According To Brian Billick, After Falcons Win







After the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoff game on Sunday, Fox’s Brian Billick commented that the victory “legitimizes the Seattle Seahawks as the number one seed, and makes them the team to beat.”

The big development on the weekend of the NFL Divisional Playoffs this year, as far as the announcing teams was concerned, was Fox’s third-tier duo of Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick bumping Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa from working one of the two games on that weekend.

You may recall a Fox spokesman saying that B&B deserved a shot since they had just as “strong” of a season as Kenny, Moose and Goose have.

And this is how Coach Billick repays Fox for that decision?

In Sunday afternoon’s divisional tilt, the Atlanta Falcons won – barely – over the Seattle Seahawks, who erased a 20-point deficit to lead by one point late in the game, only to watch as the other “Matty Ice” on the Falcons, Matt Bryant – who was iced by the Seahawks beforehand, incidentally – kicked a field goal to ice the victory.

Apparently, Billick must have missed that very important part of the game.

After the game becomes final, he says this:

“This win, right here, legitimizes the Seattle Seahawks as the number one seed, and makes them the team to beat.”

It’s bad enough Chris Myers misidentified the Carolina Panthers as winners of a game that had actually been won by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final seconds earlier in the regular season. With Billick’s experience not only in the game, but in the booth, there is no excuse for confusing the Seahawks, who would have been playing all of their playoff games on the road this season, with the Falcons, who hold homefield advantage in the NFC – and are the last number one seed standing after the Baltimore Ravens upended the Denver Broncos the night before.

What’s the story, Brian Billick? A little too much back meds, maybe?

Darren Sharper Describes Falcons Loss To Panthers As "A Chink In The Armor" (Video)

When talking about a loss by the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons, which still has the best overall record in the NFC, Darren Sharper called it “a chink in the armor.” After what transpired this past spring with Jeremy Lin, there is no reason to be using that phrase anymore.

If you’re a regular viewer of NFL Network, one of the occasional talking points is the Atlanta Falcons not earning enough respect, despite the team’s 11-1 record heading into Week 14. In fact, one person recently referred to the team as “the Rodney Dangerfields of the league.”

With the Falcons losing their next game by ten points, the instant analysis may not have been very respectful in a different way.

At the start of the “NFL GameDay Scoreboard” program, analyst Darren Sharper was pressed for his thoughts on the Falcons’ 30-20 road loss to the Carolina Panthers; despite the loss, the Falcons still hold the best record in the NFC, at 11-2.

“A little chink in the armor, you might say, with the Atlanta Falcons,” said Sharper.

Hello, but haven’t we been down this road earlier this year? We witnessed three different ESPN employees use the same phrase to describe Jeremy Lin suffering his first loss since becoming a starter on the New York Knicks during his swift tenure on the team: Spero Dedes – the Knicks’ own play-by-play guy on New York’s ESPN Radio outlet – was disciplined (albeit by Madison Square Garden, which owns the team’s broadcast rights); ESPN’s Max Bretos was suspended for a month; and Anthony Federico was jettisoned for good as a Worldwide Leader employee for using the phrase as a headline for a story on said Knicks loss on their mobile platform.

Now, I understand there probably isn’t an Asian-American player on the Falcons’ roster (and please forgive me if I am mistaken). But that’s beside the point. When such a phrase can warrant disciplinary action amongst several people, it shouldn’t make a difference what the nationality of the person on the other end is. It’s an archaic phrase that ought to be phased out altogether in the 21st century.

I’m not calling for Darren Sharper to be suspended or anything – just use better judgment next time, Pick Magnet.

Brian Billick Late Scratch For Falcons/Buccaneers On Fox

With Brian Billick sidelined due to a back ailment, Charles Davis will work today’s Falcons/Buccaneers game with Thom Brennaman.

Going into the holiday weekend, Fox had assigned the duo of Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick to work an NFC South showdown between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a game that had since been blacked out in the Tampa area as a result of low ticket sales.

As it turns out, not only will this matchup lose viewers because of a blackout, but the analyst originally assigned to call the contest will not be able to do so because, well, his back’s out.

Hours before the start of the game, Charles Davis, another Fox analyst who occasionally appears on NFL Network, tweeted the following: “Get well wishes to @CoachBillick, for whom I humbly call [Atlanta/Tampa Bay] today while he cares for his back. Hurry back, Coach!”

Davis had worked alongside Brennaman in the past, mostly on the college football broadcasting circuit. So at least they’ll be somewhat familiar with each other as they depict the action of a game between two division rivals that could probably defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Jets On "Hard Knocks" in 2012? Fuhgeddaboutit!

Everyone is likely rolling their eyes over the fact that Tim Tebow and the New York Jets have declined an invitation to appear on HBO's "Hard Knocks" this year. But the team "would be open to appearing on a future season" of the program.

After much anticipation, the New York Jets are deciding that it would be a good idea to “knock” it off this year.

As first reported by Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News, the Jets have decided not to make an encore performance on HBO’s football training camp reality program collaboration with NFL Films, “Hard Knocks.”

Gang Green’s decision is much to the chagrin of team owner Woody Johnson, who last month expressed interest in the Jets appearing on the show for a second straight season (remember, the 2011 season was shelved due to the lockout). In ensuing days, however, general manager Mike Tannenbaum (“I’m looking forward to watching another team on it this year”) and even coach Rex Ryan exhibited reservations in returning to “Hard Knocks.” You’ll recall that Ryan became a cult icon thanks to the 2010 edition of the show.

The Jets are giving a very believable excuse in passing on “Hard Knocks” this year: With the hiring of a new offensive coordinator, the team would much rather concentrate on learning the new system that will be put in place. Tony Sparano, most recently head coach of the division rival Miami Dolphins (and not to be confused with Tony Soprano), was hired as the Jets’ new offensive coordinator on January 11 – just three days after Tim Tebow led his former team, the Denver Broncos, to an overtime playoff win.

Tebow, of course, is now wearing a Jets uniform (and in case you missed it, he even renamed his dog from Bronco to Bronx in light of the move) and is expected to take over for incumbent quarterback Mark Sanchez at some point this season. Storylines such as this, let alone the mere variables of Tebow and Ryan, would have potentially made this season of “Hard Knocks” its most-watched ever.

The good news is the Jets, through someone the Associated Press is calling “a person familiar with the decision” not to appear on “Hard Knocks” this year, is quite “open” to entertaining the possibility of doing the show “on a future season” – perhaps next year.

So with the odds-on favorite now bowing out of the “Hard Knocks” sweepstakes, who’s the new leader in the clubhouse? We know that the Atlanta Falcons are out, as are the Denver Broncos, now with Peyton Manning under center, who “flat out denied” an invitation to appear on the show. The San Francisco 49ers are a possibility, as are the Baltimore Ravens, who were the very first subjects of the program upon winning the Super Bowl in 2001.

But one franchise that has shown an alarming amount of interest in appearing on “Hard Knocks” this year are the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, the same Jaguars who were a combined 20-28 over their last three seasons. It’s one thing when the league schedules three primetime games, including two on “Monday Night Football”, for the Jaguars in 2011 (they wisely have given the Jags just one primetime nod in 2012). But it would be hard to fathom thousands of viewers, let alone hundreds, rushing to the television to watch the training camp goings-on of a 5-11 team that underwent an ownership change toward the end of the season.

Maybe if the Jaguars players are as about as rogue as the team’s beat reporter, it could be a ratings bonanza.

There Will Be No Tebow Time To Kickoff The 2012-13 Season On NBC

We won't know until April at the latest when the next installment of the budding rivalry between Tom Brady and Tim Tebow will take place. And while the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Giants, there's still a good chance that they can open their season with the Broncos on NBC.

Regardless of the Broncos’ exit from the 2011-12 NFL playoffs, Tim Tebow has been a force to be reckoned with.

That was evident back in late December, when CBS and NBC fought tooth and nail (actually, “nail” may not be the best term to use when you’re writing about Tim Tebow) over who would air a regular season Broncos/Patriots matchup.

Even after the Patriots sent the Broncos packing in the playoffs, CBS expressed interest in having Tebow on their “NFL Today” pre-AFC Championship Game edition (he respectfully declined).

Then there’s the Super Bowl – and no, I’m not talking about the week leading up to it (though there is a mind-blowing update on that). How, you ask, could Tebow be a factor in the Super Bowl, which aired on NBC?

It has to do with who the eventual winner would be hosting on the Thursday following Labor Day – which will air on NBC.

And it’s all contingent on which team prevailed, based on their schedules.

On January 2, right after the conclusion of the regular season, the NFL released each team’s lists of opponents for the season ahead, home and away, based on records, but not the actual schedules – that will happen in April on a date to be determined.

Looking at the Broncos’ schedule, aside from the usual AFC West suspects, four of the other five teams they are scheduled to play on the road made the playoffs this year – Atlanta and Cincinnati, both Wild Card round exits, and both teams that just happened to play in this year’s AFC Championship Game, New England and Baltimore.

Indeed, the NFC division that Denver plays this year is the NFC South, including a home game against the Saints. Which means they would not play the Giants next year, especially on “kickoff” night, should the Giants win the Super Bowl – which they did.

So in order for NBC to start the 2012-13 season with some “Tebow Time,” they would have to be pulling for the Patriots to prevail – which they did not.

Granted, NBC might be happier that the Giants won: their home opponents for the 2012-13 season include New Orleans and Green Bay. Given how the Giants eliminated the Packers en route to their fourth Lombardi trophy, combined with the Saints traveling to Green Bay for the previous season’s Thursday night “kickoff” game, all signs point to the Packers opening the season in New Jersey on September 6.

But it will be a virtual lock that NBC ends up with at least one regular season Broncos game next season. The Broncos games that may likely be scheduled for primetime starts are home games against New Orleans and San Diego, as well as Pittsburgh, whom the Broncos eliminated in this year’s playoffs, and road contests at San Diego, Baltimore and New England.

You have to wonder if Robert Kraft is calling dibs on CBS’ behalf for the Patriots/Broncos game a second straight year.

But it would only be fair if the NFL scheduled that game on a Sunday night on NBC. Especially given CBS aired the previous two go-rounds, including a Saturday night playoff game.

It would only be fair if the Broncos’ third matchup with the Patriots in just the fifteenth game of the Tim Tebow era, was the marquee matinee for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” franchise for the 2012-13 season.

You would think CBS wouldn’t mind: with commitments to U.S. Open Tennis, FOX traditionally has a doubleheader in Week 1, anyway.

Perhaps the league can pull the wool over everyone’s eyes and schedule the game on ESPN or even their own NFL Network. But such a matchup with tremendous appeal is just too big for cable.

It’ll be interesting to learn where the Denver at New England game ends up in two months (or perhaps sooner; the league has been known to release schedule details for a handful of juicy matchups a few weeks prior to the release of the full schedule).

But make no mistake: NBC will get their share of Tebow Time yet.

Even if it doesn’t “kickoff” the new football season.

Just 212 days left.

Chucky Ram Tough? Gruden Could Bolt "MNF" Booth For NFL Coaching Job

I neglected to watch the end of the season finale of “Monday Night Football,” in which Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing yard record, and in the process likely gave ESPN its most-watched football game (even dating back to when they had the “Sunday Night Football” franchise) in network history – if not the best of the entire season (let’s hear it for the Jaguars). So could anyone tell me if, when the three-man booth of Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden signed off last night, mumbled under his breath, “Meet me in St. Louis”?

An article published late Monday night by the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Gruden would tag along with the new general manager that would be hired by the St. Louis Rams at the conclusion of this season. Writer Kevin Acee projects that both the Rams, as well as the publication’s hometown Chargers, will both dismiss their respective head coaches and general managers, those being Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney (Rams) and Norv Turner and A.J. Smith (Chargers). Acee then cites “league and agent sources” with the news that Smith would then be hired in the same capacity with the Rams, and also “bring along Jon Gruden as head coach.”

Acee also cites unspecific sources as saying Gruden “has decided to return to coaching in 2012 and that his current employer, ESPN, is already preparing for his departure.”

If this is indeed true, Gruden will not honor a single game in the five-year extension that he signed just this past October to remain in the “Monday Night Football” booth; the extension would have taken effect next September. The good news for ESPN is that the network won’t be stuck paying Gruden a salary, should he decide to return to the NFL sidelines: there is an out clause in the contract extension that allows Gruden to leave the network with the intention of being hired for an NFL coaching vacancy. The out clause is also good news for Gruden too, in that he doesn’t have to be married to the “Monday Night Football” booth and fulfill a commitment for a half-decade, when he would much rather enjoy coaching the games that he’s been providing color commentary for over the past three seasons – and earning two Sports Emmy nominations in the process.

So again, I ask: Did Gruden show any disinterest at all in any point of the Saints/Falcons Monday night contest? If so, I wouldn’t blame him, but looking ahead to your next opportunity, especially when you haven’t even been hired yet, is a lot like an NFL team with a winning record looking ahead to the playoffs, but falling to a lesser team in a game on the field. I trust Gruden has shown the same attention to the game that he’s shows for close to fifty Monday night games thus far.

Of course, Gruden did not provide a comment about the possible head coaching vacancy in St. Louis – perhaps Spagnuolo still holding that position might have something to do with that.

There would be two key factors that would throw weight against the possibility of Gruden becoming the 26th head coach of the Rams franchise: Gruden and A.J. Smith have been good friends since the late 1990’s; Bruce Allen, a close friend of Gruden, had introduced Gruden to Smith back when the two were working for the Raiders. Also, the Rams’ current COO and executive VP of operations is Kevin Demoff, with whom Gruden worked for three years in Tampa Bay – where the coach affectionately known as “Chucky” due to his resemblance to the creepy talking doll from the “Child’s Play” films, brought the Buccaneers their first and only Super Bowl championship.