NFL Network Drops Ball On Mickey Loomis Eavesdropping Report

Why did NFL Network mysteriously neglect to acknowledge a report that Saints GM Mickey Loomis eavesdropped on opposing teams' coaches from 2002 through 2004? Instead, NFLN's "Total Access" spent more time speculating on this year's NFL Draft.

On a day in which the allegation of Bountygate-riddled Saints general manager Mickey Loomis using a reprogrammed electronic device to listen in on coaches of opposing teams for three years rocked the NFL, you’d have to wonder how the league-run network would cover the report on their nightly “Total Access” program.

Unfortunately, an hour later, you’re left wondering.

You would think that this story, even if based on unnamed sources’ accounts, would warrant A-block time on NFL Network’s version of “SportsCenter.” Instead, the show was devoted mostly to the upcoming NFL Draft on Thursday night, and featured panel segments with analysts from Brian Billick to Willie McGinest. The top story was on the Dolphins’ interest in drafting Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the number 8 overall pick. The next item wasn’t even a news story – it was speculation on what the Vikings will do with the number 3 draft pick, which consisted of a field report from Minnesota, and a tet-a-tet between McGinest and Daryl “Moose” Johnston. This would be followed by a similar package involving the Browns, who will be on the clock with the number 4 pick after the Vikings make their selection. Other segments on the program included a discussion on whether Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III would be entering a better situation upon their being drafted to their respective teams, and a piece on number 1 overall draft picks, “The Ones.”

In fact, it seems that the top non-draft-related item on Monday night’s “Total Access” was the news of Eagles and Broncos safety Brian Dawkins retiring.

Incidentally, on this night, NFL Network debuted a new chyron scheme. In conjunction with this was a giant bar above the scrolling ticker, which fed nonstop data related to this year’s NFL Draft, including a draft order legend, and mock drafts from NFLN analysts like Mike Mayock and Charley Casserly. For high-definition viewers. this bar lopped off the “rundown” bar on the left side of the screen. So you couldn’t even check in and look for a tab teasing the Saints story.

I’m curious as to why NFL Network would choose to avoid acknowledging the report of Loomis’ eavesdropping. Think about it: they were all over the Saints’ Bountygate scandal. Hell, one of their own personalities even fingered who he deemed “the snitch” in the whole thing (and as a result, is no longer with the network). Could it be that since it’s currently at a stage where it’s simply allegations, they’re choosing not to report on it? Or is it because ESPN broke the story with open arms? I would hate to think it would be the latter.

Then again, if you look on NFL.com while “Total Access” was on the air Monday night, you’ll find “headlines” such as the offseason roster expanding by ten players, and the Titans’ quarterback situation. You’ll also find articles pondering how the NFL would be affected if Andrew Luck were drafted in 2011, or wondering if Tony Romo is “Done in Dallas?” Nada on Spygate South.

In fact, as of post time, the most recent news item on NFL.com regarding the Saints is a frenzy of a different nature – team owner Tom Benson placing his granddaughter, believed to be the successor of the team should Tom pass on, on unpaid administrative leave as a result of “a pattern of behavior” exhibited by the 35-year-old woman. The item reads on NFL.com that Benson “is using the leave to send a wake-up call.”

Incidentally, now would be a good time to give the National Football League a wake-up call: Why keep NFL Network viewers and NFL.com readers in the dark on a report that, while cited by anonymous sources, could mushroom into an even bigger headache for the Saints in the long run? I mean, how hard is it to put Lindsay Rhodes in front of a Teleprompter and inform viewers of this report, and that the Saints are denying said report? Are you afraid it might be a missed opportunity to promote “The Top 100 NFL Players Of 2012”?

Certainly, the NFL understands that there are dozens of other popular sports news sources that are making a mention of the alleged Loomis eavesdropping. As of 8 PM ET on Monday night, it’s the top headline item on Yahoo! Sports’ NFL page. Ditto for CBS Sports’ NFL page. The top trending story on The Sporting News’ NFL page: “Loomis Accused.” Loomis accounted for the top headline item on FoxSports.com’s main page, as well as that of Pro Football Weekly.

Even the popular political news aggregator The Drudge Report has an item on it that reads, “Report: NFL team bugged opposing coaches box for 3 years…”

It’s one thing if ESPN is breaking a football story before NFL Network.

But if even The Drudge Report beats you to a significant football-related news item, that is not good.

It’s as if Roger Goodell is covering his eyes, hoping the report dies down quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if he issued a gag order on all NFLN personnel to even mention the Saints on Monday’s broadcast.

I don’t want to take anything away from NFL Network. Everyone involved does a superb job putting together content for “Total Access” that viewers – football fans – would be interested in.

I would think they’d be interested in hearing about a report that the general manager of a team that won the Super Bowl a few years ago was listening in on the other teams’ coaches for a few years, wouldn’t you?

Especially if it’s the same team that’s got Bountygate casting a bayou-like shadow on them.

But, no, that can wait. Let’s break down Ryan Tannehill’s draft stock while we still can!

I thought devoting a segment to sandwiches modeled after Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez was the worst day of journalism on NFL Network.

I was wrong.

UPDATE: Well, it was a day and a few minutes overdue, but three minutes into Tuesday night’s “Total Access” broadcast, Andrew Siciliano finally reported on the Eavesdropgate allegations – and yes, he credited ESPN with first reporting the story on Monday. They also had Steve Wyche, currently stationed in Virginia for Redskins draft duties, file a report on the matter. And yes, at around 7:39 PM ET, the top headline on NFL.com reads: “Authorities investigating alleged wiretapping by Saints GM.” I knew the league wouldn’t have their head in the sand on this issue, but this still begs the question: what took so long?

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Saints Seek Suit Against ESPN For Report Of Superdome Spygate Sequel

ESPN reported Monday via sources that Saints GM Mickey Loomis was able to listen to opposing coaches' conversations during games at the Superdome for three years. The Saints are now "seeking legal recourse" against ESPN - but this Spygate sequel is clearly a bigger issue that should be played out first.

I know we’re seven years removed from the devastation that was Hurricane Katrina, but for the New Orleans Saints, when it rains, it monsoons.

Following the Bountygate scandal – for which team personnel including head coach Sean Payton were suspended, and player suspensions are still due to be handed down, perhaps this week – comes word of a possible Spygate sequel, with allegations that general manager Mickey Loomis had arranged for an electronic device, installed by previous GM Randy Mueller, for the purpose of listening in on other Saints coaching staff members, to be rigged so that Loomis could be able to eavesdrop on opposing coaches during games played at the Superdome.

This was first reported Monday afternoon by ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” unit. Naturally, not only are the Saints denying these allegations, of which ESPN cites “sources familiar with Saints game-day operations”, the team is planning to sue the network.

According to New Orleans television station WWL – not to be confused with WWL, as in the Worldwide Leader, ESPN – Saints vice president of communications Greg Bensel deems the story “1000 percent false” and “completely inaccurate.” Bensel claims ESPN “refused… to provide us evidence to support their allegations.” With that, the Saints are now considering “all legal recourse regarding these false allegations.”

Louisiana attorney Jim Letten was quoted in the ESPN report as being informed of the allegations on Friday and is “not at liberty to comment” on this situation.

Sources claim that while Loomis watched Saints games at a suite in the Superdome, he used an earpiece to listen to communications from opposing coaches during games, manipulating a switch to toggle between offensive coaches for whomever the Saints’ opponent was that day, or their defensive coaches. This allegedly went on for just three seasons, between 2002 and 2004, during which, as ESPN points out, the Saints had a .500 record at the Superdome, as well a similar overall record (25-23) for those three seasons. The technology was rendered inoperable as a result of Hurricane Katrina, and in the ensuing season, in which the Saints would not be able to play a game at the Superdome for the entire season, the Saints went 3-13.

While Loomis may evade possible criminal prosecution since the statute of limitations following the most recent alleged offense falls outside the maximum five year window, it’s certain that the NFL could issue a stern punishment on top of the eight-game suspension he’s scheduled to serve for his role in Bountygate.

Spygate, you may recall, was the name given to the New England Patriots’ signal-videotaping scandal back in 2007; it cost them $750,000 in fines and a first-round draft pick.

If what I am dubbing “Spygate South” is proven, on top of Bountygate… maybe they should be forced to forfeit their Super Bowl championship.

But back to the lede in this particular post: Go ahead and sue ESPN, Saints. And while you’re at it, ask them about that “Deep Waters” headline they churned out when the first rumblings of Bountygate emerged.

Let’s take it one step at a time: let’s prove these allegations against Mickey Loomis first. If he’s found not guilty, then feel free to throw all the slander lawsuits you want at the Worldwide Leader – it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

As much as I personally prefer NFL Network when it comes to football news, I have to say, for breaking a story of this magnitude, with ramifications that could possibly set a franchise back for years, it feels good to be ESPN.

Not so much if you’re a Saints fan.

Or if you’re Mickey Loomis.

Grab your umbrella.

Be sure to read SportsRantz’ Anthony DiMoro’s take on the Mickey Loomis eavesdropping allegations.

Horseplay? PFT's Mike Florio Works In Two "Ass" References In Peyton Manning/Tim Tebow Report

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio used the word "ass" not once, but twice in a story about Peyton Manning's arm strength. It is quite rare to find such a word used editorially by a journalist on a top news website. And if Florio was making a silly horse pun, it fell very flat.

I am a semi-avid reader of the Pro Football Talk website, and respect its editor, Mike Florio. I also realize that they’re geared toward a demographic of which I happen to be a part of.

All that being said: Have we really come to this in journalism circa 2012?

Here’s the entire opening paragraph on a Florio-penned story on Pro Football Talk, a property of NBC Sports, about the highly-sought-after sudden free agent quarterback Peyton Manning, of whose services, teams such as the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos are favorites to land:

“With the Dolphins desperate to put asses in the seats and the Broncos apparently desperate to find a way to kick Tim Tebow’s ass out of town, the question of Peyton Manning’s arm strength has gotten lost in the scramble to sign him.”

Really, Mike Florio? I wouldn’t even expect that kind of a story open from ESPN.

Now, it’s not the first time the word “ass” or a variation of the word has appeared on PFT’s website. Granted, when they do publish the word, they’re usually quoting an NFL player saying it, and that’s fine. And, of course, you can’t stop the many commenters on PFT’s articles from running their mouths. But this is the first time that I recall a columnist, let alone an editor, of a respected news website editorially using the word “ass” in a story, let alone two variations of the word.

I realize that “ass” is not one of the seven dirty words, not necessarily offensive, and is very much mundane in our culture. But it is unorthodox to read a news story on a top news website, sports or otherwise, and be greeted with the word “ass” by the author of the story.

Go ahead. Search ESPN’s website. Or CNN’s website. You will be hard-pressed to find a headline, let alone a story, that bears the word “ass” or “asses” but is not quoting a subject using such a word. It’s practically unheard of in modern journalism, and that’s why I was a bit taken aback by Florio’s use of the word.

And yes, I realize that Peyton Manning has spent most of his NFL career on a team whose insignia is a young male donkey (Colts) and that one of his suitors is a team modeled after a wild horse (Broncos). Maybe Florio was just being cute in making an illustrative pun on the “an ass is a donkey” card. If he did, in my opinion, he failed miserably. Respected journalists have to remember that they must not go down this route if they don’t have to.

Don’t worry – I was not offended by Florio’s use of the word (much like you probably weren’t). I’m just looking at the big picture in the vein of journalism. So don’t expect me to be spearheading some campaign encouraging Florio to apologize, or anything.

But if Peyton Manning signs with the Dolphins, the first time I see Pro Football Talk use the term “donkey punch” with respect to the Broncos, I might get a little upset.

Hump Start: NFL Moves 2012-13 Season Kickoff Game To Wednesday Night

Once again, the New York Giants find themselves in an interesting position: beginning their defense of their NFL championship a little earlier due to a conflict with an election convention. This year, the Giants will kick off the season on a Wednesday night, playing the first Wednesday NFL game since 1948.

Are you ready for some football? On a Wednesday?

As President Obama would say, yes, we can.

For the first time in 64 years, a regular season NFL game will be played on a Wednesday night – and it’ll be the very next NFL game, which opens the 2012-13 season.

And for the second time in five years, it’ll be at the expense of the World Champion New York Giants.

Here’s the deal: The game, which will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, home of the Giants, was originally scheduled, as has been the case for the past dozen years, on the first Thursday of September following Labor Day.

This year, that would be September 6. Incidentally, 2012 is an election year, and each election year, the Republican and Democratic National Committees have been hosting four-day conventions during the final week of August and first week of September, alternating each year. The final day of the convention – Thursday – is the crescendo which closes with a speech from the main candidate (or sitting President).

There was no conflict in 2004 because the Democratic convention was held in July of that year. However, in 2008, so as not to step on Republican nominee John McCain’s address, the NFL moved up the time of the season opener – also involving the Giants, who had won Super Bowl XLII – from an 8:30 PM (ET) start time to about a 7 PM kickoff. The ratings were decent, but apparently not decent enough to the point that the Giants will be playing another early Thursday night season opener.

So on Tuesday, the NFL decided to simply move the game to the previous night, Wednesday, September 5. It will be the first time since the fall of 1948 that a regular season NFL game would be played on a Wednesday. On that day, September 22, 1948, to be precise, the Detroit Lions lost to the Los Angeles Rams, en route to a 2-10 season; the Rams finished 6-5-1. (In case you’re wondering, the Philadelphia Eagles won the championship that year.)

This will be the second time in three years that a regular season NFL game will be played on an unorthodox day of the week. In late December 2010, a Sunday afternoon game involving the aforementioned Eagles was moved to Tuesday night due to extreme blizzard conditions in Philadelphia. The visiting Vikings – playing out the string a la the Asheville Tourists after a blizzard back home impounded the Metrodome – won the game behind the unlikely arm of Joe Webb.

The Giants’ first opponents of the 2012-13 season is still to be determined. In 2008, the Giants beat the Washington Redskins in the season opener. With politics once again coming into play in the Giants’ defense of their Lombardi trophy, don’t be surprised if the Giants once again square off against Washington on September 5; the start time will remain 8:30 PM ET. (The two teams have actually faced each other on the season opener for the last two years.)

And in case you’re wondering: no, the Giants don’t play the Chicago Bears this season, so that was not a factor in moving up the season opener to Wednesday to accommodate big-time Bears fan President Obama the following night.

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.

An Anom-Eli: Giants' Manning Among Notable Super Bowl XLVI Players Missing From NFL's "Top 100"

Eli Manning will be playing for his second Super Bowl victory. Not bad for a player who didn't even make the "Top 100 Players" list that came out the year before. In fairness, Tom Brady was ranked No. 1 overall on the list, which was also turned into a ten-hour event on NFL Network last year.

We are at the dawning of what is known as Super Bowl Week – the six-and-a-half-day pre-game to the Big Game, where any and all amounts of parallels are made for the teams contending in the Super Bowl, as well as their players, amid the large amounts of hype being dished out to hungry sports media scribes.

You’ve been hearing about the usual Super Bowl XLII comparisons.

You’ve been hearing about how Eli Manning could win his second Super Bowl championship, which would give him twice as many titles as his big brother, Peyton.

And you’ve been hearing about how Eli could be taking care of business at the site of this year’s Super Bowl, Lucas Oil Field – which just so happens to be the home football stadium of his big brother, Peyton (although Peyton’s renewal of that lease is currently up in the air at the moment – possibly about three months’ worth of moments – thereby creating another subplot for this year’s Super Bowl).

But because there can be no shortage of talking points for Super Bowl Week, allow me to throw another slab of red meat into the mix – by reverting to the “Top 100 Players Of 2011” list. You remember this list: It was compiled based on votes from actual NFL players, and doubled as a ten-hour event on NFL Network airing in the spring of 2011, culminating on Fourth of July Weekend – and had an NFL lockout continued, no doubt would have been repeated dozens upon dozens of times this past fall.

Of the top 100 players voted by their peers, 12 of them were quarterbacks, and of these dozen QB’s, only half of their respective teams qualified for the 2011-12 NFL playoffs.

Of course, Tom Brady was ranked number one; he was among five Patriots players (defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, 35; guard Logan Mankins, 39; wide receiver Wes Welker, 50; linebacker Jerod Mayo, 62) that made the list. And there were only three Giants players that qualified for the list, and all of them were ranked in the bottom half of the Top 100 (defensive end Justin Tuck, 60; safety Antrel Rolle, 68; guard Chris Snee, 77).

That’s not a misprint. Eli Manning, who owns more Lombardi trophies than over half of the other quarterbacks that made the Top 100 list, and is about to embark on his quest for yet another one, is absent from this list.

Granted, “The Top 100 Players Of 2011,” as its title indicates, is based on the performance of the previous season by players on the list therein: the 10-6 Giants, for which Eli Manning had a touchdown-interception radio of 31:25, failed to make the playoffs; meanwhile, quarterbacks representing four of the teams that qualified for the 2010-11 NFL playoffs – Bears, Chiefs and Seahawks, all of whom won their respective divisions, as well as the other NFL franchise in New York, the Jets – didn’t make the cut.

Heck, if you wanted any indication that this Top 100 list wasn’t based on this year, I can sum it up in two words: Donovan McNabb. Yep, when this list was compiled, he had come off of his lone season with the Washington Redskins – a season in which he had more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (14). Yet, he just cracked the list, coming in at number 100.

McNabb wouldn’t even complete 100 passes (94) in his short tenure with the Minnesota Vikings the following season.

Now, some have argued whether or not any of the canonical list of Top 10 lists and Top 100 lists and Top 500 lists compiled over the years, in fields ranging from sports to spores, render any value whatsoever.

However, to say that this “Top 100 Players Of 2011” list is meaningless, especially vis a vis the results and ensuing Super Bowl matchup of the 2011-12 season, would be an insult to the NFL players whose input made this list possible in the first place.

I mean, you can’t blame the NFL players for not foreseeing that just six of the twelve quarterbacks they decided on (Brady; Drew Brees, 9; Aaron Rodgers, 11; Ben Roethlisberger, 41; Matt Ryan, 52; Joe Flacco, 90) would advance to the playoffs the following year, let alone one of the three quarterbacks in the top ten (that would be Peyton Manning, ranked second overall) not even playing a single snap. Or that Michael Vick (number 20 on the list), Philip Rivers (26) and Tony Romo (72) would just miss the playoffs. Or that the Buccaneers, led by Josh Freeman (86), would end the 2011 campaign on a ten-game losing streak. Or that McNabb would have an even worse season that the year before.

This much is certain: Regardless of the outcome of Super Bowl XLVI, Eli Manning will be a lock to make the top 20, when the NFL players put together their “Top 100 Players Of 2012” list, should one be compiled.

You can also figure twice as many Giants players that made the list in 2011, would factor into the 2012 version.

And you can bet that when these players are asked to come up with those worthy of making the 2012 Top 100 list, and such lists for years to come, Donovan McNabb will not even cross any of their minds.

Oh, and you can also guarantee that Tim Tebow will be ranked pretty high on the list, as well.

Though, give the players credit: one of the quarterbacks playing in this year’s Super Bowl just happened to be named the number one player on the “Top 100 Players Of 2011” list. Not too shabby.

The other quarterback? Nowhere to be found.

And if said other quarterback wins Super Bowl XLVI? Well, forget about Peyton Manning and the future of the Indianapolis Colts – it’s time to flip the script on these lists.

Suzy Kolber Breaks Her Silence About Joe Namath's Infamous Advance

 

Suzy Kolber recalls being on the other end of a bizarre interview with former Jets quarterback Joe Namath. "I felt like, 'uh-oh'... Get him off the air as quickly as possible." The documentary "Namath" premieres on HBO Saturday at 8 PM ET.

December 20, 2003. A night that shall live in infamy.

The New York Jets hosted the division rival New England Patriots in a game that Chad Pennington (remember him? He’s actually a regional color analyst for the NFL on Fox these days) and “Gang Green” would lose to Tom Brady and company, 21-16.

But there would be no catch that stood out during this game. Not even a tuck rule.

For this Saturday night game, with the ESPN “Sunday Night Football” crew in tow (there was no NFL Network back in 2003), would be overshadowed not by a play during the game – but, rather, a pass.

It’s just after the two-minute warning in the second quarter when Suzy Kolber was interviewing Joe Namath, the former quarterback who led the Jets to their only Lombardi trophy thus far (much to Rex Ryan’s chagrin), and who would be honored in mere moments during a halftime ceremony recognizing the Jets’ “four-decade team”.

Kolber starts by asking Namath to comment on Pennington, the current quarterback of a Jets team who had been 6-8 coming into the game, and who had been picked off by Willie McGinest for an interception return touchdown.

Namath: “I believe everything that anyone else has watched, ugh, Chad play… impresses me, the same thing impresses them. He’s a quality, classy quarterback, who has a touch on the football. He’s not a thrower, he’s a passer…”

Kind comments from one Jets quarterback to another. But there was a mysterious presentation of those comments by Broadway Joe, that Kolber certainly recognized.

“I felt like, uh-oh, Joe is in trouble here,” Kolber disclosed in an interview in USA Today, in recalling that interesting exchange with the Hall of Famer. “Let’s get him out of it… Get him off the air as quickly as possible,” was what she was thinking as she solicited Namath’s thoughts on Chad Pennington.

But the pro that she is, Kolber tried to make some sense out of it.

“When we first started talking and he was slow and deliberate and in his speech, what was going through my head was, ‘Maybe it’s just really cold.’ And none of the executives in the truck were alarmed either because nobody said (to) stop.” In fact, it was right around the time Namath opined Pennington was a “passer” and not a “thrower” – is there a difference, really? – that “the direction in my earpiece was, ‘keep going.'”

That, she did, right after a Curtis Martin draw play.

“Joe, it’s been a tough season for Jets fans. What does it mean to you now that the team is struggling?”

To Namath’s credit, he did provide a multi-faceted answer to Kolber’s question, reminding her that Pennington had actually missed six games at the start of the season (they would go 2-4 in that stretch) and the team had the potential to be better next season.

Unfortunately, those insights played second fiddle to his Casanova act.

Namath: “I wanna kiss you. I couldn’t care less about the team struggling. What we know is we can improve. Chad Pennington, our quarterback, missed the first part of the season, and we struggled. We’re looking to next season, we’re looking to make a noise now and… I wanna kiss you!”

At that point, Kolber could have responded six ways from Sunday. (Or Saturday, considering it was a Saturday night game.) But rather than get caught up in Namath’s advances, she looks at the big picture.

“I think the way I felt about it at the time was that he’s a really good guy having a bad moment that happened to be captured on national television,” Kolber told USA Today.

Indeed, Kolber told Namath that his penchant for puckering up with her was “a huge compliment.” She then mentioned Namath would be honored at halftime, as Namath could be heard behind her exclaiming, “Yeah!”

“If we had known definitively he was in that kind of state, we wouldn’t have conducted the interview,” said Jed Drake, days after the Kolber/Namath chit-chat. Drake, mind you, was working in the ESPN production truck the night of that game – you know, when they instructed Kolber to “keep going.”

The interview led Namath to apologize to Kolber. He also admitted to being “full of too much Christmas cheer” that night; about a month later, he would publicly announce that he was battling alcoholism.

“He felt humiliated,” said Kolber. “It’s a shame he has to be remembered for that moment… I knew he wanted it to go away.”

So, why is Kolber coming clean about that infamous interview? This Saturday night, HBO will be debuting a 90-minute documentary about the quarterback, produced by HBO Sports and NFL Films. The documentary is titled, simply, “Namath.” It will cover his rise from Beaver Falls to Alabama to the AFL. No doubt, you’ll relive that Super Bowl III victory against the Baltimore Colts that Namath would “guarantee” the underdog Jets would win.

And it will also look at Namath’s life after football – including, but not limited to, a slurred interview he did on ESPN back in 2003.

Make no mistake, Namath, who is a contributor to ESPN Radio 1050/New York during football season, regrets letting that “Christmas cheer” get the best of him, and much like some of the 220 career interceptions he’s thrown (far more than his 174 career touchdowns), he wishes he could have that one back.

But is Suzy Kolber a class act? Even Joe Namath can guarantee that.