LIVE & IN COLOR

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LIVE & IN COLOR
Ex-QB Ron Jaworski reflects on his new post with ESPN, the city of N.O. and the Saints Monday, September 24, 2007
By Jim Derry
The NO Times Picayune

In his 17-year NFL career, Ron Jaworski played for four teams, throwing for 179 touchdowns and more than 28,000 yards.

On Jan. 25, 1980, he was the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles against the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV at the Superdome. The Raiders prevailed 27-10.

Seventeen years after retiring, Jaworski is in his first season as color analyst for ESPN's Monday Night Football. He is in the Crescent City to air tonight's Saints-Tennessee Titans game at the Superdome.

How are you feeling going into your third game as an analyst on Monday Night Football?

I think it's been absolutely fantastic. I work with a wonderful team, starting with Jay Rothman, who's our head coach, per se. It's a tremendous group of people, and I think that's what's been most impressive to me, the quality of people I am working with. Not just Mike (Tirico, play-by-play) and Tony (Kornheiser, analyst) and Suzy (Kolber, sideline reporter) and Michelle (Tafoya, sideline reporter), but it's the depth of our Monday Night Football team. It's been an absolute blast.

It happens all the time these days, although not so much when you retired from pro football. Just how tough is the switch from player to commentator?

It was difficult. First and foremost, you think you can still play. The hardest part is letting go, and that you can't play anymore, or at least you can't in the eyes of the people who make those decisions. So really, it took me a couple, three years before I realized this is what I am going to be doing for the rest of my life or a major portion of it.

Has your experience as a game broadcaster in the Arena Football League helped you at all with MNF?

Absolutely. To me, (the AFL) is football. Actually, being out at the Saints facility (Saturday), and I see (Vice President of Football Administration) Russ Ball and (Executive Vice President/General Manager) Mickey Loomis, and we're talking arena football, we're talking rules changes. Mickey and I sat on the competition committee. It's football, and you run across the same people, and the dialogue continues. Whether it's National Football League style or Arena Football League style, it's football. We're talking about the game, we're talking about personnel, and that's why I love doing both.

What is your fondest memory of New Orleans? Is it Super Bowl XV?

No, because we lost. (chuckles) New Orleans really is my favorite city, and I am not just saying that because we're here this week. But in my formative years, I was with the Los Angeles Rams, and the Rams came here every year because they were in the same division in the (NFC) West. This was always a trip I looked forward to after going to Youngstown State and growing up in Lackawanna, N.Y., then going to Los Angeles, it was great to come to the beautiful city of New Orleans. It was always a great experience.

When you think back, what do you remember most about playing in the Super Bowl in New Orleans?

I remember very little about (being in) the city that week. We were just so focused, and we stayed at the Hilton by the airport. We literally did not come into town and did not go to Bourbon Street. (Then-Philadelphia coach) Dick Vermeil had us very focused. We had long, arduous practices and then meetings. We really didn't get a chance to enjoy the Super Bowl festivities. In fact, to this day, Dick and I are still very close, and he says, "You know, I probably should have let you guys loosen up a little bit, particularly early in the week, so you guys could have enjoyed what the Super Bowl was all about."

Coming back to the present, what do you see has gone wrong with the Saints in their first two games?

I think first and foremost, this is a quality football team. I think if you look back to last year when they started 2-0, it was against Cleveland and Green Bay, not exactly the most formidable opponents. Clearly, Indianapolis is a formidable team and the Buccaneers are better, but that game certainly raised some eyebrows around the National Football League.

So I think that was really a wakeup call to the coaching staff and the players, and that, "Our team is targeted. We're now the hunted and no longer the hunter." And I kind of get the feeling, not only watching tape of that game, but there was tremendous energy and juice coming from the Tampa Bay sideline, and they were playing at a higher intensity, I thought. It was clear to me that this Saints team is so tremendously talented, but I think they have to find a way to get that intensity back if they're once again going to be a Super Bowl contender.

Being a former player, how do you get intensity back?

It's not easy. It's not a switch you can turn off and on and say, "Hey, we're going to be cranked up this week." But Sean Payton has been around the block, and he's been in this situation before, and he has an outstanding coaching staff. But I think first and foremost, there's great leadership in the locker room. You've got veteran players. You've got a guy like Drew Brees, you've got the Scott Fujitas, you've got guys who know how to lead. Over the course of the season, there's going to be an ebb and flow. It's not always going to be great. You know, the great teams are the ones who can handle the down times.

What is the key to the game tonight?

I think the Saints need to get back to sustaining offense, No. 1, and that will generate explosive plays. What's been terrific for Sean is those exciting, explosive plays. In the first two weeks, he's been limited in that because they've been playing catchup football, and that's when they have to throw the football. The Saints are best when they are dictating the matchups, and when they are dictating the personnel matchups from the defense, when they're not playing behind in the score or behind in the down. They have to run the football effectively, keep the offense on schedule, and that's when you get the explosive plays.

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