Right Tools Help Make Right Mix in Booth


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Right Tools Help Make Right Mix in Booth
Published: September 14, 2007
ESPN?s decision to relieve Joe Theismann with Ron Jaworski on ?Monday Night Football? looks like a smart audible, based on his work on Cincinnati?s 27-20 victory over Baltimore in Week 1. You can?t always be certain if change is good, or if the prescribed change is the right one. On paper, Bill Walsh should have been a great analyst at NBC, but he wasn?t.

Theismann was neither as verbose or as unlikable as his worst critics insist, but he had been ESPN?s lead N.F.L. analyst for 18 seasons. It was time to change the formula. Jaworski brings to the booth his talent for breaking down game film with vim and vigor; a sunny disposition and a better on-air bond with Tony Kornheiser, the analyst/essayist/wisenheimer hired for ?Monday Night? last year, who sounds mighty relieved to work with him.

It was no surprise that Jaworski could parse plays and coverages as well as he did; he is so oriented to X?s and O?s that he may be the emperor of the tic-tac-toe kingdom. While he can get buried under prolix terminology, he balances that with enthusiasm (he hammers out his words at times, befitting a man who extols the ?blacksmith? style of playing football), deep knowledge of game plans and some first-guessing of plays.

And he possesses a silliness that meshes with Kornheiser?s and Mike Tirico?s, which led to a seemingly unintentional crack about the genitalia of a Bengals player that Kornheiser recognized but wisely offered not to elaborate on.

He played along with Kornheiser?s obsession about how the antic Bengals receiver Chad Johnson would celebrate a touchdown, but also verged a few times on pandering to Kornheiser as if he were a football lama.

But he also offered some good insight, like describing how Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer?s toying with the Ravens? secondary amounted to ?renting space? in the defensive backs? minds, and suggesting that turnovers by the Ravens? Steve McNair lead the team to ?go to the single wing.?

Jaworski should avoid saying things like, ?Let me pat myself on the back,? as he did Monday, for accurately predicting the route that Johnson would score his touchdown on. Let others praise you, Jaws.

And a message to ESPN: Monday?s game was one of the cleanest, least-cluttered in your short ?Monday Night? reign. Keep it that way. The absence of a guest star in the booth stressed the need to bar them every week.