Guest Post by our friend, Wahs: Open Call for Better Football Color Analysts
Brad and I (@DisplacedTexann) have had a huge pet peeve for a while now: how are there so-called broadcast professionals out there who don’t know the rules of the game? I know criticizing while sitting on my couch is easy, but these professionals don’t even seem to be trying anymore. Football is a game of slow change. There are no more than four or five rule changes in any given year, the majority of which are only slight tweaks to already existing rules. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for commentators to know the rules of the game.
The inspiration for this post occurred while watching yesterday’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans. A simple play on a punt sent Ronde Barber into criticizing mode against the Texans’ punt returner, Bruce Ellington. The play in question was a punt by the Cardinals where a member of the kicking team (illegally) touched the ball down at the Texans’ one-yard line. The members of the kicking team never possessed the ball and as such the ball was still able to be advanced by the returning team. Ellington saw the opportunity, and smartly grabbed the ball and tried to make a play. The Cardinals were able to tackle Ellington in their end zone, at which point the aforementioned Barber called it an inexcusable play by Ellington.
Here’s my beef. This was an extremely smart play by Ellington and in my opinion it’s something more returners in the league need to try. This is one of those no-lose situations similar to throwing the ball deep when a defender is caught offside. Since the ball was first touched by the kicking team, the worst-case outcome for the receiving team is getting the ball at that same spot. When Ellington got tackled in the Cardinals’ end zone, it looked like Safety, but it wasn’t. Since the Cardinals touched the ball at the one, the Texans were awarded the ball at the one. On the other hand, if Ellington had been able to make a return then the Texans would have benefited from the play. A no-lose for the return team.
I remember being taught in high school to make the play that Ellington made. Now granted I’m from Texas and we take the sport a little more seriously than most places, but the point is this is not an obscure rule. How is an NFL veteran like Barber not aware of such a rule? How does his partner in the booth, Kenny Albert a 23-year NFL broadcast veteran, not correct him?
This is something that the professionals in the booth need to correct. They spend the majority of their week prepping for the upcoming game and learning everything about the players to create human-interest stories. I think they need to spend some time with a rule book during the week as well.