2010 NFL Draft Review: Grading ESPN’s Commentators
Not the most original idea, I know. Just figured this would be some fun.
From a ratings standpoint, ESPN's draft coverage was a huge success.
7.2 million people tuned in on Thursday night. Overall, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday on ESPN and ESPN2, roughly 45.4 million people watched the draft, which was a 16 percent increase from last year.
I watched parts of the draft on ESPN each of the three days. I’m no expert about anything that involves the word “draft.” This is just how I saw it.
We’ll start with the “class clown,” and work our way up to the Grade-A student.
The six-time national sportscaster of the year isn’t what he used to be. For his 25 distinguished years at ESPN, he’s always been the ringleader of circus shows like this that involve upwards of three or four “talking heads” all fighting over airtime.
Of course, Berman used to be one of the best in the business at essentially running the show. Maybe I’ve just grown a little tired of his act after watching him for 11 years, but he struggled this weekend. It just seems like he’s steadily declined the past few years.
In fairness, running one of these shows as Berman does is extremely difficult: working around pick announcements, TV timeouts, exclusive reports from other ESPN contributors, and four “experts” all wanting to prove how much they know, all while in a Music City venue that hardly resembles a quaint TV studio set.
Word on the street is that former ESPN anchor Rich Eisen did a better job of pacing NFL Network’s coverage of the draft. Berman didn’t bring his “A” game, and deserves some of the blame for why ESPN’s draft telecast seemed a little disjointed at times.
I like Tom. He’s usually a voice of reason, as most of his comments seem to make sense. But he was almost invisible this weekend.
His performance was solid when it came to substance. But he hardly contributed enough to really be considered an asset.
At times there seemed instances where Jackson was almost unwilling to talk. And his longtime buddy “Boomer” barely glanced his way. Maybe Jackson was a little intimidated by having four other blabberers around him. Or maybe he was just uncomfortable sitting next to one particular loudmouth directly to his right.
With that said, Steve Young, it’s time for your grade…
Woah. I’m convinced he chugged three our four Red Bulls before going on air each night. The dude was fired up. And he never, ever shut up.
Everything he said took him at least 25 seconds to get through. But I’m a little easier on him because I usually liked the gist of what he said. A Steve Young with a condensed delivery could have lots of potential.
Young’s smooth, confident, and very passionate. But really, the guy was just out of control this weekend. He was totally bonkers and he continually interrupted the other panelists. But he didn’t make a fool of himself when it came to substance.
Every time the Hall-of-Fame QB spoke, it was like he had just finished running 49 yards for a game-winning touchdown (which he actually did against Minnesota in 1988).
But damn, an ESPN behind-the-scenes employee needed to come onto the set during a commercial break and tell him to “get to the point” a hell of a lot sooner.
Mel Kiper Jr.
His presence on the panel has long been a staple at ESPN’s Draft Day coverage, and I didn’t really have a strong feeling on his performance one way or another. Fans who like him probably thought he was fine, fans who don’t like him probably thought he was annoying.
Sure, he was probably the most “prepared” of all the panel experts, as in many ways, NFL Draft Day is his biggest day of the year. He’s paid to meticulously, and accurately, evaluate talent. On that note, he honestly seemed a little bent out of shape on Thursday and parts of Friday, as Jimmy Clausen continued to drop like a stone.
But overall, Mel Kiper Jr. was Mel Kiper Jr. He’s OK.
Always a pleasure hearing him. Not quite as much fun as listening to him alongside the irreplaceable Mike Tirico on Monday Night Football, but it’s safe to say the ESPN draft telecast would have been in shambles without “Chucky.”
Yeah, Jon said “dumbass” during Thursday’s telecast. The snippet found its way on YouTube almost immediately.
Really, who cares?
Gruden was a clear asset all three draft days, and his “Gruden QB Camp” segments on Sportscenter were always fun.
Like with Fox Sports’ Troy Aikman, you get the feeling that Gruden’s never out of control (despite the profanity, oh no). He’s always pretty focused and makes his points in a concise yet entertaining way.
It’s safe to say his one-plus year at ESPN has already been more successful than his final six seasons as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach (two playoff appearances, no postseason victories).
Gruden’s not just a big name, with a big personality, with a bunch of unusual facial expressions. From Monday Night Football to the draft, he’s good.
Everyone knows how awkward and horrible it sounds with people talking over one another behind microphones. Of course, it makes sense that the more people in the booth, the more unorganized the product is likely to sound.
Having three broadcasters crammed together to call a baseball game is tough. Having five guys with mics in a wide-open NFL Draft format is way tougher.
You could say these five ESPN talents lacked chemistry. But really, put any five guys on that same set, and you’re likely to get something that sounds almost as rough at times.
It’s likely the overall quality of the telecast can be improved for the 2011 NFL Draft simply by cutting the panel's size from five to four. Hopefully, ESPN will do that, and based on the 2010 report card, Steve Young should be the guy who isn't asked to return (despite his B- grade).
Overall Grade: B