CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 08: Head coach Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers watches during a game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on December 8, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Cowboys only have one Monday Night Football game scheduled for this year, a Week 3 tilt with Carolina that will be only the second game ever played in the new Cowboys Stadium. There are a couple of minor, cosmetic changes on the telecast this year (running back speedometers! WOOOO!!!). But the biggest change of all, of course, is that Tony Kornheiser has been replaced with Jon Gruden. That’s right, gang. No more Korny in the booth to badger you all game long…
“Hey Jaws, can you believe that throw by Romo right there? Was that NOT a great throw? Is that NOT the kind of throw only someone like Brett Favre used to make? Would you ever have guessed, IN A MILLION YEARS, that Favre’s spiritual successor would be this kid from Eastern Illinois? He’s great! He’s GREAT! He is great. DID ANY OF YOU WATCH IDOL LAST NIGHT?!”
So Tony’s out, and Gruden’s in. So what can we expect from Chuckie as a broadcaster this year? Well, I watched last night’s telecast between the Vikes and Texans, and I can tell you a couple things.
1. This man appears to like football a great deal. The nice thing about listening to Gruden is that he genuinely appears far more interested in the game than how he looks on TV. Among NFL broadcasters, this is as rare as finding bricks of gold in your toilet. Gruden lacks that self-conscious polish that makes so many NFL analysts so insufferable (Die, Mark Schlereth, die). He’s just there to watch the game. And when he gets excited, his voice raises about two octaves. It’s a delight.
2. He might actually criticize Brett Favre. As he does here, when Favre throws an illegal crackback block and injures Eugene Wilson. Gruden happily did a bit of Favre-slobbing during the show. But when it came time to lay down a NOT COOL on the Land Baron, he actually had the stones to do it.
3. Sometimes, he gets a little too excited. On a tackle by Antoine Winfield: “That is an act of COURAGE!” Let’s not go nuts here, fella. Winfield wasn’t storming the beach at Normandy on that play. Then again, sometimes that’s a good thing. When talking about the Vikings offense, Gruden declared, “Lotta tools in the old box!” That’s gold right there, folks. Pure gold.
It’s early, but I’d declare the Gruden hiring an overall improvement on the Monday Night broadcast. Mike Tirico was already growing into one of the better play-by-play guys out there. Jaws is an acquired taste, but certainly much better than the Joey T’s of the world. With Gruden in the fold, you’re at least 10 percent more likely to not mute the TV and turn on the Westwood One broadcast this year. Not a bad foundation for Chuckie to build on.