Blog by: George Thomas and Ron Ledgard
Other than ESPN analyst Merril Hoge’s blast from a Pittsburgh radio station Wednesday, the volume has gone down on Manziel Mania.
There, Northeast Ohio. You got your summer of relevance. How’d it feel? What’s it worth? Absolutely nothing. Now the season starts for real, tonight on NBC (WKYC Channel 3 locally). And now, if the Browns and their fans truly want relevance, there’s only one place to get it – on the field.
If relevance is to be judged based on national perception, the emphasis is now on the games and the upper echelon of the NFL. In network teleconferences, it sounds as if Johnny Manziel was but a blip when it came to conversation. The only mention? From CBS’ Boomer Esiason when asked about the quarterback class of ’14 said that Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars), Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota Vikings) and Manziel would all likely see action this year.
“It’s just a matter of time. Like I said on Johnny Manziel weeks ago, he’s not ready. There is no way that he will be ready to start against Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh,” he said. “ I say the same about the other guys as well. This could be like an Eli Manning-Kurt Warner situation. He took over in Week 7 or so… They will probably end up starting sooner than later.”
The Manziel issue doesn’t possess the national heft of Washington’s football team. The NBC Sunday Night Football broadcast team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were asked in a recent teleconference how they’d deal with using the R-word.
“I’m not sure exactly what I would do, because I don’t have to make that decision right now,” Michaels said, “because we don’t have the Washington Redskins on our schedule, we could have them in flex, but I think the more we talk about it or the more broadcasters talk about it, the more we become the story and that’s just not the way we do things on Sunday Night Football. We don’t want to be the story. We want the game to be the story.”
Collinsworth suggested last year that Washington owner Dan Snyder change the name on Showtime’s weekly show Inside the NFL.
“My job is to serve the viewers of Sunday Night Football,” he said. “And while I probably would lean towards saying Washington, but if you’ve done three hours of live television before in your life, you tend to know there’s a lot of things going on up there and I don’t want to make political statements with what I do.”
This year ushers in an expanded Thursday night football schedule with CBS handling the duties in conjunction with the NFL Network. The first broadcast is Sept. 11.
With college and pros, football airs four nights a week. Add ESPN games for smaller schools such as those that play in the Mid-American Conference and that rises. Is the NFL stepping over a line?
“I’m not sure where that line is,” Michaels said. “There probably is a line when it might be a little dangerous. Right now, the thirst in this country for the NFL is insatiable. And I’m not sure it wouldn’t work seven nights a week. It probably wouldn’t, but I don’t know where that line is.”
When you consider the proliferation of devices that possess the ability to stream NFL games, it dazzles. Fox’s app, FOX SportsGO will allow its users to stream in-market NFL games (provided their video provider) participates on their tablets and desktop PCs only. Those streaming on desktops can do so at www.foxsportsgo.com
From the college ranks: ESPN will air 51 games across its networks Saturday, highlighted by a prime-time matchup between the Ohio State Buckeyes (No. 8) and Virginia Tech. A relatively young Bucks team will see if they can continue to grow as they appear before a national audience.
Best college matchup of the weekend: No. 7 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Fox (WJW Channel 8); Gus Johnson, Charles Davis and Molly McGrath.
Best pro matchup of the weekend: Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks, tonight at 8:30 on NBC (WKYC Channel 3)
Local: The Akron Zips square off against the Penn State Nittany Lions at noon Saturday in Happy Valley.
The Kent State Golden Flashes face Southern Alabama. It can be watched on ESPN3 or streamed on the WatchESPN app for assorted devices.
The Browns face the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field. Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts and Jenny Dell will cover the game which will air on CBS (WOIO Channel 19).