By: John Molori
August 01, 2006

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates


- Immortal Madden
- Kids in the Hall
- Poor Peyton

NFL Network and NBC serve up football appetizers; Madden to Hall of Fame; Sunday Night gridiron; Manning miscast

David Ortiz hit another walk-off home run, who cares? The Yankees got Bobby Abreu, so what? Floyd Landis has more testosterone than the locker room at Augusta, big deal!

Let's get to the important stuff. The NFL Network kicks off the NFL season this week with unprecedented coverage of the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement, more than 14 hours of programming beginning Thursday.

On Saturday, the Network will feature the induction ceremonies for John Madden, Troy Aikman, Harry Carson, Warren Moon, Reggie White and Rayfield Wright, starting with a two-hour "NFL Total Access” pre-ceremony show beginning at 11:00 a.m. and a one-hour post-ceremony show.

Coverage will be anchored by Rich Eisen, Adam Schefter and the newest member of the NFL Network team, Steve Mariucci.

The Hall of Fame Game is slated for Sunday at 8:00 p.m. on NBC. "NFL Total Access” airs a two-hour pregame show at 6:00 p.m. with features and analysis centering on the game's participants, Oakland and Philadelphia. On Friday, the Network will have inductee press conferences at 3:30 p.m. and coverage of the Hall of Fame dinner at 7:00 p.m.

As the most decorated broadcaster in this year's Hall of Fame class, Madden is getting some special treatment from NFL Network.

On Thursday at 9:00 p.m., "John Madden: My Road to Canton” will premiere. The program, narrated by Madden's longtime CBS and Fox partner Pat Summerall, marks Madden's progression from Raiders' coach to broadcasting icon.

Says Madden, "When I first took a job (in broadcasting), I didn't really want to do it because I didn't respect those guys. My agent said to me, ‘ You should do it because if you say no now, they may not want you later.'

"I go for a practice run at a preseason game and Bob Costas was my play-by-play man. I was terrible during the practice run, then I did my first regular season game the next week. Here I am over 20 years later.”

Interestingly enough, this is not Madden's first shot at immortality. He explains, "Twenty-seven years ago I was a (Hall of Fame) finalist and one of the reasons I didn't make it was because they were afraid I was going to go back into coaching and not stay retired. It took 27 years for the next opportunity to be a finalist and eventually get it.”

Peacock pigskin

Madden joins NBC's "Sunday Night Football” as game analyst, kicking off with Sunday's Hall of Fame Game at 8:00 p.m. NBC has assembled perhaps the greatest on-air team in the history of NFL broadcasting including Madden, Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Andrea Kremer, Peter King, Jerome Bettis, Sterling Sharpe and Cris Collinsworth.

Says NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol, "The greatest advantage we have is that we have a team with this level of excellence. Behind the camera we have (former ABC "Monday Night Football” producer and director) Fred Gaudelli and Drew Esocoff, so quality is where we hope to start with no rookie errors.”

Michaels, an ABC Sports icon who left the network to reunite with Madden on NBC, discusses his cohorts, "We've put together an eclectic group with experience and talent. I think that we all felt that we were a part of something that is going to be extraordinary.

"When you look at the early season schedule, flex scheduling in the s econd half of the season, the people in the studio for "Football Night in America," the experience and the talent of the production crew and Dick Ebersol's vision, it's a can't miss.”

According to NBC, their NFL agreement continues through the 2011 season and calls for 16 regular season Sunday night games, each season's "NFL Kickoff" Thursday night primetime game, two postseason Wild Card games and three preseason games in primetime, in addition to Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 in Tampa and XLVI in 2012 and Pro Bowls in the same years.

Under the new deal, the NFL provides NBC flexible game scheduling over seven of the final eight weeks of the regular season for "NBC Sunday Night Football." Flexible scheduling, offered for the first time by the NFL, ensures marquee matchups when many teams' playoff chances are at stake.

Michaels expects Madden to be especially up for the premiere broadcast in Canton. "John is going to be running on a lot of adrenalin,” he states. " With his wealth of knowledge, it is going to be a phenomenal weekend.

"There is going to be a glow that surrounds this whole weekend. It's our opening game telecast, and all the NFL is going to be at the Hall of Fame. John is as important a figure as anyone in the recent history of the NFL. I think he has made the game more interesting to millions, more than anyone in the NFL."

Adds Madden, "I am going to have plenty of time before the telecast to prepare. I went to the Raiders training camp last week to watch them practice.

"I'm going to talk to the Eagles later this week, but that is where you have to have a great partner and we all know I have a great partner in Al. He has always been a clean-up guy and I will probably need a clean-up Sunday more than I ever have."

NBC has launched to promote the start of their NFL schedule. The network has also created a series of promos leading into the season featuring their broadcast team.

Says Costas in one of the ads, "John Madden is in a separate category. I don't think anyone ever says to John Madden 'Are you who I think you are?' or 'Does anyone ever tell you, you look like John Madden?' Who else looks like John Madden? Who else sounds like John Madden? Who could John Madden be confused with? He's singular.”

Costas is the host of NBC's "Football Night in America” NFL pregame show. The program will kick off NBC's NFL coverage each Sunday at 7:00 p.m. and on Thursday, September 7, when Pittsburgh and Miami start the NFL regular season.

Peyton's place?

Last Sunday, CBS Sports aired "Jack and Peyton: On Winning.” The program delved into the minds of Jack Nicklaus and Peyton Manning to see what makes them such great winners. It was a well-intentioned endeavor.

Any program that goes beyond the stats and focuses on the cerebral side of sports is OK with me. Nicklaus, with his 18 major championships, is a solid pick for such a production, but Peyton Manning? Please.

In a press release about the show, CBS noted that Manning is one of the most prominent players in the NFL, a number one overall draft pick, voted to six Pro Bowls, recipient of the Walter Peyton NFL Man of the Year Award and that he has led his team to three consecutive AFC South Championships and to the 2005 AFC Championship game.

All of this is true. Manning is one of the best NFL QB's now or ever, but he is hardly an expert on winning. I don't discount his division titles and playoff appearances, but the NFL is a league where Dan Marino is considered less than immortal because he never won a Super Bowl.

It is a league that, until 1998, considered John Elway's career to be incomplete because he had not won a title.

Marino and Elway are arguably the two best quarterbacks in the history of the planet. In the program, Manning stated, "Talking about going and playing in cold weather, I tell guys, ‘Hey guys, are we going here to stay warm or are we going here to win the football game? So, let's take the weather out of play, and let's go win this football game.'”

Huh? Is that why the Patriots have throttled Manning every time he has come to Foxboro late in the season? Sure, Manning beat New England last season when the Pats were depleted with injury and there was still plenty of season left. The truth is that Manning has utterly failed his teammates in big games against New England.

Manning continued, "There's plenty of games when I left the field saying, ‘I wish I could have this throw back,' but I've never been able to say I could have done more to get ready for this game, and that gives me peace of mind at night when I put my head on my pillow.”

Sounds to me like Manning is talking about dealing with loss, not victory, and that is more appropriate. Last year, the stars were finally in line for Manning to at least get to the Super Bowl. The Patriots had been eliminated and Indy had Pittsburgh, the sixth playoff seed, at home in the playoffs. Once again, Manning failed.

I give sympathy and a pass to Colts' coach Tony Dungy who was dealing with the death of his son at the time, but not Manning. He needed to step up and will his team to victory, but he did not.

In short, a program on winning needs winners. I understand that Manning is a good role model and comes from NFL royalty, but at this point in his career, he has won nothing. Until he does, CBS should look for more worthy candidates for such shows.

John Molori's columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Weekly,, Boston Sports Review, New England Ringside Magazine, Boston Baseball Magazine, Methuen Life,,,,, and Email John at [email protected]