At least the Ravens' TV season ended appropriately Sunday as an uninspired team performance on the field was met with an equally lackluster effort in the booth by CBS.
After months of complaining about getting second-, third- and fourth-string broadcast teams, Ravens fans finally had the CBS A-team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms for two weeks, and what did we get but two subpar performances. I guess that’s what they call irony. Or misery.
Simms delivered some of the most inconsistent analysis I have seen all year. And what he wasn’t inconsistent about he missed all together during the Ravens' dispirited 34-17 loss to the Bengals. Like the Ravens' lack of a pass rush all day – heck, most of the season – and the dismal performance of Terrell Suggs.
How could Simms not call Suggs out? If he wasn’t standing around looking absolutely exhausted and/or being easily blocked, he was getting fooled off the edge. I counted four times that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton made a fool of Suggs – getting the lethargic-looking linebacker to bite inside and then gaining yards around his edge by pass or run.
The last embarrassment came at the start of the fourth quarter when Suggs actually fired off the ball for once and burst into the Bengals' backfield only to tackle the back to whom Dalton had faked a handoff as the quarterback then went untouched into the end zone.
And didn’t Simms just love the Dalton-led Bengals offense to death in that first half?
“They’ve got it all,” he said with 3:12 left in the half, praising Cincinnati’s offensive packages and personnel even as the interceptions of Dalton mounted.
CBS put a graphic up on the screen 10 seconds later following a play that went nowhere, and Simms said, “Well, Jim, let’s look at this Cincinnati offense. They do so much. They’ve got jailbreak screens. Bootleg passes. Reverses. Multiple formations. Shifts and motions. What do you do on the defensive side? Wide receiver screens …”
And so it went until Simms had read through a graphic of 10 things the Bengals do on offense, which, by the way, virtually every other team in the NFL does.
But Simms read the 10 points on the screen with great intensity. When Nantz commented on the enthusiasm and speed of Simms’ delivery, the analyst explained that he was reading it that way to mimic ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, because the offensive coordinator for the Bengals is Jay Gruden, Jon’s brother.
“That was for Jay Gruden -- that was Jon explaining the offense,” Simms said. “I wanted to do that.”
That’s what I hate about NFL coverage on CBS more than anything else – the tone and sensibility of jocks in the booth playing to and for other jocks and members of NFL locker room fraternity instead of the viewers and fans.
If the stupid graphic of offensive weapons and Simms' silly reading of it were half as clever as the two guys in the booth thought, they would not have had to explain it as a play was being run on the field – which, by the way, they didn’t bother to explain or analyze.
As for Nantz, well, the last thing to which Nantz brought any passion as far as I can tell happened at the Masters – not an AFC stadium. And much of the energy there is spent kissing up to the authorities at Augusta National Golf Course and avoiding the club’s sorry history of discrimination.
Speaking of contracts and kissing up, as poorly as the Ravens and CBS Sports performed Sunday, I was bothered by a series of tweets from WBAL radio talk host Brett Hollander at the end of the game.
After tweeting that it was going to be an “empty January in Baltimore” without the Ravens in the playoffs, Hollander followed up with, “Quite a run though. 5 straight years of playoffs needs to be noted as nothing shy of excellent. Just a magical run.”
And if that wasn’t generous enough for a team that just blew two straight chances to be in the playoffs, Hollander tweeted this: “And they were in it until the 4th QT of game 16 in year 6 under (Harbs/Flacco). But all things must come to an end.”
While it is nice to be a sports talk host at the station that has rights to the Ravens game, this might strike some as sounding a bit like an apologist.
In fairness to Hollander, whose show I regularly enjoy, I messaged him after the game to get his reaction.
"... I pride myself in putting things into some sense of perspective," he wrote back. "Whether that means historical, big picture or where sports should stand in the grand scheme of things."
Fair enough, and there is certainly a need for perspective after a season-ending loss like Sunday's.
But I hope the local media will be tougher than Hollander this week and in the off-season. I hope they will quit letting John Harbaugh and Ravens management get away with making big mistakes and not getting called out for them – whether it’s trading away the receiver who carried your offense on his back week after week during the playoffs last year, or somehow failing to draft, trade for or properly develop an offensive line.
As for me, as much as I wanted another playoff run and as depressed as I am about not getting it, I take great solace in knowing I will not have to watch another CBS Sports AFC telecast this year.