OK, so the Raven won, and everyone wants to be nice about Brian Billick, the ex-coach who was in the broadcast booth for Fox on Sunday. I even wanted to like him.
But he can be such an act-like-you-know blowhard and so self-important. And he is so often just plain wrong in what he says that nice is not really possible in any honest review of his performance.
Just before the game started, Billick said how terrific the 34-degree game conditions were, and how there are never really any wind problems on the field in this stadium.
"The conditions couldn't be better for Drew Brees...," he said, referring to the New Orleans Saints quarterback and his proclivity for putting the ball in the air.
And then, the ball was blown off the tee twice prior to the opening kickoff. Twice. They had to use a holder to start the game.
A few minutes later, sideline reporter Chris Myers explained that the Ravens' coaches were very focused on the wind conditions, because "they thought it could be a big disadvantage to him [Brees]."
Thom Brennaman, Billick's play-by-play partner, was not any better. Typical of the way this duo acts like they know whether they do or not, Brennaman told viewers how much the Ravens miss "perennial all-pro Todd Heap," who is out with an injury.
Heap is a fine tight end, but in his 10-year career he has only been all-pro twice, and the last time was in 2003. Not exactly "perennial." But it sounds better to throw in the adjective -- it sounds like you've actually done your homework.
But let's go back to Billick and him questioning a short yardage play that featured Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco pitching back to Ray Rice. Billick said it never made sense to him to pitch back several yards to a deep back when you only needed to gain a yard or so from the line of scrimmage for a first down.
On the very next play, a third and one, Flacco did pitch back deep to Rice and the running back not only made the first down, he ripped off a big gain.
And let's not forget Brennaman describing the touchdown pass to Ray Rice as a "jump ball for Ray Rice" -- as the ball was in the air. Who would throw an end-zone "jump ball" pass to a 5 foot 8 inch receiver?
Billick got this one right when he described the completed pass as a "drop into the basket."
I could go on all night citing act-like-you-know wrongheaded moments from Billick and Brennaman. And they say this stuff with such a sense of authority and certainty that you almost have to admire their bluster.
Well, OK, just one more. At one point in the first half, Billick offered this prediction for the Ravens: "... we're going to see a hard play fake and vertical shot down the field."
But the next play was actually a screen pass to Rice. I don't know if I saw one "hard play fake and vertical shot down the field" all day. (I take "vertical" to mean deep.)
Billick loves words and terms like "vertical," "orchestrate" and "athletic arrogance." As the Ravens offense set up for a key drive near the end of the game, he talked about offensive coordinator Cam Cameron trying "to orchestrate a well-orchestrated" drive.
I wonder whether fans who are concentrating on the drama of the game even hear such blustering non-sense. Maybe it is just a kind of taken-for-granted background static from self-important voices in the booth that the true fan learns to screen out as they root for the Ravens.
One last complaint involves those moments during the game when Brennaman broke from his play-by-play mode of address to the audience to tell Billick directly what a great coach he was/is.
I counted three such moments of Brennaman paying homage to Billick's greatness as a coach, and I wondered what it has to do with the game on the screen. I suspect it is meant to bolster Billick's expertise and credibility. But that goal would best be accomplished by the analyst actually being right when he says the weather conditions are perfect or we are going to see a "vertical shot down the field" on the next play.
I think viewers would be much better served by less hype and more homework -- less act like you know, and more genuine knowledge from former coaches and their play-by-play sidekicks.