I keep waiting for something good to say about Greg Gumbel, but I'm starting to think it's never going to happen.
Forget the gaffes he's been making this season. I finally came to understand late in the Ravens' 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals what I really dislike about Gumbel this year: what a pompous gasbag he's become after all those years of studying at the feet of his former partner Dan Dierdorf.
The moment of revelation came during the replay of the fourth-quarter play everyone in Baltimore is sure to be talking about for days: the touchdown pass to Steve Smith that was called back for pass interference. As the first and second replays of the controversial play rolled, Gumbel said of Smith and the call of pass interference, "That's pretty clear… He gets a grab and a push, and the football comes, and he does the rest…."
Except it wasn't that "clear" to Gumbel's partner, Trent Green, who focused on Bengals defender George Iloka, who was covering Smith.
"Iloka does a good job, I don't know if in the NBA they may call that a flop, but," Green said referring to Iloka hitting the ground hard just before Smith caught the ball.
"You really believe that was a flop?" Gumbel demanded incredulously.
And the junior member of the broadcast team catching the edge in his partner's voice, instantly walked it back, saying, "I know he (Smith) got his hand on him and extended it, but… I'm just saying he (Iloka) made it look a little worse than it maybe was. But the penalty was called."
The analyst defers, and the senior gasbag rules. And instead of the kind of spirited disagreement in the booth that fans are going to be having for the next couple of days in sports-talk media, we have the world according to Gumbel.
This third-string CBS crew is not getting any better. In fact, I think Green is getting worse, and that's a shame.
Prior to the season, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus told me how high he was on Green. That kind of recommendation from McManus was good enough for me to expect big things from the former NFL quarterback and to offer some early praise while holding off on ripping him for minor mistakes.
But in Sunday's game, it was impossible not to see how off Green was.
When Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith left the game with 10:18 seconds remaining in the first quarter, it didn't take the Bengals long to start going after one of his replacements, Dominique Franks. It was so obvious at least half a dozen folks I follow on Twitter quickly noted it. In fact, Twitter lit up with Ravens fans worrying about what the injury to Smith's foot might mean to the Ravens' fortunes.
But I have Green first noting Franks replacing Smith with 1:07 left in the third quarter – more than two quarters after Smith left the game.
And worse, it wasn't until there was 8:26 left in the game that Green offered this tepid and tardy bit of analysis, "They have been going after Franks since he replaced Smith."
Here's a typical wrongheaded exchange that came with 8:06 left in the third quarter, and the Bengals trying to get some traction on offense.
"Now, third and five, where do you go if you're Bengals?" Gumbel said to Green.
"Well, you anticipate that teams generally like to play the sticks," Green explained. "So, you got five yards to go, you're going to run your routes at six or seven yards and try to pick up the first down. But if you want to take advantage of Baltimore bringing pressure, you can take a shot up the field."
That's kind of a cover-your-butt answer, "They might do this, or they might do that."
Only the Bengals did neither. They brought running back Jeremy Hill out of the backfield for a little lob toss that allowed him to run for the first down and then some.
That happened more than once Sunday with Green's prediction being nowhere near what actually happened once the ball was snapped.
As for sideline reporter Evan Washburn, I had the sense that he and his producer were going all out trying to keep viewers updated with reliable information. But there were so many injuries and players moving in and out of the game, CBS seemed always behind what I was seeing on Twitter.
But let's be fair, having Washburn is a huge improvement over having no sideline reporter at all, and he absolutely does seem to be hustling.
That was another thing I hated, Gumbel and Green sitting in the booth chuckling about sideline reporters having to try and get a halftime interview with John Harbaugh when the Ravens coach is not in the mood. Maybe there is something funny about someone actually working to get real information for viewers rather than sitting on their butts in the booth and getting it wrong like Gumbel, but I fail to see the humor.
Speaking of getting it wrong, how about Gumbel telling viewers with 5:01 left in the third quarter, "Boy, the removal of Terry Smith sure takes a deep threat away from the Ravens?"
Did he really say Terry instead of Torrey? I played my recording back four times, and that's what I heard.