With Greg Gumbel and Trent Green as the CBS broadcast team on today's Ravens game, I was eager to see how Gumbel would fare without his old, gaffe-prone partner Dan Dierdorf.
I figured Gumbel had to be better, right?
"Welcome back to an absolutely beautiful day in Baltimore, Maryland," Gumbel said in his opening remarks as viewers saw an overhead shot of M&T Bank Stadium. "The sun is shining, the temperature is 78 degrees on this last day of September ..."
Oops. It had a nice table-setting rhythm to it, except the last day of September would be Tuesday – not today.
How do you make that mistake? Seriously.
And what makes it more maddening is that the rest of the telecast of the Ravens' 38-10 blowout of the Carolina Panthers was an improvement over the coverage the Ravens were getting much of last year on CBS.
For one thing, there was a sideline reporter. Hallelujah.
I thought Evan Washburn, who is listed as a reporter for "The NFL on CBS," was a little slow in getting to the injury to DeAngelo Williams with nine minutes left in the second quarter. But once he got there, CBS gave viewers extensive coverage of it until Williams left the game altogether.
The sideline reporting wasn't great, but here's the kind of difference it still made. At 3:33 left in the game, we saw Terrell Suggs on the sideline with his pads off. Gumbel told us he was in "street clothes," but didn't say why.
After a couple of commercial breaks, we returned to the game, and Washburn explained that Suggs had "re-aggravated a groin injury that he had been dealing with earlier in the week."
The injury did not sound serious, but instead of Gumbel telling us what we could see with our eyes and not explaining why we were seeing it, we had an explanation.
I am just glad there was a sideline reporter who seemed to be trying to bring us the latest information. I am being serious here when I say thanks to CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus for that. It might not feel like much today when the Ravens appear to have had no serious injuries, but as we all realized last week with Dennis Pitta, having a sideline reporter can matter in major ways.
As for Green, he is a massive improvement over Dierdorf – massive. He's crisp, focused and constantly offering analysis. He stayed in sync with the replay team all afternoon, even during that long last quarter when the game was a blowout.
Listen, I suffered through Gumbel and Dierdorf getting punchy and silly in too many blowouts to remember, and it wasn't pretty. Kudos to Green and Gumbel for at least staying mentally engaged until the end of the game.
Pairing Gumbel with Green as the network's third string has made Gumbel better. But he has not lost all of his bad habits.
One of his worst is a tendency to continually praise the play or coaching of whomever he had the best interview with the night before -- whether or not it is deserved.
Today, it was Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. Gumbel referred several times to the great conversation he had with Kuechly Saturday night, and for the first half, you would have thought Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary had come back to the game in the person of Kuechly. Gumbel praised his "first step" as one of the best in the game and called him a "tackling machine."
Except the Ravens were running up the gut of the Panthers' defense all day and Kuechly was consistently getting caught in the wrong gap as a Ravens running back would go streaking past.
Finally, with about nine minutes left in the game, Gumbel asked Green how Kuechly was looking to him, and Green said, "Yes, he has 10 tackles," but he's "making them down the field" – not at the line of scrimmage.
Speaking of the fourth quarter, I didn't hear Green call the name of Ravens rookie left tackle James Hurst until then. That's a story line that deserved close and consistent analysis all day.
But in the end, based on McManus giving us a sideline reporter and a much better analyst alongside Gumbel, I'll take it – even if Gumbel didn't know what day it was.