Carter Blackburn, Chris Simms and Jenny Dell are not exactly household names. But when you have two smaller market teams like Baltimore and Cleveland playing each other, don't expect the A team in the booth.
That said, I was just about to start writing a mostly positive review of their call of the Ravens' 25-20 comeback win over the Browns when Simms, the analyst, went off on a taunting call against Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. The penalty negated a catch that would have put the ball on the Ravens' 10-yard line in the closing seconds of the game.
The call was huge and maybe even questionable. But it is impossible to know whether or not it was a bad call without knowing what Pryor said.
Nevertheless, Simms declared it "a little too ticky tack" for that crucial a situation late in the game.
"I just don't agree with the call," he said after acknowledging the difficulty of being a referee. "To me, it almost looked like he was just holding up the ball and was going to flip it to the referee and it almost slipped out of his hand. He wasn't talking trash."
I don't care what it "almost looked like": If you don't know what might have been said, how do you know what Pryor was or wasn't saying? There was no hesitation with the flag or disagreement among the officials, so what made Simms think he was a better judge of the call?
And that's when it hit me: Simms had been irritating me in a low level way all afternoon with little things like his view on which college football conference is the best (SEC) or that he likes Ravens kicker Justin Tucker because they both played for the same university (Texas).
Who cares? The most successful ex-jock analysts are the one who get over their on-field careers and get into their jobs in the booth in a hardworking, I-have-to-prove-myself way.
The job of an analyst is to make the game being played that afternoon or evening more enjoyable for the viewer, to open their eyes to things they might not otherwise see. It's not to talk about themselves or go off on calls when they don't have the information to offer an informed opinion. That's hot dog.
On the other hand, Simms did have some good moments in the booth. He saw a Browns receiver step out of bounds and come back on the field to make a catch before anyone else did. He saw one-on-one coverage opening up for a Ravens wide receiver before the play had hardly started to develop and pointed it out to viewers before I think even Joe Flacco saw the open man.
Simms could turn out be really good. His reflexes and instincts in the booth are excellent.
I don't think he and Blackburn make the best match, though, simply because it is sometimes difficult to determine who is talking. Their voices are too much alike for my ear. I had to replay my recording of the game a couple of times to try to make sure it was Simms criticizing the final call.
One cause of that might have been the audio. It sounded to me like the stadium noise was too loud and it muddied the conversation in the booth. I honestly don't know if that is the fault of CBS or Comcast. Last year, I complained about the same thing, and CBS Sports convinced me it was the fault of the cable provider – not the network.
Overall, I liked Blackburn's call. He started a little slow and flat. But the incredible first quarter play by the Browns got him juiced and his energy level went through the roof. That's the level I want every play-by-play announcer at – whether or not one team is playing phenomenal and unexpected ball.
Dell's updates on the injury to the left arm or shoulder of Browns quarterback Josh McCown were frequent enough, but I would have loved to get something more detailed. Was the shoulder separated? She did say at one point that he couldn't lift it. So she was clearly watching and working the bench trying to get that detail. She put in an honest day's work on the sideline.
The best thing about the telecast: the video recap packages. I know they are hard to turn around, but I would like to see a lot more. I loved the one they showed of McCown getting hammered by Ravens defensive linemen on each of the first three big passes he threw. You saw the replays and you instantly understood how and why his left shoulder was hanging from the first quarter on.
Give me more of that, CBS Sports, and less of the analyst talking about where he went to college.