I wondered the other day what the NFL Network had planned for the morning of the NFL Draft, given ESPN’s massive commitment to the event. Showing my complete and utter ignorance of the sports TV industry (along with my inability to consult the fucking TV Guide), it turns out the NFL Network will be covering both days of this thoroughly non-entertaining event. From the NY Times’ Richard Sandomir.
After allowing ESPN to reap the rewards for carrying the draft since the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the N.F.L. will inaugurate draft coverage on its 30-month-old network tomorrow at 11 a.m. This is a coming-of-age moment for the NFL Network, which has 36 million subscribers.
ESPN and the NFL Network will be at Radio City Music Hall tomorrow and Sunday, their main studio sets mounted on platforms raised above orchestra seats usually reserved to watch the Rockettes dance. They will be 75 feet apart, but Eric Weinberger, the NFL Network’s executive producer, jokingly said angles would be scouted to ensure that ESPN’s Chris Berman was not in the background of a shot of Mike Mayock, an NFL Network analyst.
For the NFL Network, the question is how it will differentiate itself. The draft is, after all, formulaic programming: talk, wait for pick, watch clips, cover pick, analyze pick, interview pick, watch more clips, wait for next pick.
Weinberger said his goal was to show more of the draft atmosphere than ESPN usually had, to focus on how drafted players would project as pros, and not have its voices argue over who will draft whom. (The ESPN crew is adept at debating and having team officials occasionally bark at their conclusions.)
But in the end, the focus has to be on the formula. If anything sounds different, at least in Weinberger’s telling, it may be the presence of Corey Chavous (above), a St. Louis Rams safety who has developed an obsessive sidelight for an active player, amassing player tapes to evaluate their talent.
“It’s his hobby, his lifestyle,” Weinberger said. “We were amazed when we first saw what Corey did two years ago.”
Chavous jots player analyses in a notebook in a four-color code. “When Butch Davis saw it,” Weinberger said, referring to the former Browns coach who will assess the draft from NFL Films headquarters in New Jersey, “he couldn’t understand how the guy has time to do it.”