Dan Leberfeld's Blog

Berman will assume new role 01.05.17

*Chris Berman to Assume New ESPN Role after NFL Season

Will Make On-Air and Public Appearances on Behalf of the Company

Sports broadcasting legend Chris Berman, the six-time National Sportscaster of the Year who arrived at ESPN a month after the network launched in 1979 and became one of the industry’s most popular voices during his almost four decades with the company, will assume a new role for ESPN after the NFL season.

Berman will make appearances on-air and will also serve in public-facing roles on behalf of the company, stepping away from his longtime position as the face of ESPN’s NFL studio coverage, NFL Draft and Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby.

Berman will continue to host ESPN’s NFL PrimeTime highlights show from the field after the Super Bowl as well as the NFL Conference Championship games. He will also offer opinion and perspective on historical events in the NFL, including still appearing weekly on Monday Night Countdown. In addition, he will handle play-by-play for ESPN Radio during the MLB Divisional Playoffs and participate in ESPN’s annual ESPYS Awards.

The 2016-17 season is Berman’s 31st consecutive and final year as host of Sunday NFL Countdown, more than double the previous record as the longest-running host of a weekly pro football studio show. The 2010 recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football, Berman has covered 34 Super Bowls, hosted the annual NFL Draft since 1987, and he has served as Master of Ceremony for the prestigious Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction since 1999. His “Swami” segment on SportsCenter, dubbed “The Two Minute Drill,” has been a fixture for all of his 38 years at ESPN. In fact, his regular-season game picks record this year (51-32) is the best he’s ever had.

Berman is revered among fans for his signature delivery of sports highlights, most notably on NFL Sundays. From 1987-2005, he and longtime partner Tom Jackson teamed together for NFL PrimeTime, the first show of its kind and cable television’s all-time highest-rated weekly studio show. His “Fastest Three Minutes in Television” halftime highlights has also been a staple during ESPN’s weekly NFL primetime game through the years.

“The whole experience here has been a dream come true,” Berman said. “When we started in 1979, I was just 24. Nobody knew if ESPN would make it, or, for that matter, if cable TV would make it. I certainly wasn’t sure I would make it, but I really didn’t care. We were too busy having a blast, talking sports with viewers who were just like us, even if it was during the wee hours of the morning. We got to band together here in Bristol, Connecticut, and put out a product of which we were all very proud.

“What I didn’t know I was signing up for was a lifetime of friendships and, I like to think, respect. Respect from those I have worked with and from those in sports I have covered, and respect from those viewers who welcomed us into their homes. That’s what hits me the most as I look back at these past 38 years – knowing that all of this happened while we were just having fun and trying to get it right.

“I’ve been lucky enough to spend almost two-thirds of my life at ESPN, and I am honored to have lent a small hand in laying the cornerstone for what has truly become a beacon in sports.

“I’m thrilled that this ride will continue, albeit differently. Today’s announcement allows me to fulfill perhaps my final professional goal – knowing that I will finish with the team I came in with.”

ESPN President John Skipper added: “Chris is one of a kind. His innovation, passion, preparation and on-air acumen have helped define ESPN. He wrote the book on delivering highlights which still serves as the standard to this day. ESPN’s mission is to serve fans. No one has done that with greater resonance than Chris and his dramatic connection to fans played a significant role in establishing a successful ESPN. We look forward to Chris’s continuing contributions while understanding that his place on our Mount Rushmore is assured.”

Of course, Berman’s impact on the sports world goes well beyond football. An original SportsCenter anchor, and longtime mainstay, he called Major League Baseball games and hosted Baseball Tonight studio shows for many years. Most notably, Berman voiced ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning telecast of Cal Ripken’s 2,131st consecutive game on September 6, 1995, and he became a fan favorite nationally for the nicknames he created in his sports highlights. In all, he has covered 31 MLB All Star games, including every ESPN presentation of the Home Run Derby, and 30 World Series. Berman also covered the U.S. Open golf tournament from 1986-2014, and he co-hosted ESPN and ABC’s Stanley Cup Playoff telecasts in 2003 and 2004.

“Chris is part of the fabric of ESPN, and I have tremendous respect and appreciation for him,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “He is an iconic sports commentator, who transcends sports, and even after covering thousands and thousands of sports events, his passion has never waned, nor has his enthusiasm for athletes, coaches, and the thrilling drama of athletic competition, to quote another legendary sportscaster.”

*Press Release


Making a mountain out of molehill 01.04.17

I keep hearing that a big problem for the 2016 Jets was a “fractured” and “dysfunctional” locker room.

To me, this angle is getting blown way out of proportion.

Two players, Sheldon Richardson and Brandon Marshall, couldn’t stand each other, and this led to a couple of disputes.

What other locker room issues were there?

There are always going to be some players who don’t like each other in a clubhouse, in all sports.

In my opinion, the Jets’ 5-11 record had little to do with locker room discord.

It had a lot to do with really bad pass defense in a passing league, along with some other issues on the field.

This “fractured locker room” narrative is getting way overblown.

*****To subscribe to Jets Confidential Magazine click below or call 800-932-4557 (M-F, 9-5). So much good stuff on the Jets you won’t read anywhere else.


Hopefully the Jets fire these punks 01.03.17

An unnamed Jets assistant coach told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Christian Hackenberg “couldn’t hit the ocean.”

On top of that, unnamed team officials added that Hackenberg “regressed” this year.

Hopefully the Jets get to the bottom of who said this stuff, and those individuals are terminated.

This has nothing to do with Hackenberg’s talent. I have no idea whether he’s regressed this season. I haven’t seen him play since the summer.

This has to do with institutional control and football culture.

Winning organizations don’t employ punks who throw their players under the bus, trying to be big shots with NFL insiders.


Statements from Kubiak and Elway 01.02.17

STATEMENT FROM GARY KUBIAK

“As I told our team last night, this is an extremely difficult decision to step down as head coach. I love to work and I love football, but ultimately the demands of the job are no longer a good fit for me.
“I gave everything I had to this team the last two seasons, but this year, in particular, has been tough on me. As hard as it is to leave this position, I know that it’s the best thing for myself, my family and the Denver Broncos.
“I’ve been blessed to spend more than two decades with the Broncos working for Mr. Bowlen and a great organization from top to bottom. I’m forever grateful to this team, in particular John Elway and Joe Ellis, for giving me the opportunity to serve as its head coach. There are countless others to thank, including players, coaches, personnel staff, trainers, support staff and fans.
“Although we fell short of our goals this year, I’m proud of our teams these past two seasons. Helping to bring Mr. Bowlen, his family and this organization its third Super Bowl is something that will always be very special to me.
“I’m not sure what my future holds, but I know that I’ll always consider myself a Bronco. This team is in good hands with a lot of outstanding people, and I expect great things ahead for the Denver Broncos.”

STATEMENT FROM JOHN ELWAY

“When Gary informed me of his decision to step down as head coach, I was obviously saddened and disappointed. But, I understand and respect Gary for doing what’s right for him as well as his family.
“From the time he was hired as head coach, Gary worked to get the most out of the players to push this team over the top. He gave everything he had, and we won a lot of games along the way. The way Gary led the team and managed a challenging situation during our Super Bowl run was one of the best coaching jobs I’ve ever seen.
“Gary’s been a teammate, co-worker and, most importantly, a friend for more than 30 years. Without a doubt, he’s left the Broncos in a better place than when he stepped off that plane from Houston two years ago.
“I appreciate all Gary has done for us. On behalf of our entire organization, I thank him and wish him all the best.”


Jets brass can’t let Buffalo win impact thinking 01.01.17

East Rutherford – The Jets finished their season with an impressive 30-10 victory over the Buffalo News.

And it’s always good to end a season with a victory, on a positive note.

But the Jets’ brass can’t let the victory impact their thinking regarding all the work they have to do this off-season.

In other words, don’t put this team in Canton over beating an average Bills team playing without their starting quarterback (Tyrod Taylor).

The Jets’ brass has a lot of work to do this off-season – a lot, and it’s important to avoid placing too much stock in the team’s strong showing against Buffalo.

And Todd Bowles knows that.

“We were just a better team today,” Bowles said after the game. “We finished today on a high note. We’re happy today. Going forward, we understand we [had] 11 losses and [how] we played during the season. We’re happy with the game today. That doesn’t mean we’re going to the playoffs next year because we won today. That just means we finished on a good note.”

So the Jets and their fans should enjoy this win, but nobody should wear rose-colored glasses based on what happened on Sunday.

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Poor attendance should have no impact on decisions 01.01.17

On Sunday, there was no traffic on the highways leading to MetLife Stadium

The parking lots were pretty empty; the stands as well.

But these factors should have no impact on any coaching or personnel decisions the Jets make after this season.

Everything the Jets do from this point on should be about “pure football.”

The Jets clearly signed Darrelle Revis, in part, for marketing reasons. That turned out to be a catastrophic move. He contributed to losses the last two years.

The Buffalo Bills hired Rex Ryan in 2015, in part, to sell tickets. It worked initially (record season-ticket sales in 2015), but it turned out to be a bad decision. He was fired earlier last week.

Of course the Jets’ brass needs to work their tails off this off-season to improve this team. That goes without saying.

But nothing should be done with the box office in mind.

It should be about “pure football.”

Marketing and personnel/coaching moves should never mix.


Q-and-A with Bowles on Wilkerson’s rehab plan 12.30.16

Q)What are your thoughts on Mo Wilkerson’s comments regarding not having a good plan earlier in the season>

Bowles: I talked to Mo, we handle every injury in-house. We report injuries. We don’t go into discussion about them. That’s all I have to say about that.

Q)Do you wish you limited Wilkerson earlier in the season?

Bowles: No. It was fine.

Q)What are your thoughts on the training staff’s plan regarding Wilkerson’s rehab?

Bowles: We handled it internally. It’s fine.

Q)Did the the training staff have a plan for Wilkerson?

Bowles: We handled it internally. It’s fine

Q)Were you surprised by Wilkerson’s comments?

Bowles: I’m not surprised by anything in this league.

Q)Do you regret playing Wilkerson as much as you did in the first six games?

Bowles: When you play football, you have a chance to get hurt. When you come back from injury, you have a chance to get re-injured. It’s all a part of it. If he stays healthy, he’s fine. He got re-injured.

Q)Why is Wilkerson still listed on the injury report?

Bowles: Because he gets less reps on one of the days than he does on the other days. If you don’t have a full practice, you automatically get listed as limited.

Q)Where is Wilkerson at physically?

Bowles: He says he’s feeling better.


Winter coat drive at the Bills-Jets game for Jersey Cares 12.29.16

*December 29, 2016 — The New York Jets, in conjunction with Jersey Cares, will hold a Coat Drive prior to their game against the Buffalo Bills on January 1, 2017 at MetLife Stadium. Fans are encouraged to bring new or gently used coats to benefit Jersey Cares that will be collected at all gates upon entering the stadium.

With the help of the New York Jets, Jersey Cares plans to collect and distribute more than 30,000 new and gently used winter coats to men, women, and children throughout New Jersey in need of coats this winter. Over the past twenty years, Jersey Cares has collected, sorted, and distributed more than 500,000 coats for New Jersey residents through its annual coat drive. More than just an article of clothing, a coat can open opportunities for someone who needs one. It can enable a job-seeker to continue his search during the winter, enable a student to focus on her studies in a cold classroom, or help a senior citizen go out for medication in a storm.

WHO: Jersey Cares, the New York Jets and their fans
WHAT: New York Jets Coat Drive
WHERE: MetLife Stadium
WHEN: Sunday, January 1, 2017

*Press Release


The Jets’ problem isn’t halftime speeches 12.29.16

Brandon Marshall gave a half-time speech against New England that irked some teammates. The announcement was made by ESPN’s Rich Cimini.

We can debate the merits of the speech all we want, but speeches won’t fix what troubles the Jets.

It’s not an effort issue (aside from perhaps one guy).

The Jets #1 problem is pass coverage. I have been covering the Jets for 20 years, and this is some of the worst pass coverage I’ve ever seen. When you play this kind of pass defense, in a passing league, you are going to get your butt’s kicked more times than not.

You have some guys who lack ideal speed, some who lack ideal instincts and some who have hip stiffness issues (makes it hard to cut with guys in the open field). It’s a confluence of problems that is leading to good quarterbacks (not San Francisco, Cleveland and Buffalo) playing pitch-and-catch against them like it’s a seven-on-seven drill.

And compounding the problem is almost no edge pass rush (essential in a 3-4 defense).

Bad coverage and virtually no edge rush = blowout losses in the NFL.

You can understand Marshall’s frustration with what he was watching, but speeches aren’t going to fix this.

An off-season of good personnel moves will.

*****To subscribe to the monthly Jets Confidential Magazine, click below. Loaded with Jets scoops, not cheap shots. Also on news stands.


One of many reasons it’s a bad idea to start Hackenberg 12.28.16

Many people are pushing the Jets to start Christian Hackenberg in Week 17 against Buffalo.

One thing I don’t get.

Hackenberg’s last two years at Penn State he took an awful beating playing behind a bad offensive line. It took its toll on him, mentally and physically. It’s one reason his mechanics got messed up, and the Jets are attempting to fix that.

So why would you want to throw the rookie out there against Buffalo, behind a Jets line with four starters out?

How does that make any sense?

Can somebody please explain this to me?


Bowles Q-and-A about Hackenberg 12.27.16

Q)Is it possible that Christian Hackenberg will play on Sunday?

Todd Bowles: Not at this time, no. We’ll see how the game goes.

Q)Why don’t you have plans to play Hackenberg?

Bowles: Bryce (Petty) had four games to get ready for. We’re not going to gain or lose nothing by looking at Christian or not in this game.

Q)Is Hackenberg not ready to play?

Bowles: Anybody that hasn’t played. They won’t be ready until they play, but you don’t leap frog people to start playing. If Fitz gets hurt and he gets to play, you’ll see him play, but if not it doesn’t mean anything plus or minus that we’re not playing him this year. We had a plan for him going in when we drafted him. He’s taken a lot of reps in practice. If Fitz gets hurt, he’ll go in there and play. If Fitz doesn’t, he won’t play, but he’s ready to play. He’ll be ready to play. Obviously with experience comes better play and you’ll see a bunch of things, but putting him in right now isn’t going to hurt or help him.

Q)Is there being no chance he’ll get any playing time against Buffalo?

Bowles: I don’t know. We’ll see how the game goes. He might or he might not.

Q)What are your thoughts on those obsessed with Hackenberg playing?

Bowles: I don’t worry about that as a coach.

Q)Did Hackenberg come to the Jets more behind from a playing perspective than you anticipated?

Bowles: All of them had mechanical problems coming out (of the NFL Draft). We didn’t need him to play right away because going off of last year, Fitz had a great year and Geno (Smith) was coming back. The idea was to put him on the shelf regardless and let him get better going in. He wasn’t going to come in and then beat out the two guys that were ahead of him, or three guys that were ahead of him. He can use some mechanical work and he got better as the year went on. That will only show in the game, but (putting) him out there in the last game and say his mechanics aren’t great or his mechanics aren’t bad doesn’t make any sense either.

Q)What about the argument that Hackenberg could gain experience to build off of for next season?

Bowles: There’s no argument one way or the other. He’s the backup. If Fitz gets hurt or if the game gets out of hand, one way or the other (and) we want to put him in the fourth (quarter) then we’ll put him in. If not, he won’t play.

Q)Does Hackenberg still need a lot of work?

Bowles: Until somebody plays, you never know. A young player coming into the league needs a lot of work. Some play right away, some don’t.


What is going on with Robinson? 12.27.16

Florham Park – I didn’t see Jets running back Khiry Robinson on the practice field today.

Robinson made his Jets debut on Saturday in New England, but hobbled off the field during the game, and wasn’t seen again.

Remember, Robinson was waived by the Jets on September 4, 2016 after breaking his leg in New York’s final preseason game. He was re-signed by the Jets on December 7, 2016 and played his first game in New England.

Remember, when he signed with the Jets in the spring, he was rehabbing a broken leg. And then he re-broke the leg in the preseason.

Did he re-injure the surgical leg?

We will find out soon enough.


The handling of Rex at the end in Buffalo was wrong 12.27.16

Florham Park – If you are going to fire a coach, just do it, don’t leak your intentions weeks before to the media.

The Buffalo Bills fired Rex Ryan today.

That’s fine. That is their right.

But why leak your plans weeks before?

“Hours before the Buffalo Bills defeated the winless Browns to improve to 7-7 on Sunday, league sources said Rex Ryan is probably approaching his final games as the Bills’ head coach,” wrote ESPN’s Adam Schefter on December 18.

Why leak stuff to the media? Why not just fire him in mid-December around when the leaks came out? Why make the guy sit on death row?

If you are going to fire him, just go ahead and do it.

Don’t leak to the media that you’re going to do it after the season and make him twist in the wind.

This was poorly handled, no matter what you think of Rex.


The Jets #1 problem . . . 12.26.16

It’s easy to say the Jets “quit” in recent blowout losses to Miami and New England.

I don’t see it that way.

Let’s look at the defense in this blog.

Defenses that quit don’t play the run as hard as the Jets did in those two games. In the loss to the Dolphins, Miami’s Jay Ajayi ran 19 times for 51 yards for a 2.9 average. Ajayi ran for 206 yards against Buffalo yesterday.

In the Jets’ loss to the Patriots, New England’s LeGarrette Blount ran 20 times for 50 yards for a 2.5 average.

Those are two superb performances by the Jets’ run defense. Guy were flying around playing very hard, including safeties coming up and sacrificing their bodies to stop these two big backs.

The Jets’ biggest problem this year, by far, is pass defense. Their pass defense is really, really struggling.

And that is a huge issue in a passing league, and it’s not just defensive backs, but linebackers as well.

It’s not a lack of effort, aside from perhaps one guy, who often refuses to play the sticks on third down and might have been signed for marketing reasons (they can’t do this anymore).

The Jets’ lack of overall coverage speed is killing them. Obviously there are some fast guys (like Darron Lee), but not enough. Guys are trying, but faster targets are running away from them. Do you think David Harris didn’t try on the 25-yard TD by RB James White against New England? Harris always gives everything he’s got.

Some guys have stiff hips, so quick targets cut away from them.

Do you think that Rontez Miles didn’t give everything he could on Martellus Bennett’s TD? Of course he did, but he couldn’t deal with a quick cut into the end zone.

And there are a couple of players who just have bad instincts, and take false steps too often. They play hard, but struggle with things like combination routes.

And compounding the problem is a virtually non-existent edge pass rush (so important in a 3-4 defense), so this struggling pass defense often has to cover too long.

Todd Bowles needs to coach better, but from a defensive personnel standpoint, he hasn’t been dealt a great hand. His last year in Arizona, with the right players, he did a terrific job coaching that defense.

Suspect pass coverage, and the lack of any discernible edge-rush, is a toxic combination in a QB-driven league.

I’m not saying there aren’t other problems. I’m just saying this is the biggest one.

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Extensive Update on Todd Bowles situation from Adam Schefter 12.23.16

“Initially Jets officials feared the 53-year-old Todd Bowles suffered a heart attack Friday, according to sources,” wrote ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “Bowles began throwing up, experienced chest pains, back pains, and after he was given medication, he could not keep it down, which is when Jets officials became extremely concerned and took him to the hospital.

“Doctors determined Bowles did not suffer a heart attack, though they want to visit with the Jets head coach again after the season to continue monitoring him to see if any further action needs to be taken. Bowles is hoping to coach in Saturday’s game against the Patriots, but he has been told it will be a doctor’s decision about whether he can go to New England. If Bowles cannot coach, assistant head coach Mike Caldwell will be the Jets’ interim head coach.”


Nobody knows how this Pats QB is going to turn out 12.23.16

In a league where so many teams are looking for an answer at QB, New England Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo will be the flavor of the month this off-season.

There are rumors the Cleveland Browns love him and will look to trade for him.

Others teams will be interested.

But here is the deal – nobody knows if he is a viable long-term answer.

He has started two NFL games, at the beginning of this season during Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, and then got hurt, and his four-game audition turned into just a pair of contests.

It’s a grey area if he’s a long-term answer for some team. It’s pure guesswork.

Just like it was for Houston when they signed former Denver QB Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million deal with $37 million guaranteed last off-season. He was benched last week for Tom Savage.

Garoppolo might turn out to be a very good starter, but may the buyer beware.

Nobody knows for sure.

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