Hanging with Jimmy Johnson: New NFL Network film examines all of his twists and turns

There are worse assignments than doing a film on Jimmy Johnson. For NFL Films producer Bennett Viseltear and his staff, it meant spending quite a bit of time at Johnson’s home in the Florida Keys.

“We did have one day when the seas were pretty rough,” said Viseltear of going on Johnson’s fishing boat. “It almost was a little too much for our cameraman.”

Thankfully, the crew survived and likely joined Johnson in some post-voyage beers.

The laid-back Keys made for an interesting setting for latest edition of A Football Life, the terrific documentary series on NFL Network. Wednesday’s show (8 p.m. ET) focuses on the complex career and life of Johnson.

Here’s a link with the preview.

You see the various sides of the driven, if not possessed coach in the college and pros, who eventually retreated to the relaxed lifestyle … Continue Reading

Q/A with Alex Flanagan: On Notre Dame’s big season and Brian Kelly; toughest NFL coaches for halftime interview

Alex Flanagan has been NBC’s sideline reporter for Notre Dame games since 2007. It hasn’t exactly been a joy ride. The Irish went 3-9 during her first year, and the following seasons, which saw Charlie Weis lose his job in 2009, haven’t come close to meeting the absurdly high expectations in South Bend.

So with Notre Dame 8-0 going into Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh, Flanagan is experiencing her first real dose of Irish fever.

“It’s great,” Flanagan said. “In other years, it could be tough doing that seventh or eighth home game in November. There’s a whole new feel and energy now. There’s definitely a different vibe in the building.”

I had a chance to talk with Flanagan about Notre Dame and Brian Kelly; her duties as a sideline reporter for NBC and NFL Network; her crazy schedule; and the most challenging coaches for a halftime interview.

What has been Continue Reading

The rise and fall of Eddie DeBartolo: New NFL Network documentary looks at former 49ers owner

Check out the latest edition for A Football Life on Eddie DeBartolo (NFL Network, 8 p.m. ET). A fascinating look at an owner who had an incredible run. And then it all ended.

Here’s the link to the preview.

NFL Films senior producer Peter Frank talked about the documentary in an interview with Street & Smith’s Sports Business Daily:

Q: Was DeBartolo receptive to the idea of profiling him, or was he hesitant?
Frank: It was hard at first. He and his people were reluctant. I just gather that they’ve been approached by other people about doing his story, too. I think they knew us from his time as an owner and that certainly helped that there are actually people in this building here who know him and who know some of the other 49ers front office folks.

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Q/A with producer: NFL Network documentary examines complicated life of Steve McNair

You’re missing out if you’re not watching the A Football Life series on NFL Network. These documentaries, which air every Wednesday night this fall, are among the best ever produced by NFL Films, and you know that’s saying something.

The next A Football Life focuses on the complicated life of Steve McNair (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET). The former Tennessee Titans quarterback was a valiant warrior on the field, and was considered a role model off the field.

Yet the tragic end of his life–murdered by his mistress–muddied the portrait of a man who died too young.

Here’s a link to the trailer.

NFL Films producer Chip Swain does a nice job of showing the strong ties McNair had with his family and friends and their emotions about his shocking death. You see it all through the eyes of his mother, brothers, and former teammates. At … Continue Reading

Q/A with Andrea Kremer: Why NFL Network hired her to cover league’s most controversial issue: player safety

The biggest threat to the future of the NFL is the repercussions of increasingly bigger players banging into each other at increasingly higher speeds.

Not to be a doom and gloomer, but if something truly catastrophic happens during a game, it will cause the country to re-examine this thing called football.

So it’s big news that the league-owned NFL Network just hired Andrea Kremer to cover the one issue that threatens the entire sport.

Sunday, Kremer made her debut on the network as the new “health and safety” correspondent. She did a story (here’s the link) on Oakland receiver Darrius Heywood-Bey, who recently had to be carted off the field after a concussion. Heywood-Bay talked openly about what happened, and Kremer’s interview with a doctor at Cleveland Clinic showed with graphics what happened to Bey’s brain. Sobering stuff, to be sure.

Kremer is an important hire for the league and the network. … Continue Reading

Fearsome Foursome: George Allen’s daughter narrates new NFL Network documentary

The NFL Network looks at arguably the greatest defensive line in NFL history tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

The nickname, Fearsome Foursome, really says it all. Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, Roosevelt Grier, and Lamar Lundy.

Here’s a link to the preview. Just to show how times have changed, not one of those guys weighed more than 285 pounds. At 260 pounds, Jones might be a quarterback in today’s game.

George Allen’s daughter, Jennifer, wrote and narrated the documentary. In an interview with Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News, she said:

“This project was the most fulfilling endeavor. I grew up respecting these men as both players and as men.  Deacon Jones is like a great uncle to me.  It was a pleasure to be able to talk with Susan Olsen and Phil Olsen, Merlin’s brother who played

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NFL Network hires Andrea Kremer to cover health and safety issues

This is an interesting development. Is the league really going to turn the spotlight on itself with its own network? Or is this just a token effort to show that the NFL is “serious” about its biggest problem.

Hope to have some answers soon. Meanwhile, here’s the release from the NFL Network:

NFL Network has added veteran sports journalist Andrea Kremer to its ranks, it was announced today. Kremer will be the chief correspondent in a newly-formed unit dedicated to covering NFL player health and safety issues. She will also contribute other reports and features on major topics across NFL Network programming.

“Andrea’s journalistic credentials, particularly in regards to reporting on the NFL, speak for themselves and we’re thrilled to add her talents to NFL Network,” said NFL Network Executive Producer Eric Weinberger. “Reporting on player health and safety across

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A little perspective: Videos show regular NFL refs also blew plenty of calls

Heck, NFL Network even dedicated one of their Top 10 shows to “The Most Controversial Calls” of all time.

Remember the Tom Brady and the “Tuck Rule”? Jamie Dukes called “one of the most heinous crimes ever committed against a team.”

And how about the official who screwed up the coin toss? Imagine if that happened to a replacement ref.

This video below also includes the controversy over the “Music City Miracle.”

And No. 1 on the list was Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception.” Back in those days, a pass couldn’t be tipped from one player to the next. Imagine if replacement refs were on the call for that one.

Since I was a Steeler fan, I’m glad they made that call.

Sunday, Phil Mushnick of the New York Post wrote:

If you scroll back to roughly this time four

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Q/A with Rich Eisen: His on-camera emotions about Sabol; progress of NFL Network; the Real Deion

First of two parts:

Rich Eisen tried stand up comedy in a former life. Humor is a big part of his repertoire as the signature host of NFL Network.

Viewers, though, saw another side of Eisen last Tuesday. Eisen was visibly emotional in announcing the death of NFL Network President Steve Sabol. Here’s the link.

Eisen knows how much Sabol meant to his life. Without Sabol, he said, there would be no NFL Network.

Eisen has been there from Day 1 in 2003. He brought the channel on the air, saying “Your dreams have come true.”

Nine years later, it has become a dream job for Eisen, who took a considerable risk by leaving a fairly great gig at ESPN. In addition to his hosting duties on NFL Network, he also has a popular podcast that allows him to hang with stars … Continue Reading

What’s new for NFL 2012: NFL Network gets more quantity, quality; Finally continuity with Nessler-Mayock

Last in a series:

The NFL didn’t just give the NFL Network more games. The league also gave the network an improved schedule.

NFL Network kicks off its expanded 13-game schedule Thursday with Chicago-Green Bay at Lambeau Field. I’m sure ESPN would have preferred that hated rivalry game over Baltimore whipping Cincinnati for its Monday night debut.

Then again, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the NFL took care of its own with a marquee opener. The league wants to build this enterprise, which is a big reason why the Thursday night package landed on NFL Network as opposed to another network.

More Thursday night games will help drive more eyeballs to the network. And it will put more pressure on Time Warner Cable, the lone holdout with Cablevision now in the fold, to finally come to a resolution with the NFL Network.

During a … Continue Reading