Ron 'Jaws' Jaworski
August 17, 2007 2:49 PM
With NFL fever about to grip the country, the networks unleashed their coverage of the preseason last week, to generally negative results. Was it a case of fans dodging the preseason or something more? Hopefully, just preseason jitters as fans find their way back to the television set.
Fox had the highest rated of the telecasts on Thursday, Aug. 9, bolstered by a match up between defending champs the Indianapolis Colts against the always popular Dallas Cowboys. The network was the only one to improve year-to-year, in the ratings with a 4.9 score for the game, up 29 percent over the Indianapolis/St. Louis game in 2006.
NBC had the next best score, with a 4.1 on Sunday Aug. 12 featuring a game between the Seahawks and the Bears, however that number was down 29 percent compared to 2006. ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” game between the Broncos and the 49ers, scored a 3.0 rating, down 19 percent year to year on Monday Aug. 13. CBS was right behind with a 2.9 household rating Fri. Aug. 10 with a game between the Bills and the Saints, down 17 percent. Of course, its preseason.
The NFL Network launched the season with its own game between the Redskins and the Titans, which drew a 0.5 for the game.
This week Pressbox sits down with new “MNF” play by play man Ron “Jaws” Jaworski who replaced Joe Theismann in the booth. Jaws played 17 years in the NFL as quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams (1973-76), Philadelphia Eagles (1977-86), Miami Dolphins (1987-88) and Kansas City Chiefs (1989) and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 1980.
He was in town for a Rams reunion and was candid about the importance of getting along in the broadcast booth as well as the problems with Arena Football.
There is so much history with MNF, what memories do you have from the broadcasts?
Jaws: I remember the very first game. I was in my dorm room at Youngstown St. University watching New York/Cleveland in the first Monday Night game. It was really the first thought that came to mind when they offered me the job. I thought “My God, I remember watching the first game of ‘Monday Night Football,’ and watched the history of it and played on it. I realized the importance and significance of it and I kind of pinched myself now that I’m going to be the guy breaking the game down. I consider it a privilege and look forward to it.
With Tony and Mike, you’ll be working with people who have been friends of yours for a long time. We’ve already seen your chemistry with Tony on “Pardon the Interruption.” How will it play out in the booth over the season?
Jaws: I think chemistry is the most important thing and really what the game is about. Michelle is going to do the sidelines, and Mike and Tony, we’ve all worked together for years. We all get along which is a great start. I think people will see that immediately, that we’re just people having fun. The game is great, we’re enjoying doing commentary and I think that’s what it’s going to be about. It’s not brain surgery. There’s no reason to complicate it.
What makes good chemistry on TV?
Jaws: I think people that genuinely like each other. Although Tony and I will see the game totally differently, there’s no question. Last year in May, he came up to NFL Films and sat with me because he wanted to learn some football, because Tony has got a different perspective on everything. He just wanted a little bit more knowledge and a little more depth to the game. We really had a good time talking about it.
I think form the “PTI” experience we’ve had through the years, we could poke some fun from each other. I’ve got thick skin. Hell, I’ve been booed by 70,000 and cheered by 70,000, sometimes in the same game.
That should make the Redskins-Eagles game and interesting battle in the broadcast booth, considering his D.C. connections and your Philly background.
Jaws: It will be fun. In week two, he’s already saying I’m going to paint my face and all that stuff. It’s gonna be great. I think that’s what it’s about. We know that game is really a record and we’re spinning that record. If the game is a great game we could put anybody in the booth. But I think we can enhance that game as well by presenting it in the right way. I can’t tell you how excited I am about it. It’s going to be a blast and people will notice the difference over last season real quick.
You’ve been called the ‘king of breaking down tape,’ did that come naturally to you?
Jaws: I think I’ve gotten to the point where I give instant analysis. I’ve already got my game plan for how I’m going to approach Monday Night Football. I’m going to look at it like I did as a player. I’m going to look at the last four games of each team on “MNF,” I’ll know their strengths, their weaknesses, what works and what doesn’t work.
I’ll have a pretty good template of how the two teams will play each other, so when something comes up and it’s a great play, I’ll say I saw that two weeks ago when Cincinnati played New Orleans and they ran the same thing and that’s why they put the three-wide package in.
That’s how to give insight and opinions and my job is to give insight. I think because I look at so much and I’ll still be doing the NFL Match-Up show, so I’ll be at NFL Films two days a week studying tape and breaking it down as they like to say. I’ll be able to instantly recognize what a team’s doing and what they are trying to do and tell the viewer why the play worked and why it didn’t. They can see a great play but I can say here’s exactly why that play worked and here’s whose fault it was.
I’ve found through the years that coaches respect what I do. The guys in the game respect the football side because I talk to coaches all the time, head coaches, assistant coaches, and coordinators. I don’t talk to them about Keyshawn’s contract, I don’t get into that stuff.
They love talking about strategy because that’s who they are. Coaches hate all the peripheral stuff, they like football. So when the piece comes out they call and saw “Great job Jaws, you nailed it.”
Have you ever been interested in coaching?
Jaws: I have been offered two coaching jobs. Turned them both down. When I retired I felt like my family had sacrificed so much that it was time I gave my kids that time. I did not want to take on a coaching career and be working 16 hours a day. It worked out fine, actually even better than fine because NFL Films is 20 minutes from my house. If I was living in Phoenix I probably wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity. I was very lucky.
Whose broadcast skills do you really enjoy watching?
Jaws: I really like Phil Simms, he has a good big picture look at the game. I worked with Phil on the NFL Match-Up show when studying tape and we kind of look at the game through the same eyes. I really like the way he approaches the game from a football perspective and yet there is just enough entertainment. That’s what I hope to bring to the table as well. I’ve always respected Phil Simms.
As an owner of the Philadelphia Arena Football League team, what does the AFL have to do now to gain popularity?
Jaws: Reach the next level. We’re getting there. I think next year will be a critical year in the growth of Arena Football. ESPN coming on board last year, a month before the season started meant that there was a quick ramp up here. ESPN did an unbelievable job.
I think its becoming more mainstream. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Arena Football League is the NFL, Major League Baseball or hockey, we’re still a little bit of a niche product. But we’ve been around for 21 years and it survived 21 years, I think once people have seen the game they’ll enjoy the game and now more people are watching the game. In Philly, we have over 16,000 fans. It’s been accepted as a major league sport in Philadelphia in the news at night.
In Philly, they have bought in, Chicago has bought in, New Orleans has bought in. The league needs to get out of Las Vegas where they are drawing 3500, get out of Grand Rapids, where they are drawing 4000. That will help.