This is not simply sideline for Wilcots
ESPN reporter works to give viewers more
By Howard Manly, Globe Staff, 09/01/00
Solomon Wilcots knows he has limited time on camera as a sideline reporter during ESPN's Sunday night NFL telecasts.
The former Cincinnati Bengals defensive back also knows that the impact of a coaching change on a team's playbook often is more complicated than that of a star player simply going to another team.
How, then, does Wilcots give viewers an explanation of things most haven't seen?
``Quickly and to the point,'' Wilcots said. ``There are three important questions whenever a change occurs in either the head coaching job or offensive and defensive coordinators. Do the players buy into the system? Do the coaches have a reputable reputation and proven success? Is there a potential to make big plays?''
Not every situation is the same. Wilcots explained that Bill Belichick, for example, coached in New England during the Bill Parcells era, and, as a result, the players are familiar with his style and system. ``The learning curve is not as steep,'' Wilcots said. ``There may be a few new wrinkles but no real problems.''
To give a tangible example, Wilcots cited Dana Stubblefield, the high-priced defensive lineman with the Washington Redskins. When Stubblefield played with the San Francisco 49ers, he not only made the All-Pro team but was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. His performance dropped off considerably during his first two years with the 'Skins.
``In San Francisco, Stubblefield was able to penetrate and get up the field,'' Wilcots said. ``But in Washington he was asked to control the line of scrimmage. He was less agggressive and performing poorly on the field. It was not entirely his fault. The system precluded him from utilizing his skills.''
Wilcots also pointed out the difference in Cris Carter. When the wide receiver played for the Philadelphia Eagles, he was considered no better than average. He was traded to Minnesota, which then hired Jerry Burns as its offensive coordinator. Burns had worked under Joe Gibbs in Washington and won the 1992 Super Bowl by using three wide receivers. Burns implemented that system in Minnesota, and now Carter is on his way to the Hall of Fame.
``It's the system that enabled Carter to use his skills to operate in the middle of the field as opposed to the sidelines,'' Wilcots said. ``It was a great marriage.''
Wilcots and CBS's Armen Keteyian are two of the best sideline reporters working today. They know the game and are able to explain quickly, simply, and clearly, the result of production meetings where producers and talent on-air map out their game strategies.
When ABC hired comedian Dennis Miller as an analyst on ``Monday Night Football'' games, the network was taking its chances by entertaining rather than informing. Humor is fine, but in the end viewers want to watch a game and come away with a deeper understanding of what transpired.
They all can talk the talk
Boston television stations are ready. Channel 5's ``Patriots All Access'' kicks off the 2000 season tomorrow at 11 a.m. with a show featuring a profile of quarterback Drew Bledsoe by WEEI's John Dennis. The one-hour weekly show, with Mike Lynch as host, also will have two regular segments with coach Bill Belichick - a discussion of the previous and upcoming games, and a ``Chalk Talk'' in which the team's new head man breaks down a play. Lynch will be joined by Channel 5's Mike Dowling and the Boston Herald's Kevin Mannix . . . Channel 5 has two ``Monday Night Football'' games involving the Patriots this season, and both will have hour-long pregame shows produced by sports director Mike Fernandez. The Patriots play the New York Jets Sept. 11 and the Kansas City Chiefs Dec. 4 . . . The majority of the Patriots' games will be shown on Channel 4, the CBS affiliate. Bob Lobel hosts six ``Fifth Quarter'' postgame shows . . . The season-opening pregame show on flagship radio station WBCN (104.1 FM) will feature former Patriots running back Craig James, now with CBS-TV's pregame show, as the guest of Bill Abbate and ex-Patriots Pete Brock and Tim Fox. The show will begin at 10 a.m. and continue to the 1 p.m. kickoff. The postgame show will feature former New England safety Roland James. A couple of other ex-Patriots are lined up for future shows. Cornerback Ronnie Lippett will be on after the Jets game Sept. 11, and defensive end Brent Williams be on after the game against Minnesota Sept. 17 . . . WEEI (850 AM) will begin another season of ``NFL Sunday'' from 9 a.m. to noon, with talk show host Dale Arnold, ex-Patriot Steve Nelson, Mannix, Ron Hobson of the Quincy Patriot Ledger, and Sports Illustrated writer Peter King. The station then will go to the Red Sox-Yankees game, followed by a CBS Radio broadcast of the Tennessee-Buffalo game at 4 p.m. WEEI will also carry CBS's radio coverage of the Monday night game between Denver and St. Louis, at 9 . . . A recent NFL ruling will enable Boston viewers to see more games as well this season. The ridiculous rule that prohibited a network from showing a doubleheader if the local team plays at home has been abolished. The change is part of a one-year experiment approved by the NFL's Broadcast Committee.
Jim Greenidge of the Globe staff contributed to this report.