It is not difficult to find compelling NFL Films footage of a New York quarterback dealing with tense in-game circumstances with the kind of candor that could come back to haunt him, so to speak.
No, I’m not referring to Jets quarterback Sam Darnold’s now-infamous “I’m seeing ghosts’’ remark late in the first half of the Patriots’ 33-0 dismantling of him and his team last Monday night.
That situation, which raised the ire of Jets coach Adam Gase — he thought ESPN should have had the discretion not to air the comment from the beleaguered and mic’d-up second-year quarterback — became the hot-button topic of the week, at least once the din over Tom Brady’s amusing cameo on Paul Rudd’s new Netflix show faded.
I’m referring to something from a different era, when NFL teams weren’t so uptight about what fans heard and saw, and perhaps even recognized that some benefit came by letting us listen in on the juicy stuff.
I mean, do you remember how Phil Simms and Bill Parcells talked to each other? Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly like they were discussing that week’s episode of “Dallas’’ over afternoon tea.
The Giants’ legendary coach and star quarterback were brutally blunt to each other in the heat of a game. And if NFL Films didn’t share everything its microphones picked up, it sure seemed like it did.
The Giants.com website features a short documentary on the relationship between Simms and Parcells. Some of the NFL Films clips within are familiar, some are not, but they are something to behold, especially in the wake of the Jets’ how-could-they-dare-air-this? reaction to the Darnold clip.
In my favorite clip, Simms is heard telling someone on the sideline about how he told an opposing player to get his “fat [hindquarters] off the field.’’ Parcells immediately lights him up. “Shut up, Simms,’’ he says with disdain in his voice. “Now don’t be a [expletive] no-class player.’’
Says Parcells at another point in the documentary: “[Phil] could take it. He was not sensitive. I could use him as a whipping boy on purpose. Which I would.’’
This is the kind of stuff that makes NFL Films as revered as it is, and Ed and Steve Sabol’s creation deserves all of that reverence. The way the league and its characters are portrayed through NFL Films has done nothing but benefit the NFL — heck, the most interesting thing about the Jets remains Joe Namath’s guarantee of Super Bowl victory 50 years ago. NFL Films was a significant part of sharing and sustaining that piece of NFL lore. NFL Films has told the story of the league’s history in all the right ways.
If you’re a Patriots fan, think about those most satisfying moments in the delightful days after the team has won its six Super Bowls. The parades are special, of course, but you know what else is really fun? The revealing of what NFL Films captured from those championship seasons, whether on the official Super Bowl video, “3 Games to Glory,’’ or the more specific films such as “Do Your Job,’’ when we find out about behind-the-scenes gems such as how Malcolm Butler was prepared for the “Go Malcolm!’’ moment in Super Bowl XLIX.
The Jets are on the opposite end of that spectrum for now, and Darnold’s confession about the ghosts captured that hopelessness. But the Jets’ anger that ESPN aired it — after an on-site NFL Films representative gave the OK to using it — is as misguided as Gase’s game plan last Monday night.
As Parcells and Simms proved many years ago, comments that come in the heat of battle, in the frustration of a night’s work going wrong, are fair game.
It was an honest and fascinating confession, and one Darnold should not and did not seem to be embarrassed about. The camera and microphone did what they were intended to do: capture an honest and interesting vignette that helped tell the story of the game. Oh, the horror.
The NFL and its broadcast partners know the value of this. Typically a team’s quarterback and coach are mic’d up once a season, usually during a “Monday Night Football’’ game on ESPN. ESPN requested that Darnold be mic’d up, and the Jets signed off.
Gase, who should have bigger things to worry about, suggested that his team might not cooperate with the mic’d-up segments anymore. “Yeah, I think we’ll be looking into that pretty hard,’’ Gase said Tuesday. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that, where somebody that was mic’d up was basically — a comment like that was allowed to be aired.’’
Maybe the Jets should have had the foresight to recognize that putting a microphone on a 22-year-old quarterback against the league’s top defense wasn’t the best idea. But once they signed off, any clean comments that weren’t mean or insulting were fair game.
Good thing that the Jets are scheduled to play in prime time just once more this season. They’ve already proven they’re not ready for what comes with it, in more ways than one.