Reviewing Brian Billick In The Booth
The Ravens’ defense and special teams aren’t the only folks having a good exhibition season. Their former head coach, Brian Billick, isn’t doing so bad himself.
Billick is having a nice time in the broadcast booth on the simulcasts of the team’s preseason games. Not as good as, say, kicker Justin Tucker or quarterback Josh Woodrum, but good nonetheless.
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Through the first two games, Billick is doing a bang-up job as color analyst alongside play-by-play man Gerry Sandusky. The pair are getting along famously and bringing the viewer/listener along for the ride.
That Billick and Sandusky are so solidly matched should come as no surprise. Billick regularly displayed his intellectual curiosity during his eight years as coach, while Sandusky is consistently witty and urbane both in the Ravens’ radio booth and in his regular job as weeknight sportscaster at WBAL television.
Together, they represent a marked improvement in the usual blather you usually hear from football booths. To wit, when was the last time you heard someone riff on the use of the word tertiary, as Sandusky and Billick did Thursday in the third quarter of the Ravens’ 31-7 drubbing of the Miami Dolphins?
Billick, who was a Fox game analyst, would be sensational on Ravens’ broadcasts, once he settled into the mechanics of working the radio, rather than television.
The team’s decision to make this year’s preseason game broadcasts more television-friendly does not help Billick or the radio audience, as he has consistently through two weeks made references to things that a home viewer can see, but not someone who is listening only.
But Billick has an innate ability to pick what appears to be complex apart and make it simple to a broad audience, which is the essence of a successful sports television analyst.
Billick says things that you can take into a discussion with a buddy and say and sound intelligent. His observation, on Ryan Mallett’s touchdown throw to Larry Donnell, that there’s nothing harder for a quarterback to do than to throwing to a wide-open receiver, was both simple, but astute.
Billick is by, no means, perfect. His enthusiasm, at times, boils over into the mechanics of the game. He needs to slow down, especially at the beginning of the telecast, where it seems as though he has a million thoughts that he is trying to dispense all at once.
More substantively, Billick would do well to dispel the idea that, besides wearing the golf shirt with the team’s logo, he’s a Ravens broadcaster, not a broadcaster calling Ravens games.
That’s a distinction that is lost on many local announcers these days, but Billick ought to be above that.
Right off the top of the broadcast, Billick said “We’ve lost Dennis Pitta.” Sorry, but the use of the plural personal pronoun should always be a red flag for announcers, who are supposed to maintain a veneer of impartiality.
It’s odd enough to have Billick calling the action of his former franchise. Having him say “We” makes it even stranger.
And speaking of things that have been said, how is it, through two game telecasts, that neither Sandusky nor Billick have said the name Colin Kaepernick?
Look, there are legitimate arguments to be made for why Kaepernick should or shouldn’t be on the Ravens’ roster. But we’re not hearing any of them from either side from either Billick or Sandusky.
It’s not as if Mallett’s play to date has completely precluded any discussion of Kaepernick. Mallett has been mostly inconsistent, and a healthy chat about his strengths and weaknesses relative to Kaepernick’s would be interested and certainly merited.
Everyone in town has an opinion about whether Colin Kaepernick should be a Raven. It’s high time we heard the views of the two guys calling their games.
Joe Flacco won’t be the only person seeing his first action of the 2017 season with the Ravens’ opener.
The announcers who will call the Baltimore-Cincinnati contest on September 10, namely Spero Dedes and former safety Adam Archuleta, will make their debut as a tandem.
Dedes, a veteran of NFL booths, and Archuleta, who spent most of his eight-year NFL career with the then-St. Louis Rams, are one of five new CBS NFL booth pairings for the coming season.
Ravens viewers will get to see two of the new tandems in the first four weeks of the season, as the network announced its assignments for the first quarter of the 2017 campaign.
Andrew Catalon and Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton will call the following two Baltimore games, the 1 p.m. home opener against Cleveland Sept. 17, and the following Sunday’s game with Jacksonville in London at 9:30 a.m.
In Week Four, the Baltimore-Pittsburgh clash will draw CBS’ No.2 team of Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, and Evan Washburn, who is serving as Ravens’ sideline reporter this summer, fulfilling the same duties for the network.
The history of the Ravens-Steelers clashes certainly warrants a heavyweight assignment, but the fact that CBS owns the stations in the two cities is no small factor in bringing Eagle, Fouts and Washburn to town.
Indeed, as the principal AFC telecaster, CBS and WJZ, the local network affiliate, figure to air as many as 11 regular Ravens games. So, if the season goes well for the locals, you could see a lot more of the No. 2 team. If not, well, get ready for a steady does of Catalon/Lofton or Dedes/Archuleta.
Of course, the high-profile CBS pairing is that of Jim Nantz and former Dallas quarterback Tony Romo as its No.1 team. They will make their debut in the Kansas City-Seattle exhibition closer August 25. They, and sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, will go to Nashville for the season opener to call the Oakland-Tennessee contest.
CBS will also add Beth Mowins to its play-by-play mix, albeit for one game in Week Three between Cleveland and Indianapolis. Mowins is already slated to make history September 11 when she calls the Los Angeles Rams-Denver game, becoming the first woman in 30 years to announce an NFL contest, and only the second overall.
Milton Kent is a veteran of Baltimore and Maryland journalism.
Kent began a long association with the Baltimore Sun in 1985, serving as the Evening Sun’s Howard County reporter for 2 ½ years before joining the paper’s features department as an entertainment writer in 1988.
In the following year, Kent began covering men’s and women’s college basketball for the Evening Sun, concentrating on the Maryland men’s and women’s teams. He continued covering college basketball when the writing staffs of the Evening and Morning Suns merged in 1991.
From there, he covered the Orioles for three seasons before becoming one of the nation’s first fulltime sports media critics for parts of six years. In 2000, he began covering the NBA until 2004, when he launched a high school sports column, which he wrote until he left the Sun in 2008.
Kent joined the staff of AOL Fanhouse, an online sports operation in 2009, covering sports media and women’s basketball, until operations ceased in 2011. He then joined the faculty at Morgan State University in the fall of 2011, where he has taught until the present day.
In addition to writing for various platforms, including Sports Illustrated.com and TV Guide, Kent has hosted “Sports At Large,” a weekly commentary program airing on WYPR (88.1 FM) since 2002.