Q&A with ESPN's Ron Jaworski
ESPN pro football analyst Ron Jaworski talks a million miles per hour. Why? Because it's impossible to talk any faster. The former Eagles quarterback has moved on to his second career as an NFL analyst. He's known for his passion, energy and obsessive review of videotape to prepare for broadcasts.
Jaworski will call Monday night's Bucs-Panthers game. On Friday, he took time out from breaking down video to chat with Times staff writer Tom Jones about how Jeff Garcia drives him crazy and how the Bucs might miss Monte Kiffin.
Your known for watching miles of videotape to get ready for a game. Exactly how much do you watch?
I try to get through at least the last four games of the teams who are going to be on Monday Night Football.
And you watch every play of every one of those games?
Yes, every play. Sometimes I’ll go back and look at a play 20 times, trying to find something unique or compelling about it. Maybe why the offense used a man-in-motion or a shift. It’s time consuming, but it does give me a template of what’s going to happen on Monday night. Maybe I’ll see a formation or a look that gives me a precursor to what’s going to happen.
And you do this in your office?
Yeah, I have an office at NFL Films (in Mount Laurel, New Jersey outside of Philadelphia). And I have access to everything. All the games from the past week, all the games from the season and, if I want, I can go down to the vault and get any game from the past 50 years. Talk about a great place to work for a whack job like me.
Do you ever go back and look at your old games?
I have, yes. Absolutely. I look a lot worse now than I thought I did. Sometime I watch myself and think, "Oh my God, you were awful!''
What do you see as the keys to Monday night's game between the Bucs and Panthers?
I told (MNF announcer Mike) Tirico that his is a manhood game. It's not about design, not about X's and O's. The way Tampa and Carolina are built, they are just two physical football teams. They're not going to wow you with all kind of trick formations and so forth. It's going to be two teams just lining up in tight formations and going at it.
Any particular match-ups that intrigue you?
For Tampa, it's how do you stop (Carolina wide receiver) Steve Smith? He single-handledly won that game at Green Bay last week with his catch in the last minute. (Quarterback) Jake Delhomme threw it up and it should've been intercepted, game over. Instead, Steve Smith comes down with an amazing catch and they win. He's an amazing talent and Tampa is going to have to figure out how to control him.
What have been your impressions of the Bucs this season?
Defensively, I've been absolute blown away. When I look at the Bucs defense, it's hard to explain, but you see an energy about them. They are so plugged in. They play with incredible discipline. I'm going to break down the Tampa Two defense for the NFL Matchup show. Everyone has heard of it, but not many know what exactly it is. And these guys play it the way it's supposed to be played. Hey, Rod Marinelli (coach of the winless Lions) plays the Tampa Two and it's not helping. (Laughs) It's about the players. They understand their roles and they play with that energy I talk about.
When you talk about energy, are there any players on that defense that you really notice? A player that plays with that energy that the rest of the team takes its cue from?
I really think (Barrett) Ruud is having a great year. He clearly has picked his game up another level. And I like watching Jermaine Phillips. He's a guy that the offense always needs to know where he is. He's a ferocious hitter. But, really, the entire defense plays with energy. You never see guys dogging it. I could do an entire show on guys around the league who dog it, but not one would be a player on the Bucs defense.
There's lots of talk that Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will leave after the season to join his son, Lane, at the University of Tennessee. Will that great effect the Bucs defense?
Of course it will. Monte and (Eagles defensive coordinator) Jim Johnson they are just old ornery guys. I mean that in a good way. They are just football coaches. Guys love being around them. I think it would be a huge loss if he decides to go to Tennessee. That's where the defense draws their energy. It has been that way since the Tony Dungy days there. Losing him, yeah, I think it will definitely hurt.
What do you think of Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia?
He drives me crazy! (Laughs) I mean in a fun way. I'm an old-school guy. Disciplined. Stay in your pocket. Find the open guy. Jeff, he gets to his back foot and then he won't throw it. I've always said Jeff leaves plays on the field. But then on the same play, he scrambles around, makes two guys miss and then throws the ball 50 yards down field to an open receiver. The thing you have to love is he takes care of the ball. He has a 1.1 percent interception percentage. That's phenomenal.
What about Bucs coach Jon Gruden? What are your thoughts on him?
I love Jon. One of my favorite coache sin the league. I know I'll probably make people angry down there, but when I look at their skill set, I don't see a whole lot. They don't have receivers who are going to line up just one-on-out and just flat-out beat you, not consistently. But with their tight formations and bunches, they run patterns and find a way to get guys open. To me, this is very similar to the Super Bowl championship team. Not a lot of great talent, but they get the job done. Although, I do think their offensive line is getting better every week.
Is that offense, along with the great defense good enough to take the Bucs on a long playoff run?
Well, it's premature because we’re only at the three-quarter pole of the season. But clearly this defense is among the best and yes, right now, I'd say that absolutely this team can go far.
Are you still enjoying doing Monday Night Football?
It has been way beyond my wildest expectations. It's a blast to work with the people I work with, and I'm not talking just about Tony (Kornheiser) and Mike (Tirico), I mean the whole crew. It has been a wonderful experience so far. Love every second of it.
Monday Night Football is always critiqued closely by fans and media, is it nice that, for the most part, you have been received pretty well by most?
Well, the calming effect is that no one really writes much about us. Usually, when someone writes about someone else, it's not a good thing. Usually, it's the guys being criticized who have a lot written about them. So I guess people have accepted us, and that's nice. But to be honest, I don't read much of the critiques or the blogs. I'm too busy looking at tape.