Updated, 7:30 p.m. ET
Sunday in Seattle, Marv Albert will turn 100.
How’s that again?
No, Albert, the legendary announcer of NBA, NHL and NFL games in New York and around the country, is not celebrating his 100th birthday. But he will be calling his 100th Jets game on network television when the Green & White take on the Seahawks.
“Great. Now it becomes an emotional game for me,” Albert told me by phone from Portland with his trademark sardonic wit.
In reality, Albert didn’t know that he’d done 99 Jets games over the years, but it’s true. The man who many in the New York area of a certain age remember as the Knicks and Rangers play-by-play man as they were growing up and has become known as “The Voice of Basketball” for his extensive NBA work, also has a long career as one of the NFL’s stable of game announcers. My TV records before ’65 are spotty but Marv may be only the third announcer to call 100 Jets games, joining Curt Gowdy and Charlie Jones in that exclusive club.
“I go back as a kid listening to the Titans. I remember listening to Bob Murphy and Merle Harmon during the Harry Wismer era, which was rather unorthodox,” Marv reminisced about the first owner of the AFL franchise that grew into the Jets.
“Over the years, the memories that stand out to me are the success of the Sack Exchange and that particular era. What a great team that was to cover for me. Those teams reminded me of the Knicks of the Seventies and the Islanders of the Eighties. Not only were they a good team but they were terrific to talk to, just a great group.”
Some memorable Jets games he worked were the 1994 Dan Marino “fake spike” game against Miami and the ’92 game vs. Kansas City in which Dennis Byrd suffered his paralyzing injury. He also called three Jets playoff games, including the winning home effort over the Chiefs in ’86.
But before Albert got to Klecko, Gastineau, Lyons, Salaam, Kenny O’Brien, Wesley Walker, Byrd and the rest, he began calling Jets games in the somber late Seventies. He started out on NBC in 1977 and his first Jets game was in fact the ’77 season opener against the Oilers in the Astrodome, “a terrible place to do TV.” His partner that day — and in fact the partner with whom he called the most Jets games over the years, 28 in all — was Paul Maguire.
He also worked the Jets with other NFL names such as Len Dawson, John Brodie, Bob Griese, Cris Collinsworth, Bob Trumpy, Randy Cross, Sam Wyche and former Jets kicker Jim Turner.
“The networks finally got wise to keeping the same people together,” Marv recalled. “Early on, they would switch people around, switch producers, which was not good if you wanted to get accustomed to your partner.
Albert was paired with Joe Namath — “a real kick for me,” Marv said — for nine Jets games in 1987-88. His Parcells period — “Bill was a lot of fun” — was for five games in 1991-92. His last Jets game for NBC was Game 2 in 1997 with Cross. The AFC franchise was picked up by CBS in ’98 and although he worked the occasional Jets Monday night game on Westwood One Radio from 2002-09, he didn’t work the NFL on CBS until last season, when he was teamed up with Rich Gannon. Marv and Rich will be doing their fifth Jets game together on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
“I love working with Rich. In terms of breaking down an offense, he’s worked with so many quarterbacks and even spent some time with Mark Sanchez a couple of years ago,” Albert said. “He has such a great feel and his remarks, which we’ll get into Sunday about Sanchez and Tim Tebow and what’s going on there are right on target.
“But what’s great is he’s so passionate in terms of he just loves sitting down with the coaches and the offense. Before each game we usually sit down with the head coach, the offensive and defensive coordinators, the quarterback and maybe one other player. And they’re asking Rich questions. That used to happen with Bill Parcells a lot. And I find that happens with Rich. He’s so respected around the league.”
As for what Marv sees for him, Gannon, the Jets and their fans on Sunday, he said, “The strange thing is they can still make the playoffs. But I think it’s a tough game Sunday with that crowd, and it’s a game the Jets have to win. It’s so hard if they don’t win here.”
And, Albert admitted, “From a TV point of view, we wouldn’t mind seeing Tebow.”
Some good news on the Jets’ injury front was second-year DT Kenrick Ellis doing limited work during team drills. It’s the first practice Ellis has been able to work even on a limited basis since hurting his knee against Houston on Oct. 8. Injury report update: TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist) was full-go for the first time in two weeks. DT Damon Harrison (thumb) was added to the list as fully practicing. S LaRon Landry (heel) as usual was listed as limited after being full-go Wednesday and likely full on Friday.
The Seahawks had some good and bad to report. The good: WR Braylon Edwards (knee) was limited today after not practicing Wednesday. The bad: CB Richard Sherman (illness) and DE Greg Scruggs (oblique) were added today as DNPs. RB Marshawn Lynch (back/wrist) also was another of the ‘Hawks’ now eight DNPs, sitting out his second practice this week.
Tags: CBS, Dan Marino, Dennis Byrd, fake spike, Harry Wismer, Kenny O'Brien, Kenrick Ellis, Marv Albert, NBC, Rich Gannon, Sack Exchange
Posted in Randy Lange | 13 Comments »
The Jets briefly celebrated their win over the Patriots Sunday in the visitors’ locker room at Gillette Stadium, but they have only reached the halfway point on their playoff journey.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Bart Scott. “I’m so happy for my coach and this city that has endured so much. We still have a lot more to go. The mission isn’t complete, but right now we’re going to enjoy this one until Tuesday.”
Even though the team plane was decorated with green and white balloons, there was no victory party Sunday night. When Jets owner Woody Johnson was asked about Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez’s 3-2 mark against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, he preferred to look ahead.
“We’re going to be focused on the Steelers this week and not on records. The only records that are important to Rex and the people in the room right now are going all the way and trying to accomplish the objective that we’ve set out to do and we haven’t done in quite a few decades,” said Mr. J. only moments after accepting a congratulatory handshake from Patriots owner Robert Kraft. “It’s to win that Super Bowl. That’s what we’re here for, that’s our job and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
The “Madbacker” was fired up Sunday evening, feeling that the man he followed to New York had been disrespected in the days leading up to the AFC Divisional Round clash at Gillette Stadium.
“They made it personal for me by attacking my coach. He takes a lot of flak for believing in his team and taking the pressure off his team,” he said. “I’ll go to war with a coach that is willing to put himself on the front line instead of dictating from a tower and letting his troops go into battle. He’s in there going to battle with us like so many other great leaders. You think about Hannibal, Genghis Khan. Now you can add Rex Ryan to that.”
For the second time in as many years, the Jets have advanced to the conference final. They were ready to lace them up Saturday night after alum Dennis Byrd stood before the club at their team meeting.
“A lot of people gave us no shot. I’m like, ‘No shot?’ I’m sure Dennis Byrd heard that, too, when they told him he would never walk again,” said Scott. “It was very inspirational to see him in there as a walking testament, a modern-day miracle, I believe. I had a cousin that had that same type of injury. For Dennis to battle back and not feel sorry for himself and choose to come in on a Saturday evening 18 years after the incident happened, to choose to inspire us, is overwhelming.”
After the Jets built a 14-3 halftime advantage over the Patriots, Scott knew the job was hardly complete and he touched Byrd’s No. 90 jersey before returning to the action.
“Before I went out of the second half, I knew we still had a lot of work left to do and that team was going to make adjustments and play hard. I grabbed that jersey, I held that jersey, I squeezed that jersey and I kissed that jersey,” he said. “And I let that jersey inspire me to continue, to fight the fight the whole way through.”
The Jets manhandled Tom Brady, sacking him five times in his house and frustrating the future Hall of Famer with tremendous coverage. The Jets were heavy underdogs heading into the contest but most people overlooked Ryan’s point that they had a roster that had played in 196 playoff games since 2005 while the Pats had amassed just 101 over the same time.
“In reviewing the tape, we discovered that he wasn’t so invincible,” Scott said of Brady. “We realized in the playoffs, he’s had like a 66 quarterback rating since his last Super Bowl and realized, in the playoffs, he’s just as average as any other quarterback. And we believed that when we looked at our roster, we had more playoff experience than that roster had and yet we weren’t getting enough knowledge and credit for being in the moment and having been to the Dance before.”
While a road sweep of the Peyton Manning-led Colts and the Bill Belichick/Brady-led Pats is most impressive, the Green & White are just at the midway point. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers stand in the way of the Jets’ first Super Bowl appearance since Jan. 12, 1969, and New York’s AFC representative will be underdogs on the road for a sixth consecutive time in the playoffs.
And these road warriors, who were just 30 minutes from reaching the Super Bowl last year, have every intention of making travel plans for Dallas.
“We just continue to believe in ourselves, man,” Scott said.
Tags: Bart Scott, Dennis Byrd, New England Patriots, PIttsburgh Steelers, Rex Ryan, Tom Brady
Posted in Eric Allen | 7 Comments »
We’re less than 90 minutes away from the next great Jets-Patriots battle. And all of Jets Nations hopes, prays, expects — knows — that this game’s outcome will be different than the teams’ Dec. 6 unclose shave at Gillette Stadium.
The Jets have done everything they can to turn that night’s 45-3 embarrassment into a wonderful playoff win in what head coach Rex Ryan has called “the second biggest game in Jets history.”
There is tough injury news contained in the Jets’ just released inactive list, however: Brad Smith has been deactivated. The very valuable kickoff returner, special teams standout and Seminole pointman suffered a groin pull last Saturday night at Indianapolis, was limited in practice and will not be on the field to take on the Patriots.
That’s a difficult loss, but the Jets will carry on. Antonio Cromartie was seen moments ago warming up by tearing down the left sideline, each stride just inches inbounds. Perhaps he’s preparing for the hoped-for few kickoff returns the Jets will have to field today.
As for the Seminole, which Ryan and OC Brian Schottenheimer have said is an important part of what the Jets do on offense, there’s no indication if that won’t be used today or if there is a new wrinkle to take its place.
But Drew Coleman, the other injured player whose availability wasn’t certain on Friday, will be active, as will 28-year-old rookie Isaiah Trufant, who could be making his NFL debut. With the Jets again playing light on the DL, it would appear the defensive approach vs. Tom Brady and company will be heavy in the coverage area.
As Ryan has said, the week was spent implementing a game plan for both sides of the ball that “removed the gray” from responsibilities, something Ryan felt he and his staff didn’t do enough of back in December, and will enable the Jets to play with maximum aggressiveness.
And the coach as always did a few things that may not make a huge difference, but taken together may have helped provide the right atmosphere for the team to enter this game. Ryan brought in Jets icon Dennis Byrd to speak to the team last night and to attend the game today. WR Braylon Edwards among others noted how inspirational his message was and perhaps helped the Jets get that extra little edge in focus.
The detail work perhaps has even extended to the selection of today’s game uniforms. Because the Patriots are wearing their home blue jerseys, the Jets have to wear white tops. But their pants today will be green.
White and green may not sound weird, but it is Ryan’s least favorite sartorial combo for his team — the Jets have worn it only once before in his two years at the helm, for last year’s Game 5 loss at Miami.
However, the last time the Jets won at New England, on Thursday night in 2008, their uniforms that night were white jerseys and green pants. Does it mean anything? Probably not. Probably not.
A Weather Eye
At the moment, the weather appears to be rather benign for Foxboro, Mass., on a Sunday afternoon in mid-January. Temps are in the low to mid 30s and it’s been mostly sunny all afternoon. However, the winds, now calm, could whip up to 20 mph, and the wind chill will definitely drop as late afternoon turns into evening.
Nick Folk seemed to be hitting his long field goals well, even into the closed end of Gillette Stadium, toward which he missed back on Dec. 6.
Besides Smith, these are the Jets inactives: FB John Conner, DE Vernon Gholston, TEs Matt Mulligan and Jeff Cumberland, and DTs Jarron Gilbert and Marcus Dixon. Kellen Clemens is again the third QB.
Among the 45 Jets active players, then, are RB Joe McKnight and Trufant. Both were inactive for the Colts game last week.
The Patriots’ inactives: WR Taylor Price, RBs Fred Taylor and Thomas Clayton, CB Tony Carter, LB Marques Murrell (the former Jet), OL Rich Ohrnberger, T Mark LeVoir and DL Myron Pryor. The Pats do not list a third QB. All six of the players listed as limited in Friday’s practice and questionable for this game are in fact active.
Today’s gameday captains: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, S James Ihedigbo, FB Tony Richardson, LB David Harris, DT Mike DeVito and C Nick Mangold. A nice mix of big names and Massachusetts connections.
Today’s referee is Bill Leavy. This is Leavy’s 12th Jets game as ref since his first in 2001, “the Shrek Game” at Carolina. Leavy also worked this year’s Bills game at Buffalo. And he’s presided over two Jets playoff games — the 2004 AFC Divisional Round overtime loss at Pittsburgh and the 2009 Wild Card Game at Cincinnati.
Tags: Bill Leavy, Brad Smith, Dennis Byrd, Drew Coleman, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 30 Comments »
Dennis Byrd has always been a symbol of inspiration for the Jets and their fans. He came to the Jets as a second-round pick out of Tulsa in 1989 and became a top sacker at DE and DT for four seasons, until he broke his neck and was paralyzed in a collision during the Jets’ game with the Chiefs at the Meadowlands in 1992.
After extensive physical therapy, Byrd arose and walked again. He went to midfield as an honorary captain for the opening coin toss on opening day in 1993, coauthored “Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd,” and for a number of years has undertaken speaking engagements and shared his story.
He doesn’t frequently visit the Jets, but Saturday night and today he’s with his former team. Head coach Rex Ryan, a dedicated supporter of the traditions of the franchise, invited Byrd to Providence, R.I., where the Jets are staying before they head to Foxboro, Mass., to play the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round Game this afternoon. Byrd spoke to the team last night and he’ll be in attendance at today’s game.
For a little extra dose of encouragement, who better to speak with the Jets than the man for whom the team’s Dennis Byrd Most Inspirational Award is named after.
Tags: Dennis Byrd, New England Patriots, Providence, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 23 Comments »