The “Thursday Night Football” clips of George Halas and Tom Landry were a reminder there was a time when NFL head coaches wore suits, ties and fedoras.
Coaches now stalk the sidelines modeling workout wear that’s team-branded, league-sanctioned and available-for-purchase online while you watch.
If hoodies are good enough for the Bears’ Matt Nagy and Cowboys’ Jason Garrett -- and clearly they are -- why not TV analyst Troy Aikman under a overcoat in the broadcast booth? What’s wrong with Joe Buck in a sweater?
“America has spoken. Does America like our casual look?” Buck said to Aikman after calling the Bears’ 31-21 victory over the Cowboys in prime time Thursday for Fox and NFL Network.
“I’m not so sure,” Aikman said.
Both announcers had to be vaguely aware social media’s fashionistas did not exactly embrace what Fox’s stylists picked out for them to wear. But it’s a relief they have a sense of humor.
Pregame host Michael Strahan had taken a playful shot at their duds before kickoff, perhaps resentful he was stuck in necktie.
“This game is anything but casual, but those outfits you’re wearing -- it looks like you two are just chilling,” Strahan chided them.
There may have been an agenda at play, however, seeing as how Strahan’s dig was followed soon after by a sponsored bit narrated by ex-Bear Peanut Tillman that showcased a Chicago tailor who outfits players with fancy game-day threads.
In any case, the criticism seemed unwarranted. It’s not as though they wore puffy shirts.
Looking carefree can take a lot of effort, the announcers’ overall ensembles appeared upscale and, unlike Nagy and Garrett, they didn’t sport gaudy logos.
But let’s take a look at other winners and losers from watching this edition of “TNF," which should have everyone realizing Nagy’s team isn’t as bad as it seemed back in October.
Winner: Mitch Trubisky.
The embattled Bears quarterback’s improvement in recent weeks culminated in his best performance of the season, if not his career, against the Cowboys.
“He’s playing great football right now,” said Buck, and Aikman added that Thursday’s game was “arguably the shining moment of his young career.”
But more significant, Trubisky has people in Packerland worried. Packers announcer Wayne Larrivee tweeted in the second half: “Here’s my concern, it looks like it is clicking in for Mitchell Trubisky and that is not a good thing for the rest of the NFC North!”
Loser: Erin Andrews.
Not a lot of airtime for Andrews, who drew the Cowboys sideline assignment. Even including her pregame scene-setter, Andrews only had around 96 seconds on Thursday’s telecast, with less than a minute of that on-camera.
Kristina Pink had even less exposure as the Bears sideline reporter, but she supplemented it during the pregame show with an Allen Robinson feature and a postgame on-field chat with Trubisky.
Winner: Joe Lintzenich.
Buck didn’t mention Lintzenich by name. But talking about Bears Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski, he slipped in a mention that Nagurski was “a teammate of my grandfather’s with the Chicago Bears for George Halas back in 1930 and ’31.”
Aikman: “How about that? You’ve got good bloodlines!”
Buck: “Yeah, I don’t know what happened athletically, but they stopped. They hit a roadblock.”
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Had Buck referred to his maternal grandfather by name, he also might have shared that he was named for Lintzenich, whose 94-yard punt in 1931 matched an NFL record that survived until 1969.
Loser: The officials.
NFL officiating this season would seem less erratic if games weren’t televised. Unfortunately viewers could see for themselves Thursday that, while officials are hyperaware of illegal blocks, face-masking eludes them.
Winner: Amazon Prime.
Amazon Prime’s “Thursday Night Football” stream may lag the live action available via TV, but it offers fans the ability to customize their viewing experience, which is always welcome. Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer largely played it straight, which was fine as far as it went but not an improvement on Buck and Aikman. The United Kingdom audio, on the other hand, had novelty going for it.
“He keeps it for the umpteenth time in this game -- Trubisky has himself a touchdown,” Scotland’s Derek Rae said on Trubisky’s 23-yard, fourth-quarter score. “Mitch Trubisky really prospering here at Soldier Field.”
Cue Irish partner Tommy Smyth: “Well the festive season has started early for him. … He just reads the defense very well, but then he decides, ‘Oh, look at the room!’ And then, when he makes the cut back inside, that’s all she wrote, folks, because he’s in the end zone. Wow, I wouldn’t like to be at practice with the Cowboys from here on in.”
Now imagine the accents. That’s entertainment.
Loser: Fox’s Bears-Cowboys opening montage.
Sure, as the intro noted, Mike Ditka spent 17 years in the Bears organization, first as a player (1961-66) and then head coach (1982-92). But it seems myopic to completely ignore that Ditka spent nearly as long -- 13 years -- with the Cowboys as a player (1969-72) and assistant coach (1973-81).
Also, it was weird that linebacker great Mike Singletary was correctly ID’ed in one graphic as having played for the Bears from 1981-92 in one shot, but 2000-12 in the next. (That was actually Brian Urlacher’s tenure with the team.)
Winner: Kyle Long.
Bears lineman Long, on injured reserve, offered his own commentary on top of the game coverage via Amazon’s Twitch, attracting an average of around 900 viewers at any given time. He’s no threat to replace his studio analyst dad, but the experience akin to watching the game in a room with him had its raw charm.
“Look at A-Rob, what a beast!” Long said as Robinson caught a touchdown pass late in the first half, and Eddy Pineiro’s extra-point kick had him applauding.
“Nice, Eddy,” Long said. “Can we get some claps? Can we get some golf claps for Eddy? Nice job, guys. Look at Mitch. Fired up. Hell yeah, kid. Hell yeah.”
Loser: The NFC East.
When Buck is making fun of you, it’s not a good sign. But there;'s no way around the absurdity of the Cowboys leading the division at 6-7.
“The good news (for the Cowboys) is they live in a land called the NFC East,” Buck said, latter adding, “By law, some team has to win and go to the playoffs.”
Winner: The King School.
With Kevin Pierre-Louis subbing for injured Roquan Smith, Kremer prodded Storm to mention where Pierre-Louis went to high school. The push had a purpose. Turns out Storm’s daughters also went to the King School in Stamford, Conn.
Loser: The Cowboys coaching staff.
Network telecasts rarely include criticism as pointed as former Cowboy Aikman’s explanation for why he doubts Dallas owner Jerry Jones will fire Garrett before the season is over.
“You have to ask yourself who on that staff has earned the right to be an interim head coach,” Aikman said. “I can’t think of one guy who’s done a good enough job at his position, much less a coordinator, that you would put in that seat. So I wouldn’t envision anything happening, but you never know.”