ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 15

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ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 15

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson previewed the NFL’s week 15 games with insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Comments from today’s show:

On what to expect from first-time Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Johnny Manziel …

Carter: “I expect him to be a football player in the NFL. I really believe that he has the capability of being a quarterback, and there’s only a few of them under six feet, that can have some success. … I look for him to make plays. I look for him to throw the ball between 20-25 times. I believe there’s other quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, if put in the right system with other people around him.”

Jackson: “This move was inevitable. He was going to start. We just didn’t know when he was going to start. … Everything that I did during the draft, studying Johnny Manziel, tells me he’s gonna make plays. Yes, he’s going to have some rookie mistakes. … But he’s also electric.”

Johnson: “I am a wait-and-see guy in this situation. … I need more than eight minutes of a football game a couple of weeks ago from behind when the defense is playing soft and I can run around and score a touchdown and then all of a sudden it becomes a hype movement.”

Ditka: “You drafted him to play and he can play. The other kid has played bad.”

Berman: “Personally, I would’ve let (Brian) Hoyer finish this up, but I get it.”

On the struggles of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, following reporter Jim Trotter’s Countdown conversation with Kaepernick

Jackson: “There’s something so appealing about Colin Kaepernick, the person. I think the dynamic of how he played football I think got everyone excited. … He preaches about the coaching staff but I think that they haven’t done a great job of taking advantage of the things that we saw him do well. … His ability to get out and use his legs was part of what made him as a quarterback. And, I just looked at him in the pocket – equally uncomfortable in the pocket as any quarterback I’ve seen when it comes to that pressure coming to you and understanding where the exit doors are, keeping your head up, delivering the ball down the field.”

Johnson: “I think he will get better. It’s too early to write the book on who he is. As a football player, he had instant success immediately, and we’ve seen players in all leagues come out on fire and then all of a sudden they have to make those adjustments.”

Ditka: “He has unique skill. Let him use it. I don’t see him as a drop-back in the pocket quarterback. I would use every bit of skill he has. I would put him on the move, on the run, the read-option, everything to let him use his talent.”

Carter: “Ultimately, I think we are making too many excuses for him. I think the ceiling for Colin Kaepernick is not as high as you guys anticipate. I think you’re going to have to be real creative because he won’t be a conventional quarterback. I think you set yourself up to be let down because his inability to throw the ball at different speeds. … He does have arm talent but I’m wondering does his brain connect to his arm to make him more diversified as far as what he can do. So, for me, I don’t have as high of expectations for Colin Kaepernick.” 

On Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and how he’s the best player in the NFL …

Jackson: “He doesn’t make mistakes with the football. He’s able to hurt you with his legs, but I think at the heart of what he does is a skill that every quarterback wishes that he has. He throws the ball better than anybody in the National Football League. …Reminds me of Derek Jeter because he can throw with his feet off the ground and be amazingly accurate. … Two of the keys to what he does – No. 1 is attitude. He’s always going to remember where he came out in the draft.  When I saw him, and this is a point I made about John Elway – first time I saw him, I thought, “We’re going to go to some Super Bowls’. When I saw Aaron Rodgers throw, even when Brett Favre was still their quarterback, I thought ‘That team is going to multiple Super Bowls with that guy’.”

Carter: “What I like about Aaron Rodgers is his ability to submit his talent and totally surrender to Mike McCarthy. Mike McCarthy comes up with all these ball drills, throwing different objects, so Aaron keeps working on his craft. Aaron realizes he is the best player in the NFL but he believes that he can get better and Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson and that atmosphere that they create in Green Bay, I believe will lead him to being one of the greatest ever.”

On the surging New England Patriots and what has made them so successful …

Jackson: “The Patriots have balanced their offense. They’re much better at running the football.”

Johnson: “Right now, New England is probably playing the best defense of any team in the AFC. They’ve taken a NFC mentality and brought it to New England. They’ve taken that Seattle, that Arizona, rough and tough, aggressive with those two corners out there with Revis and Browner.”

Ditka: “I’ve watched the Patriots a long time. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen them this balanced where they can do everything as well as they are doing right now. This is a really good football team.”  

Berman: “They are arriving like they do, in December, with most of their parts clicking.” 

On the Denver Broncos offense and Peyton Manning …

Jackson: “The record book is going to be splattered with Peyton Manning’s name whenever he decides to leave the game, so all he’s looking for is championships. Running the football and getting some balance to this offense is the only way they’re going to get to Arizona and the Super Bowl, and the only way they’re going to get through Foxborough, which I believe is where they’re going to have to go to play in the playoffs. Peyton Manning calls the plays. … When you see the Broncos run the ball in and his touchdown streak broken for consecutive games, it’s because Peyton chose to do that. So, Peyton believes this is the best thing for the Denver Broncos in the long run.”

Jackson: “You take them out of that one-dimensional thing – throwing the ball 60 times a game; they don’t want to do that. This will really help them a lot.”

Carter: “Peyton, besides winning the Super Bowl, he can’t win. He’s been so good and the bar is so high for expectation, so now they win, he throws for less than 200 yards, we actually make it a subject like they really have a problem. This is foolishness. … I look for these rush attempts to increase. This is how they go to the next level and this is exactly the way New England has had their team change.”

On standout Oakland Raiders rookie linebacker Khalil Mack …

Analyst Merril Hoge: “Every week, one of the teams I watch early on is the Raider defense. And the reason I want to watch is Khalil Mack. He’s not just one of the best rookies to come out, he’s the best linebacker in the National Football League, and he is the best against the run.”

 

Countdown also included the following features during the three-hour program:

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Bill Hofheimer

I oversee ESPN’s pro football PR, including Monday Night Football and NFL studio shows. Other programs I work on include ESPN soccer, Around the Horn and PTI.
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