First things first. The Worm is alright.
He’s battered, yes. A bit bruised, sure. But, all in all, NFL Network Senior Producer and podcast regular Jason Wormser is all in one piece. As his beloved Giants began to disintegrate against the Eagles in the most mind-bending, breathtaking and heartbreaking fashion imaginable, The Worm began to get, shall we say, unsettled to say the least.
I mean, they were at home, up by 21 points with 7 minutes to go in a game that would have put them in great position to win the NFC East and earn a week off in the playoffs. And when DeSean Jackson crossed the goal line (eventually) to seal the deal, my Twitter inbox became flooded with concern for The Worm from across the globe by all this podcast’s listenership.
I must be honest: it touches me to know that you care.
My listeners are compassionate, caring people. So, to cater to that kinder, gentler fan base, we switched up the normal order of the podcast and started with The Worm and got a figurative – and literal – pulse check. He’s fine, but he’s still quite bitter over and about what’s being called “The Crumble” as opposed to Pisarcik’s “The Fumble” — the result of which, believe it or not, has left the Giants in a win-and-in position for the playoffs in Week 16. After all the wreckage from Week 15, they’re one Week 16 win in Lambeau Field away from punching their ticket to the postseason.
We go over all the possible playoff-clinching scenarios with The Worm and this week’s Hot Topic guest, Nick Bakay. I’ve known Nick for years, dating back to our time together with ESPN. He’s also been associated with NFL Network since our first year and knows The Worm very well. Plus, he’s a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan, so I figured if Worm is crestfallen over an incomprehensible loss in a crucial contest due to a stunning breakdown in the kicking game with no time remaining, who better to help counsel him and place things in proper perspective than a Buffalo Bills man like Nick?
We hit on all those issues before turning to the Game of the Week for Week 16 – Saints at Falcons in Atlanta. The Falcons can sew up the NFC South with a win while the Saints could delay that party with a win and clinch a playoff spot of their own, something the previous Super Bowl champ was unable to do for themselves.
So, we fired up Saints Cam for Saints head coach Sean Payton and hit on all the hot-button issues with him: What happened in Baltimore last Sunday? How to correct those mistakes? What problems do the Falcons pose? I also wanted to pull the curtain back on the vaunted preparation methods of one of the sharpest game-planners of our generation, and Payton let us in on how he huddles up with Drew Brees throughout the week as well as his defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has his hands full this week.
We also talk about this game with the man who will call it on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” the superb Mike Tirico. I’ve also known Mike for years (we did a handful of SportsCenters together back in the day) and we had fun catching up. Tirico phoned in fresh off his trip to the first outdoors game in Minnesota in 29 years, a contest spiced up by the sudden appearance of Brett Favre on the active list for the Vikings – albeit for a half. We chat about Favre, the future of the Vikings, our old ESPN past and whether ESPN might soon be a thing of the past for one of his boothmates, Jon Gruden.
In between the Payton and Tirico chats, Bakay and The Worm return for yet more trips down memory lane. The three of us recall the old Hollywood Fantasy Football League that had a three-year run on “NFL Total Access,” in which celebs like Paul Rudd, Jeff Garlin, Josh Charles, Jaleel White and Nick once clashed on the virtual gridiron every week.
It all makes for one fabulous gift under the podcast tree from me to you. Hope you enjoy.