Friday, 25 January 2013

Daryl “Moose” Johnston finishes NFL Q and A road show in London.

A large majestic room in the famous Landmark Hotel in Marylebone was the setting for the final of four Q and A sessions that the NFLUK has been showcasing recently. For the other three events, (Edinburgh, Leeds and Birmingham) Neil Reynolds was the main host alongside his Sky sports pundit partner, Jeff Reinbold, but for this last event of the tour, the NFL fans got to ask questions to three time Super bowl winning champion and legendary broadcaster, Daryl “Moose” Johnston.

The heavy snow from the night before and the 11:30 am start on this Saturday morning did not stop 250, plus, NFL jersey wearing fans arriving ready to talk some football. There was however a false start early on. The Ray Lewis documentary that we were supposed to see before the Q and A could not be shown. Neil Reynolds popped out from behind the big screen and like a smooth quarterback facing an angry blitz as he called an audible and told us we would be watching the Green Bay Packer’s 2009 documentary that covered their Superbowl win. He made a joke that the technical side of things today were much like the Raven’s special teams, which got a hearty laugh.

When the tanned Daryl Johnston walked through the room wearing a tweed jacket and jeans the Cowboy fans applauded and cheered him with a deep sounding “Mooooose” which must have made him feel like he was back at Texas Stadium.

Daryl and Neil had a very god rapport. Neil started off the questions and he was funnier than when we see him in the confines of the Sky sports studio. Daryl began talking about how he grew up in Buffalo, but supported the Dolphins and hated America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, the team where he spent all of his playing career and winning three Super bowl rings with.

Several insightful points within football were discussed in the hour, and many of the questions from the floor were thoughtful and mature. Such topics covered were, the role of the position of full back and how it is dying breed, who is America’s team, NFL players dating cheerleaders and how Emmitt Smith was able to break Walter Payton’s all time rushing record. The answer was that he had a good blocker, which got a big laugh. Daryl’s final and funniest story was about his surprise draft pick to the Cowboys. His friends had left his draft party, to only return thirty minutes later having bought every thing they could find with a Cowboys star on it.

The last part of talk Daryl’s discussed his broadcasting career. Here he rather humbly told us how one particular producer did not think that running backs made good analysts, because they just “ran into the holes”. Daryl had to convince him that he was not a running back but a full back and one that caught a lot of passes, hence that he has can see the bigger picture in the game and could be a good pundit. Daryl’s playing career was cut short due to a neck injury, but he demanded that he covered the game when Emmitt Smith was to break the career rushing record.

Journalist war stories were exchanged between Daryl and Neil. Both felt that come the Super bowl  both coaches are always hard work, and rarely play ball with the journalists, keeping as much information as close to their chests as possible. Both men agreed that Jeff Fisher really makes being interviewed fun and both men look forward to interviewing him.

In terms of the coaching carousel, Daryl felt that teams should always have a good coach ready to replace the fired one, and he feels some teams make a quick reaction just to fire the coach without having a good replacement ready. He believes that with good coaching, Kansas City, Jacksonville,
Cleveland and San Diego will see vast improvements next season, but he is unsure that Chip Kelly’s college style in Philadelphia would work, at least not straight away.

The topic of performance enhancing drugs was brought up, before the meaty topic of the two Championship games coming up the following day. Daryl was siding with the Falcons because they can play the zone defense so well and he felt that it should be noted that the 49ers have not won three games in a row this season. On the AFC Daryl has a lot of respect for the Patriots, because they are so well organised by defensive guru, Bill Belichick and that they never “beat themselves” by making silly mistakes, so the Ravens really would have to be on top of their game to win that one.

The hour whizzed by and Daryl stuck around for a while to sign autographs and pose for pictures. The Q and A was a great treat for us NFL fans, and it certainly brought us a lot closer to the game. The response was positive and I can only help that the NFLUK build upon this and do more events like this in the future.

Written by Adam Goldstein. Author of Tailgate To Heaven: A British NFL Tackles America.

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