NEW ORLEANS — No doubt the author of the most famous signature call in sports broadcasting history will say something appropriately memorable if and when Drew Brees sets the NFL record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass tonight.
But Al Michaels hasn’t come up with it yet.
At least that’s the prediction of Chris Collinsworth, Michaels’ NBC broadcast partner for Sunday night’s Saints-San Diego Chargers game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I know Al didn’t think about the ‘Do you believe in miracles?’ line,” Collinsworth said of Michaels’ iconic exclamation at the end up the U.S. hockey team’s upset of the Soviets in the Lake Placid Olympics. “So I’m going to guess that he hasn’t thought about this one either.
“That man’s as good off the top of his head as any human being I’ve ever been around in my life. As a general rule, his reactions are generally 100 times better than anything I can think of in a week.”
Not that NBC isn’t going to be appropriately prepared to commemorate the accomplishment considered by some the football equivalent of Joe Dimaggio’ 56-game hitting streak.
“It’s a monumental record,” Collinsworth said of the mark held by Johnny Unitas, which has stood since 1960. “You go down the who’s who of every great quarterback who’s ever played this game, and nobody else is even close.
“And a lot of things have to go right for a long time. To think that in a year’s time Drew’s taken down Dan Marino’s record (for passing yards in a season) and now Johnny Unitas’ record, that’s pretty unique.”
Enough, Collinsworth said, to assure Brees’ eventual spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“This one definitely puts him over the top,” he said. “When you break records like Drew has, they’ve probably got a place for you in Canton.”
The only downside of the record-breaking opportunity is that it comes with the Saints reeling from an 0-4 start that has reduced the team’s playoff hopes to a mathematical improbability. And it comes with the franchise feeling the effects of Bountygate, including the year-long suspension of coach Sean Payton.
Payton will be in the Superdome tonight, having been given special permission to attend by the NFL after Brees requested it.
Although not allowed to have contact with the players before or after the game, Payton will be in a suite. NBC is under no restrictions about showing his reaction to the record or at any other point during the game.
“The first time the jumbo-tron gives the crowd a glimpse of Payton, the roof might come off the Superdome,” Collinsworth said. “This crowd is going to want to send a message to the world what this guy means to them.
“It’s going to be a crazy moment, and it’s definitely an added emotional advantage for the Saints.”
And, Collinsworth added, despite the hole the Saints have dug for themselves, they shouldn’t be counted out of the playoffs just yet.
“You know what this team is capable of doing,” he said. “And there were enough extenuating circumstances where you can say, all right, it’s possible that this team is just sort of coming out training camp mode and could put together a string of wins.
“There’s only a handful of teams I would say that about, but when you have a guy like Drew Brees on your team, you can see it happening.”
Still, Collinsworth said, the Saints definitely are out of kilter from the New Orleans teams he’s observed over the past few years.
“When we’ve been here in the past, this was a building that on Friday’s was a combustible mix,” he said. “Gregg Williams, who is crazy, and Jonathan Vilma would be stirring up the defense; Sean Peyton and Drew Brees would be stirring up the offense.
“They were competing ones against the ones. It was great theater with people screaming and yelling and laughing. But now, three of four of those guys aren’t there, and they’re struggling to win their first game.”
In particular, Peyton is missed.
“In most great organizations, there’s a ‘the buck stops here’ mentality,” Collinsworth said. “Whether Sean Peyton’s screaming at the L-5 on the kickoff team or the safety for blowing a coverage, everybody knew who was in charge and everybody had to face that man.
“And now, you’ve got an offensive coordinator, you’ve got a defensive coordinator, you’ve got a run-game coach, you’ve got a passing game coach. You’ve got all the same components, but you don’t have that central figure, that is the Bill Parcells of this football team. That makes a difference.”
However, Collinsworth sees the Saints at least temporarily putting those woes behind them with Brees getting the record early on.
“The Saints at home, with all of this stuff happening and their season on the line, I’d be absolutely stunned if this isn’t a dogfight all the way,” he said. “You should see that old magic back in the Superdome.
And as for Michaels’ call when it happens?
“I don’t know what it’s going to be,” Collinsworth said. “But I bet it’s going to be pretty good.”