Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Fouts wraps up atrocious season with trademark brutal performance

Alex Reimer
December 30, 2018 - 5:02 pm

The highlight of Dan Fout’s error-laden season in the booth came when he quoted his cameo appearance from “The Waterboy,” which was released 20 years ago.

“Last game of the year,” Fouts said when the Jets went for it on 4th down from the Patriots 3-yard line with roughly four minutes left in the first half. 

“Don’t hold anything back,” said his longtime partner, Ian Eagle. 

In an incredible moment of symbolism, Sam Darnold’s pass to Robbie Anderson fell incomplete in the back of the end zone. The Jets wound up turning the ball over on downs and fell to the Patriots 38-3.

It was an atrocious game that probably should’ve been called at least four hours before game time, when it was reported big-money Jets corner Trumaine Johnson didn’t show up to team meetings or practice all week. Lame-duck head coach Todd Bowles, who will almost certainly be fired by this time Monday, illustrated his club’s urgency to start their offseason when he opted to not take any timeouts to close out the first half, even though the Jets had the ball. 

Clearly, the Jets couldn’t wait to get on the buses. If only Fouts would follow them. His charmingly clueless performance was the most entertaining part of Sunday’s game –– besides TB12 shutting up his critics!!!! –– but that’s the definition of a backhanded compliment. Fouts, an NFL Hall of Famer, has enjoyed a decorated and exceptional broadcasting career. He’s been on network television for 30 years and called Super Bowls. But color analysts slots are not Supreme Court seats. They shouldn’t be held indefinitely. 

This was apparent at mid-afternoon Sunday. While Fouts yelled “touchdown!” after a pass had clearly bounced off Jets tight end Chris Herndon’s hands and onto the ground, Pat McAfee’s call of Matt Prater’s touchdown pass in the Lions-Packers affair went viral.

“Matt Prater has the NFL’s longest field goal. He’s a man who’s a legend,” the rookie announcer said. “He’s kicked long balls; he’s kicked game-winners. And here in Lambeau, in December, gives the cadence with the leg lift like Peyton Manning. No laces and delivers a dime in the corner of the end zone!”

Sure, that kind of mind-numbing enthusiasm would get irritating over any extended stretch of time, but it was fresh and entertaining. Fouts, meanwhile, was busy questioning whether the Patriots would punt on 4th-and-20 from their own 18-yard line.

“We’ll see if the Patriots elect to punt here,” he said in the third quarter.

General idiocy aside, since Fouts hasn’t played in the NFL for three decades, he’s not intimately familiar with the players and coaches he’s supposed to be analyzing. Cris Collinsworth is equally as removed from the current game, but he spends tens of hours each week breaking down film and is seemingly obsessive about staying on top of things. It takes that kind of effort 
to remain sharp on the current game and trends.

CBS’ decision to replace Phil Simms with Tony Romo last year should’ve been a wakeup call to all networks and NFL producers: don’t be afraid to try something new. Just make sure they’re comfortable speaking on TV, which ESPN neglected to do with Jason Witten.

One of Romo’s greatest strengths is his first-hand knowledge about every marquee player in the game, because he’s competed directly against them. He can convey to viewers what it’s like playing against many of these greats. 

Fouts can’t do that, and at least once per week, it seems like he’s neglecting to pay attention to the action in front of him. Case and point: he still appears to think Malcolm Butler plays for the Patriots.

When the game is awful, like it was Sunday, Fouts’ cluelessness serves as comedic relief. But when the game is compelling, it’s embarrassing. Since Fouts called more Patriots games this season than any other broadcaster, the latter applies far more often than the former.

Fortunately, we won’t see Fouts in the postseason. It was his last game of the year. 

Thank God.