John Murphy HAS ARRIVED!!!
There was a Murphy SIGHTING on Sunday.
OK, I exaggerate just a little.
Because Western New Yorkers couldn’t see the Buffalo Bills defeat Jacksonville, 34-18, Sunday afternoon at the Ralph the voice of the Bills got his largest listening audience of the season on WGR radio.
And as UNBELIEVABLE as it sounds, the play-by-play man actually made the Bills blacked-out win against the 2-10 Jaguars seem exciting.
It was the first time this season that I listened to Murphy, analyst Mark Kelso and sideline reporter Joe Buscaglia work a game and hear the play-by-play guy use words like ARRIVED, SIGHTING and UNBELIEVABLE.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one passing the time on a rainy Sunday.
Maybe Murphy was more excited than usual because he knew more people were listening to him, but it seems like he is improving with age. His excitement level is high and doesn’t seem as forced as it did when he first took over for the legendary Van Miller.
He is no threat to Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret in inventing colorful nicknames or expressions, but Murphy also is top shelf when it comes to enthusiasm and he has one of the best voices in WNY broadcasting history.
When defensive end Mario Williams had a sack that forced a fumble that he recovered late in the first half, Murphy shouted: “Super Mario has ARRIVED in Buffalo.”
When perpetually-injured receiver Marcus Easley had a big kickoff return that led to a touchdown, Murphy proclaimed “We have a Marcus Easley SIGHTING.”
When Easley followed with a special teams tackle, Murphy added: There’s Marcus Easley again. Marcus Easley has ARRIVED.”
When safety Jarius Byrd closed the game out with his fifth interception, Murphy didn’t say he arrived. He said Byrd should be sent somewhere. “SEND him to Hawaii. PUT him in the Pro Bowl.”
When Bills Coach Chan Gailey allowed field goal kicker Rian Lindell to try — and make — a 50-yard field goal, Murphy sounded like a little boy when he shouted “HE CAN DO IT! HE CAN DO IT!
Like Jeanneret, Murphy can get so excited occasionally that it gets a little confusing. I had trouble following his call of C.J. Spiller’s touchdown run before realizing C.J. had ARRIVED in the end zone.
Murphy isn’t a homer but he can get a little agitated about officiating. He was so upset over a pass interference call against Bills cornerback Ron Brooks that he asked Kelso what defensive backs are allowed to do. In fairness, Murphy and Kelso also were balanced enough to concede that a roughing the passer call against Jacksonville was iffy on a touchdown drive.
Like any good play-by-play man, Murphy does a good job getting Kelso involved. He also lightens up the technically-minded analyst. Kelso is amazing at knowing where every player is on the field during every play, which would be more exciting if we actually needed to know.
Seriously, Kelso gets just a little too technical at times. At one time, the analyst noted the Bills ran a pass pattern called “a clear and cut.” Whatever that means.
I’m guessing Buscaglia probably knows what that means. His role is primarily to deal with injuries, which kept him pretty busy Sunday as Leodis McKelvin, Eric Wood, Chris Hairston and Stevie Johnson had to go to the sidelines.
Murphy is the fun guy of the trio, at one point noting that a Bills back made a “a little Three Stooges move” before adding a sound effect.
He also tries to have the very serious Kelso join the fun. Before a touchdown pass to tight end Scott Chandler, Murphy asked what the Bills should do. Kelso gave four options, which led to the two men agreeing afterward that they had covered all the angles — including the one that led to the touchdown.
The exchange that was most fun was when Kelso disagreed with a call against a Bills defensive back.
“NO, that is not true,” said Kelso, seeking justice.
“Maybe not correct but I believe it is true,” replied Murphy.
At another key moment, Murphy called a delay of game against the Bills inside Jacksonville’s 10-yard line “terrible.” Kelso countered that it gave them more room to develop pass plays and added “I don’t think that hurt them badly.” On the next play, Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson for a touchdown.
They also addressed some coaching decisions by Gailey, who justifiably has come under fire for some conservative play-calling in the past few weeks.
When the Bills had a fourth down with five yards to go on the Jaguars’ 37-yard line, both men agreed they should go for it. There was no discussion of the times this season that Gailey punted in a similar situation and why this time it was different.
Of course, there was no discussion of Gailey turning down 50-yard field goals, either, before Lindell made his kick. Murphy’s HE CAN DO IT was as close as he would get to criticizing the coach.
He also spared quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick from criticism. The sharpest criticism of Fitzpatrick came after he took a hard hit. “Someday Fitz will learn how to slide,” said Murphy.
If you want non-stop criticism, Twitter is the go-to-place. Members of The Buffalo News sports staff, the WGR sports staff and just about everybody outside the media throw out their two cents during the game and spare no one. The unspoken rule of Twitter is the snarkier the comment, the better.
Everyone also thinks they are as funny as The Three Stooges. I’m no Pollyanna but if you read the Twitter comments Sunday of the media members I follow you might have thought the Bills had lost 34-18. I eventually left the Twitter universe rather than a take a pill for depression.
Gailey and Fitzpatrick can’t win on Twitter even when they do win. If you’re to believe Twitter comments, Fitzpatrick may be the worst starting quarterback in the league.
It is enough to make you want to shout “NO, that’s not true.”
I’m not a huge fan of Fitzpatrick but the weekly bashing he gets every week on Twitter reminds me of my days as a New York Giants fan growing up on Long Island and reading legends like Y.A. Tittle and Charley Connerly get bashed in the newspapers. (I was very, very young then).
I learned at about age 6 that no one in a NFL city loves their starting quarterback because they all throw lousy passes and make poor decisions at times. That remains true today with the possible exception now of fans in New England, Denver, Green Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta and in some cities where some younger quarterbacks are in their honeymoon period with fans.
I’m sure Joey Flacco is getting flack in Baltimore this week as is Mark Sanchez in New York, Jake Locker in Tennessee, Phillip Rivers in San Diego, Christian Ponder in Minnesota, Chad Henne in Jacksonville, even Drew Brees in New Orleans (he threw five picks Thursday) and the list goes on and on.
With the Bills home games being blacked out down the stretch, you’ll have a chance to see more of the league’s QBs every Sunday.
I’m guessing the more games you watch involving other teams, the more you’re likely to realize there aren’t too many SIGHTINGS of relatively new franchise quarterbacks.
You may even conclude as I have that Fitzpatrick is no worse than an average NFL starting quarterback these days working with a mediocre group of receivers.