While perusing page 7C of Friday’s USA Today, which previews the Week Three NFL games, we noticed an intriguing fact regarding the FOX broadcast of the ultra-huge division showdown between the Falcons and the Saints.
The announcers for the game are Thom Brenneman and Brian Billick. But Billick has a connection to one of the coaches in the game.
As MDS explained it in a FanHouse.com item from a couple of years ago, Billick arranged a blind date between Falcons coach Mike Smith and Billick’s wife’s sister while both men were coaching at San Diego State. And Smith ended up marrying Billick’s wife’s sister.
MDS also pointed out that Smith got his first NFL opportunity in 1999, when Billick became head coach of the Ravens.
The assignment of Billick to any Falcons game presents an awkward situation for Billick, Smith, and the team facing the Falcons. The announcing crew gets access to inside information via production meetings. They also attend at least one practice, usually on Friday.
This isn’t about whether Billick, who has helped his brother-in-law’s career in the past by getting him an NFL job, would abuse the privileges he receives in order to properly perform his current job. We’ve got no reason to question either Billick’s or Smith’s integrity. But it’s the kind of situation that gives rise to the appearance of potential impropriety, and we think that someone should have raised a hand and said, “Um, guys, don’t we think the team playing the Falcons may be a little uncomfortable with having the brother-in-law of the Falcons’ head coach having access to strategic information?”
The question apparently didn’t come up this week. And it apparently didn’t come up last week, when Billick and Brenneman worked the Cardinals-Falcons game. Presumably, it hasn’t come up as to any Falcons games Billick ever has worked.
If the question ever comes up, the answer should be clear — Billick should be assigned to a different game in order to ensure that no one will be placed in an awkward situation.
Though we realize that there are only so many games to which Billick can be assigned in a given week, we think he generally shouldn’t be assigned to work Falcons games. It puts Billick and Smith in a delicate situation (especially if the men get together for dinner), and it surely makes the opposing coach for the upcoming game less inclined to share any secrets with the husband of Smith’s wife’s sister.