ESPN did a disservice to viewers with Jon Gruden’s “turkey hole”

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If ESPN wonders why last night’s ratings were so bad, perhaps it should examine how many people turned off the TV after the fifth time Jon Gruden said the words, “turkey hole.”

An embarrassingly bad segment of ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast started when Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford made a nice throw downfield, finding a receiver in the Packers’ secondary. At first, Gruden appeared to simply be analyzing the play.

“Watch Stafford fit the ball in the hole between the corner and the safety,” Gruden said. “I call that the turkey hole. Don’t ask me why.”

But then it became clear that the “turkey hole” thing was a pre-planned segment, and Gruden and ESPN’s producers had just been waiting for the right moment. The cameras turned away from the field and went to the booth, where Gruden stood in front of a picture of a turkey and offered insight such as, “Let me show you what the turkey hole is. It’s the turkey hole.”

As fans at home wondered what was happening on the field, Gruden gave an Xs and Os illustration of the turkey hole. Can we get back to the game now? No. Gruden still wasn’t done. He also had videos to show.

“Let me show you some of this turkey hole,” Gruden said, as highlights were shown of quarterbacks past and present throwing into the area that Gruden called the “turkey hole.” We saw Brett Favre throw into the turkey hole. We saw Stafford do it in a previous game. We still didn’t know what was happening on the field in the game we had tuned in to watch.

So what had actually happened while Gruden was blabbering about the turkey hole? Oh, nothing much. Just a Lions fumble that the Packers recovered. No reason the fans watching the game would want to know about something like that when there’s turkey hole to discuss.

Finally, just as ESPN went to a commercial, play-by-play man Sean McDonough realized that something consequential had happened on the field while his partner had hijacked the broadcast.

“I think we’re going to have a replay review here,” McDonough said. “For the moment, they’re saying Green Bay ball.”

Sure enough, when ESPN came back from the commercial, the Packers had the ball.

“The ruling on the field is a fumble by Ameer Abdullah. Green Bay ball. We’ll show you another look at it right after this play,” McDonough said.

There were two problems with that: First, ESPN wouldn’t be showing us “another” look at it. We were still waiting for the first look. Through all that “turkey hole” nonsense, we still hadn’t seen Abdullah fumble. Secondly, even after the next play, ESPN still didn’t show a replay of the fumble. It was only after another play that ESPN finally went back and showed the fumble.

Football fans don’t ask for much when we turn on a game. We want to see what’s happening on the field, and we want reasonably knowledgeable announcers to fill us in on anything we might not be able to see with our own eyes. ESPN didn’t show us the fumble on the field, and the announcers didn’t tell us about it, either.

If Gruden and ESPN have any similar segments planned this season, I think I can speak for all fans when I say: Shove it up your turkey hole.

161 responses to “ESPN did a disservice to viewers with Jon Gruden’s “turkey hole”

  1. I keep hoping the rumors are true, and someone, anyone will hire Gruden as a coach, and get him out of the booth. He’s been trying to be Madden for years now, but that’s just too high a hill for him to climb.

  2. Loved it…that was a terrible game to watch…the Packers never really threatened and apparently no one watched it…the Turkey hole was funny

  3. Gruden is a half-decent color commentator…but the man does like to ramble. How many of us know exactly some of his play names (Spider 2 Y Banana, anyone?) because he repeated the names so many times?

    There are times I’m interested in what he’s saying, but there are other times when I’d rather listen to Dilfer wax nostalgic over a “quarterback clinic” that one team is putting on…

  4. ESPN needs to fire Sean McDonough. Why not give former UFC and current Bellator commentator Mike Goldberg a shot? He did commentate an NFL game for Fox in 2014.

  5. I watched the game and wasn’t that turned off by it. More and more teams are using the Cover 2 and I thought it was a pertinent discussion to have. People are turning off football because there is more competition for attention than ever with cellphones, videogames, tablets, laptops, etc…

    The traditional network model of commercials turns me away more than anything. If it weren’t for the commercial free redzone I wouldn’t be watching more than a couple hours of football a week. The NFL has to create more offense, if a defensive back puts his hand on a wideout, or vice-versa there should be a flag. The NFL has to also find a way to give us the games we care about during primetime.

  6. The entirebroadcast was a circus, abd Gruden was awful. He accussed Ebron of slacking when the replay showed he clearly was blocking his man. He said he had no idea why a personal foul was called on Green Bay when the replay showed a Green Bay player ram a Lions player in the head with his facemask, and once screamed out loud randomly that the Lions had no confidence in the run, right before they called a running play!

  7. I sometimes don’t understand what viewers the networks are targeting. I watch TV for the sports, not the personalities of the ESPN guys. I love the idea of ESPN. You can’t beat 24 hour sports. I don’t blame Gruden. He’ll do what the guy signing his check tells him to do. He probably thought it was stupid too.

  8. It doesn’t make sense. The play was shown. I saw the ball come out. Packers start pointing that they have the ball. The crowd starts rumbling. Does espn have any awareness? Instantly you abort whatever segment you have and come back to it in a few minutes. The turkey hole will never have a good “lead in”. If half the stadium starts cheering or booing.. something significant is happening

  9. Gruden is brutal to watch. Its all about him. That stupid snear he uses is sooooo tired. Gruden’s grinders? More hype just like ESPN is trying to make Randy Moss out to be more than he was in his day. Mossed? The guy was a schmuck as a player but now a great guy? Guess when you are paid you become anything the payer wants……

  10. detroit has a shot. should have an easy W vs cleve to go to 5-4. and minn at 6-2 is flawed at QB position. minn could lose at wash and go to 6-3. det would be 1 gm back then

  11. Glad you pointed this out… it was terrible. Gruden in general is getting hard to watch, he loves to make it all about himself. The turkey hole bit was bad at face value and when you factor in it took precedence over a turnover then society has failed.

  12. I can’t stand Gruden, All he did was take a team built and Coached by Legend Tony Dungy win a Super Bowl with it, then destroyed all semblance of a decent team before being fired.
    His smirking “Chucky Doll” face makes me throw up in my mouth every time I hear it..

  13. xbam says:

    November 7, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    wow i actually agree with ya MDS…that doesn’t happen very often…

    Here Here. I think maybe a first for me.

  14. Sean Mcdonough wasn’t much better. He hammered home the point that Theo Riddick was the Lions leading rusher last year with 350 yards, as a way to say how terrible they are at rushing the ball (and they are), but failed to mention he missed most of the season with an injury.

  15. There is usually a bit of delay, but I usually hit the mute button and listen to the play by play by the local radio guys in Detroit. Dan Miller and Jim Brandstatter are pretty good! Some really bad announcers out there. Although, I still find Al Micheals voice calming for whatever reason, even just for the background noise.

  16. Television’s main goal SHOULD be to show the game — not the forced prepackaged segments or close-ups of players or coaches that last for ever as the teams are lining up for a play. Also- surprise- fans are cheering — we do not need clos-ups of aware fans to get that point. Gruden does not usually criticize coached or players– in fact, I am surprised when we are are not watching 22 future Hall of Famers according to Gruden. On most broadcasts, the commentators- mostly the color guys — talk too much. There is so much more to say– but.

  17. Yea, you’re right. A there are a lot of phony planned “comments” and observations. Al Michaels had one backfire on him over Harvey Weinstein.

  18. I do not watch MNF SPECIFICALLY due to Gruden. Haven’t watched since about 8 games into his first Season. Worst of ALL time.

    So you’re clearly not a football fan. Odd that you comment on PFT articles, then.

  19. Millenials don’t have to kill ESPN – they can do it themselves with the help of their Disney overlords. Anyone remember that stupid Star Wars trailer tie in from the other week.

  20. I usually turn the volume off on Monday night. Next Monday I won’t need to, because I will be at the game, second time since I moved ( 1970 ) to NC/VA that I been to a regular game, 2 years ago I went to a pre season game between Miami and the Carolina Panthers.ESPN has a serious management problem. Bill…Dolphins will make a come back next….pick a game.

  21. patswillreign says:
    November 7, 2017 at 3:37 pm
    Who would you rather hear in the booth?
    Thumbs up = Jon Gruden
    Thumbs down = Tony Romo

    Seriously, those are our choices?

  22. Green at least knows football. In the same game I watched two different defensive backs run through the WR back before the ball arrived to make a pick, and no flag or even comment from the announcers. So it’s incompetence or just corrupt, but either look is ugly.

  23. kingthielenscourt says:
    November 7, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    I can’t stand Gruden, All he did was take a team built and Coached by Legend Tony Dungy win a Super Bowl with it…

    Well, at least someone did, because legendary fraud Tony Dungy sure didn’t.

  24. AMEN! It was totally ridiculous….. Put Monday night football back on ABC and bring back Al Michaels! Secondly, cut the ads in half. They just can’t hardly wait for a break or an injury to switch immediately to an ad or two or three. When someone like me is ready to drop em after watching for 50 plus years, you know there’s a problem with the NFL.

    You’re absolutely right, its time to shove this up their turkey hole!

  25. All sports networks try to focus on something other than the game, which is moronic. And ESPN is the absolute worst. I like MNF, but have very little other need for ESPN since twitter has the news first anyway. Save the turkey talk for the food network.

  26. I cut the cord this year and haven’t watched one MNF game and thought I would miss it a lot.

    I don’t.

  27. ESPN has done disservice to viewers just by keeping Gruden around. When the attention is on him, he gets excited and says funny things, but his depth of explaining what happens on the field has almost been to the level of average viewer at home level.

    Here are some of Gruden’s expert break down opinions of the game
    ~ the long snapper snap was off, so the kicker isn’t happy
    ~ ton of short passes, we need to see some deep throws
    ~ throw was off, he didn’t like that one

    Gruden’s opinions were shockingly obvious, the comments could of come from anyone who could read body language and only understood the basic rules of football… so being a former head coach, he should be ashamed because he quit on his viewers.

  28. Yeah, ESPN did a horrible job as usual but I complain all the time about Camera coverage, Bad or inaccurate commentary and lack of replays on every network including the one that represents this website. Will we ever read a column here about The Sunday Night crew saying something stupid or being dead wrong when telling you about a player or team? I doubt it.

  29. I don’t care for Gruden but something tells me that he’s not the reason ESPN is hemorrhing viewers and that NFL ratings are in a free fall.

  30. I wish Gruden would find a coaching job that he would like to take. it is getting tiresome listening to what comes out of his turkey hole.

  31. Last night listening to Gruden I realized how uninterested I am in what he says. I would rather listen to Romo and his actual analysis of football than Gruden babble about a turkeys hole. Just use football words. “He fit the ball into the gap between the corner and safety.” works just fine for me.

  32. 1955sh says:
    November 7, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    More hype just like ESPN is trying to make Randy Moss out to be more than he was in his day. Mossed? The guy was a schmuck as a player but now a great guy?

    THANK YOU! So glad to know it’s not just me. Keep scratching my head and thinking, “How did one of the biggest problem players in the league suddenly become the Grand Gentleman of MNF?” “Monday Night Countdown” used to be must-see TV, but can’t stomach the current cast.

  33. Lol anybody who is complaining about it is forgetting the fact that it was the Lions and Packers playing in the game. I would rather hear 3 full hours of John Gruden talking about any hole in existence instead of watching that game. John Gruden has forgotten more good football than anybody playing on that field last night has ever known!

  34. I remember the game earlier this year when he said Trae Waynes is great at covering but his biggest weakness is tackling. Its ridiculous sometimes.

  35. I don’t bother watching the games anymore in traditional format, that is. I watch the highlights on YouTube wrapped up in a 9 minute video of every significant play in every game. Maybe 15 seconds worth of commercials and no rambling announcers. And that’s why ESPN and NFL are losing ratings

  36. Better yet, who would you choose to make someone (you hate) listen to as a form of punishment?

    Deion “business decision” Sanders: Thumbs up
    Cris “fall guy” Carter: Thumbs down

  37. reptar310 says:

    November 7, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    ESPN needs to fire Sean McDonough. Why not give former UFC and current Bellator commentator Mike Goldberg a shot? He did commentate an NFL game for Fox in 2014.

    I speak for all Lion and Viking fans.

    He was absolutely terrible. If you want abuse yourself I’d suggest looking up that game and try listening to him for 5 minutes. I can’t put into words how bad he was. I’m pretty sure there was an article on this site that even talked about how bad he was

  38. ESPN is so over the top with all its BS and preplanned segments.

    Gruden is embarrassing to listen to. Gruden Grinders. Really? Last night was awful. But a few weeks ago with wentz being “North Dakota Tough”. ( Gruden made sure he hammered that one home a few dozen times) was almost as bad.

  39. I won’t watch Monday Night Football because of Gruden. I find him irritating to listen to. Everyone else can decide for themselves whether to watch or not, but I’m out on MNF until Gruden is out. I guess I do make one exception…when the Cowboys play, but I mute the volume and that is not a fun way to watch a football game.

  40. If you weren’t a Lions or packers fan you weren’t watching. Not many in wisconsin even watched either. Their season is done, whats to watch Fabio jumping on piles late? Or that “Nitro defense” defense of Dom Capers? Mac’s play calling? That game was a gimme for the Lions. So I never heard the Turkey hole saying. Hopefully Jon will get some feedback and refrain from using it moving forward.

  41. It seemed more like Gruden and ESPN were trying to imitate Romo. As Romo is continually praised for his work and at times new analysis it seems other commentators would try new things as well. Romo however is just letting his personality show Gruden should do the same.

  42. Gruden is the absolute worst!!! The guy give almost no analysis, its all just generic BS. “watch this play, this guy just wants to win!” thanks man, they all do. “and look here, this guy is just tough!”, wow, how would i have figured that out without you jon? Go back to praising manziel and saying he should be #1 overall pick since your a ‘genius’ with qb’s when u won a SB with a DEFENSE built by Dungy.

  43. I agree with the article but this is all broadcasts. They try to make it about the announcers and it drives me nuts. I have never, not once tuned in a game because someone I like was calling it. I have however turned it off when they have produced spots like “Tony’s tips” or something like that. Don’t intro the segment, put up a graphic then out-tro back to the game. Just say or show what your insight is and move on. Good grief.

  44. Turkey hole was stupid, and I’d be enraged if my team’s play had been preempted by this nonsense. Still, that’s not why ratings were done. That’s because it was the Lions vs a Rodgersless Green Bay team that is worse than average without Aaron Rodgers.

  45. I would rather watch Gruden talk about the “turkey hole”, than be forced to watch the disrespectful, ungrateful players kneel

  46. ESPN needs to fire Sean McDonough. Why not give former UFC and current Bellator commentator Mike Goldberg a shot? He did commentate an NFL game for Fox in 2014

    They can’t get rid of McDonough he’s the one actually paying attention to the game .

  47. Meanwhile back at the ranch, I’m impressed with Romo. That whole ugly turkey hole was set up, can’t blame Gruden for it.

  48. That’s sounds awful. Since I didn’t watch the game, I’m going to have to take your word for it.

  49. While we are on MNF. Who hell is that guy in tights and a cowboy hat in the opening song?. Who thought that was a good idea. Screams tough lol

  50. I think the new catchphrase sweeping the nation is “You shut your turkey hole!”

    Now how often will redskins fans scream it at Jay Gruden if he starts losing games?

    I realize John Gruden is a well-regarded coach…er..for most of his career…but…when you listen to him as a broadcaster, my first thought is how the guy won any games at all. And I do hope he gets back into coaching, as it would be that much less I would have to hear him as a broadcaster.

    I don’t agree with Rex Ryan on that, but I also don’t want to hear him on commentary. Or anywhere. Especially when he blames his failures on everybody else.

  51. There were only two games worth watching all weekend. ‘boys chiefs and Panthers Falcons. They weren’t all that great either. The NFL has an entertainment problem. Folks tune in to watch and then realize raking leaves is the better option.

  52. I agree and the problem isn’t just about anthem protests, it’s about the entertainment value of the product on the field and giving us games we want to see. I’ve always grown up as a more defensive minded person, but times change. I want to see more amazing catches, throws and runs. People brace yourselves, the NFL is going to look a lot different next season.

  53. At times during the “Pre-Game” if it can even be called that, I wasnt sure if I was watching a GMC commercial, a “Dancing With the Stars of the NFL” promo, or a football show. It was horrible. Gruden tries hard and I generally like him, but I have to admit, he’s getting annoying. HTTR !!!!

  54. I wish that they would NEVER take the camera off of the field during a game. Why on Earth do we want or need to see anyone or anything in the broadcast booth?

  55. Has anyone brought up the fact that some areas are still impacted by hurricanes, you have mass murders/shootings every other week. Along with streaming maybe people just don’t care to watch tv. I never had a Nielsen box so it never mattered to me, I just watch streams now.

  56. ratings were not down because of “turkey hole” comments by gruden….they are down because 1, it’s espn and no one watches espn and 2 LOTS of people are boycotting the nfl this weekend to show solidarity with military and veterans, and 3 it’s greenbay against the lions…yawn! and 4…see 1.

  57. I can do another 20 minutes on the “turducken hole”……

    John Madden

    PS – Did someone say “Brett Favre”??!!!!!

  58. skins4lifeweb says:
    November 7, 2017 at 5:34 pm
    I wasn’t watching because Jemele Hill still has a job. So, I guess I didn’t miss anything.


    What’s the matter, jealous?

  59. Florioismyhero says:
    November 7, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    LOTS of people are boycotting the nfl this weekend to show solidarity with military and veterans…

    That sounds about as dumb as kneeling during the national anthem is.

  60. pooflingingmonkey says:

    November 7, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I gave up on ESPN in the late 90’s, and that includes Monday Night Football.

    -Riiight, I am calling “steaming pile” on this one. That was the only sports channel on tv back then, and everyone who was even a little interested in sports watched sports center. Monday night football wasn’t on ESPN in the 90’s either.

  61. ktoast says:

    I think Max Kellerman would do a great job in the booth.

    He would do a better job with a political talk show on MSNBC.

  62. The bad rating are because of everything but the protests. No way they’re about the protests. It’s always something else. See the sky? Rainy. That’s why I don’t watch much NFL anymore. You?

  63. Forget about how dumb the segment was… when did they start running segments like this DURING PLAY? This is the sort of silliness for the pregame shows or halftime. Not something you break away from action to show.

  64. It was hard enough watching how badly the Pack played but that play in particular was frustrating to watch. I saw the beginning of the scrum for the ball and Gruden was too busy doing his TurkeyHole routine to notice and then they cut to commercial and upon the return he was still jabbering. I agree, one could barely call the product that the Pack put on the field “professional football” but the coverage should not descend equally into chaos.

  65. Gruden is completely obnoxious and McDonough is the opposite extreme: BLAH. Booooring.
    I wish that they had never messed with the whole MNF formula that made it work in the first place. I actually miss Chris Berman in the studio doing the “fastest two minutes in football”. They need people with chemistry in that booth.

  66. Since it’s a thread devoted to useless commentary can we please fire every sideline reporter in football too, PLEASE?

    “Coach what did you think of your first half? We have to play better on defense and offense.”

    “They took him to the tent. I’ll have more for you later.”

  67. “I don’t bother watching the games anymore in traditional format, that is. I watch the highlights on YouTube wrapped up in a 9 minute video of every significant play in every game. Maybe 15 seconds worth of commercials and no rambling announcers. And that’s why ESPN and NFL are losing ratings….”

    I don’t either … haven’t watched a complete live broadcast in years. NFL Rewind without commercials and the 15 second skip button (usually skips the commentator) are the keys for me.

  68. Gruden is annoying in general. I wish a team would hire him, but he actually has zero interest in that, and only pretends to be interested in coaching every 2-3 years, so espn will be foolish enough to extend his contract and/or give him a raise. I can’t stand listening to him and will only watch MNF if I have a specific rooting interest in the teams playing that night. Even then, I often have to mute it because I can’t stand Gruden.

  69. I just like watching football. Most times I don’t even realize the commentators are talking. But if I heard the word turkey hole uttered to describe football, my ears would have perked up with bewilderment. That’s what I like to call a perky turkey.

  70. Gimme a break.

    Gruden is knowledgeable and entertaining, though obviously not every bit is going to appeal to everyone. I didn’t like this Turkey Hole thing but it was hardly a big deal. Frankly I prefer Gruden to whiny Tony Romo who think his job is to impress us by guessing the plays in advance.

  71. There’s always a stupid segment or two on these broadcasts. That’s not the reason for poor ratings. While the media likes to talk about Anthem protests and ‘turkey holes’, has anyone noticed just how god awful the officiating has gotten over the last 3 or 4 years? Then again, I’m not sure anyone can sort out the mess that is the rule book. The kids these days are just going to turn the channel rather than wait 10 minutes for 5 officials to huddle up to determine if something was a catch or not. Likewise, they’ll just go back to their phones rather than sit through 16 penalties or whatever the Seahags got hit with on the weekend.

    Simplify the rulebook. Let the players play. Everytime a deep ball is thrown, I find myself first wondering if a flag will be thrown and then whether they will let a catch stand. EVERY SINGLE TIME. That’s not what I should be thinking about. These receivers don’t help the cause when they pop up like jack out of the box when they drop a pass and then cry foul when their isn’t one.

    THIS crap is why the ratings are in the toilet and why the younger generation would rather watch something else…and they better figure it out as the current middle aged generation is getting to the point where they might just change the channel rather than sit through Jerome Boger trying to get on TV as much as he can in 3 hours.

  72. losing thousands of subscribers every month. theres plenty of good reasons for it.
    the politics and the over production, if you can screw up MNF, you can ruin anything

  73. All the Gruden Turkey Hole stuff aside (which was just beyond stupid), i have no clue how or why Sean McDonaugh got the job as the voice of MNF. Listening to his bland uninspired monotone calls often leave me wondering “does Sean McDonaugh even like football?”

  74. With today’s excellent on screen graphics, hit the mute button, blast your favorite music and enjoy the game. Even better if you wait an hour and zip through commercials.

  75. While reading this I realized I now only watch espn for MNF. So I turned it on to see what they show during the rest of the week. Great move, 30 for 30 on Ric Flair. What awesome programming. I need to reevaluate why I don’t watch more. NFL product stinks because all of the exciting hits have been removed, that’s why ratings are down. Flags on defense all day, so annoying.

  76. I have an idea,,,,,,,,,,let’s blame Gruden. Nice try NFL. It’s your product, it’s your players, it’s your leaders.

    The simple answer is the NFL and it’s player’s head got so big they had to grease their ears to get through the door. And now you are running out of grease.

    NFL- Not For “much”Longer

  77. Never thought I would say this but man do I agree with MDS. I was furious to watch a cheesy preproduced segment instead of a big part of the game.

    It’s about the game stupid.

  78. NFL network has gone down the tubes also, too many complicated unengaging “scripts” and “acting” that end up being just plain bizzare. all the networks pregame funny stuff continues to suck more and more each year and has become unwatchable

  79. McDonough and Gruden are a bad pairing. Individually, they are fine. Together, not so much. You can kind of feel that they don’t seem to get along. I think Collinsworth is pretty decent, actually.

  80. Now if Gruden was talking about turkey bags, or eating all the legs off a turducken then they might have something. I have never heard the term “turkey hole” in reference to football (or anything else for that matter). Much like his coaching career, the reputation of Gruden the broadcaster far outshines the reality.

  81. He is horrendous in the booth. Give me Charles Davis or Mike Mayock. At least they actually talk about what’s happening on the field.

  82. The only real problem with that segment was that it just so happened to occur during a big play. Otherwise it was informative.

  83. “Football fans don’t ask for much when we turn on a game. We want to see what’s happening on the field”

    Yes…100%…..and that includes not having to watch spoiled pampered millionaires kneel.

  84. Nobody does football better than NBC. Al and Chris are the best…it’s not about them, it’s about the game. They are knowledgeable, honest and humble. Whenever I watch Gruden, I swear that every player he talks about is his personal favorite.

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