CBS gets a B+ for Buf-Tenn in prime; Tom McCarthy grades an A; Feely, undisciplined, tagged with a C

Game Facts:

  • For the second time in 70 years the NFL played on Tuesday night. The last time was December 10, 2010 when Philly hosted the Vikings. Back then, there was a snowstorm forecast for Philly during the weekend. So the game was moved back a couple days.


  • Tom McCarthy and Jay Feely had the call. Feely, 44, a former placekicker, played with a number of NFL teams from 2000-2014. He is generally a sideline reporter for CBS and upon occasion is moved up to the booth.
  • McCarthy does the Philadelphia Phillies on television and covers several NFL games each year for CBS. He’s also heard on national radio covering NCAA basketball. This telecast was originally scheduled to run in just 10% of the country. CBS showed confidence in the duo, allowing them to work the game once it was shifted to primetime.
  • Both teams entered the matchup undefeated. It was also the first game for the Titans since September 27th due to a rash of positive COVID-19 tests. The Titans who won are now 4-0 and the Bills are 4-1.

Early game points made by the voices

  • After Josh Allen’s early interception, Feely told the audience that Titans coach Mike Vrabel preaches to his team how the “turnover differential is undefeated.” At the end of the game we see a graphic showing the Titans league leading +8 turnover differential.
  • Feely tells the audience he expected Bills corner Tre’davious White to follow the Titans best receiver, AJ Brown, but since White is out with an injury it will be mostly up to Josh Norman, pictured above.
  • The Titans were coming off one practice in two weeks and were missing a multitude of players. Feely recognized this and thought the Bills offense would use tempo all night to tire out the Titans defense. Feely was right but Buffalo mistakenly decided not to run the hurry up and didn’t take advantage of a depleted Tennessee defense.

Feely – Disruptive and out of line

  • Feely constantly interrupted McCarthy in mid-sentence, generally interjecting nothing but inane, obvious or repetitive comments. It was annoying. Let the man finish his sentence and hear what he has to say before spewing empty commentary. Finally, later in the game, McCarthy was forced to keep his comments short.

Feely – shallow commentary

  • Vapid remarks continued through the night. (e.g. When the Bills were down, he told the audience more than once that we’ll see whether Josh Allen can rally the Bills. Really?) At times, there just weren’t enough spontaneous suggestions pertaining to adjustments that teams might consider.

Feely -Lighting up social media

  • Jay reported on his conversation with Commissioner Roger Goodell: “Earlier, though, this evening, we were able to talk to Roger Goodell, and he told me that no one in the Titans organization willingly broke any of the protocol rules. And that was big.” This infuriated those tweeting on social media who accused Feely of protecting the Titans.

This was one of the kinder comments:

Here’s another:

Contradicting comments and stats

  • Early in the game Feely opines that the Bills offense presents problems because, “if you play man-to-man, (Stephon) Diggs will run crossing routes all game. If you go zone, Allen has shown the ability to read zone coverage well and he has sufficient arm strength so that the defense can’t recover in time.” The Titans played zone most of the night and confused Allen, causing him to have his worst game of the season. Feely eventually says Allen is playing poorly because the Tennessee zone is confusing him, which contradicted his earlier point of Allen reading zone coverage well.
  • Feely threw out tons of stats through the night but didn’t have graphics to support them. He would use percentages and analytics to substantiate his points, but he ran through them so fast that it was impossible for viewers to digest.

Lack of detail and instructional explanations

  • Feely said that “Football is a game of matchups and numbers,“ adding, “matchups in the passing game, numbers in the running game.” This bold comment was followed by no explanation. What was he trying to say? The avid fan might be able to get the drift of this, but it sailed over common viewers’ heads. It is imperative for an NFL analyst not to make assumptions, to explain what you’re saying especially something a bit complicated.
  • ONE MAJOR ISSUE OF THE NIGHT was that Feely rarely provided any meaty analysis, like why or how plays developed! More often, he told the audience who or what, not why. He repeated what viewers just saw or what Tom McCarthy already captioned. We rely on analysts to explain, to shed light on why a play was run, why or how it was successful or unsuccessful. Feely failed to deliver. He provided little insight.


  • Understandably, Feely was extremely passionate about kicking and punting. Yet, even so, as a former kicker, he didn’t get into great detail about how a kicker was able to boot the ball well.
  • One funny line Feely delivered came after a long punt return by Tennessee where the punter knocked the ball carrier out of bounds. McCarthy asked if Feely liked making tackles as a kicker and Feely responded by saying, “I had to try and prove I was a football player every once in a while.”

McCarthy’s Effort

  • McCarthy did a solid job on play-by-play despite being saddled with Feely. McCarthy was finally forced to keep his comments short because Feely talked with no warning and with complete disregard for his partner. Tom has a strong voice and raises it when a dramatic moment called for it. He’s well trained and it shows.


  • I was not a fan of Feely because he added almost nothing other than reporting on what Goodell had to say about the Titans’ Covid practices. Within the game, neither the common viewer nor the avid fan, learned much.
  • Frankly, I don’t believe kickers make good color commentators because their knowledge is limited to one specialty. Dave Jennings, the Giants and Jets ex-kicker might have been an exception. His specialty was studying the NFL rues book.


McCarthy gets an A. He handled the meat and potatoes of play-by-play well. It was the biggest assignment of his career and he never showed any nervousness. Tom presented the game confidently and did the best he could with Feely who had little discipline and limited expertise. Feely gets a generous C. On the merit of Tom’s good work, we’ll give CBS a B+ for the night.

Brian Seitz

Brian Seitz is a student at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism and hopes to pursue a career as a sportswriter.

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