If there was ever a need for a sideline reporter on NFL games, Sunday's primetime contest between Indianapolis and Houston was proof postive. Just as the halftime gun sounded, Texans coach Gary Kubiak collapsed as he was walking off the field for the locker room. NBC came back from break with Bob Costas setting the scene. After throwing it to New York where NBC went on with its scheduled highlights and a subsequent commercial break, Costas was back to narrate a tape showing Kubiak being taken off the field on a stretcher.
From there, sideline reporter Michele Tafoya went into news mode, telling viewers what had happened and reporting that Kubiak was being taken to a nearby medical center. Throughout the game, Tafoya gave updates on Kubiak, passing along information from the Texans that the coach did not suffer a heart attack. During the postgame report, Tafoya interviewed team General Manager Rick Smith who revealed that Kubiak could even report to work later today which is certainly good news given the cirumstances.
Having Tafoya at the game proved the necessity for sideline reporters, especially good ones. She proved her worth two months ago on Opening Night when the Baltimore-Denver game was delayed due to weather. On Sunday, Tafoya stayed with the Kubiak story and continued to give updates until the NBC broadcast was finished.
NBC did receive criticism for not staying at the scene and going to highlights. It was better to leave rather than remain and report nothing while showing the medical crew surrounding Kubiak. However, NBC should have scrapped the highlights and had studio host Dan Patrick and former coach Tony Dungy discuss the stresses of coaching as Kubiak and Denver head man John Fox had shown this weekend.
Some on social media also criticized NBC for showing the footage of Kubiak's collapse. I disagree. I felt it was warranted and while distressing, a disclaimer could have been used to warn viewers.
But overall, it was Tafoya who was the viewer's conduit for the Kubiak story and she came through with flying colors. Some viewers have complained that the sideline reporter rarely adds to the broadcast, but in 2013, we have examples that they're a requirement especially when a big story hits. The Super Bowl Blackout, the NFL Season Opener and now the Kubiak story have proven that reporters should be present at least for the national broadcasts. NBC had the right person with Tafoya, but CBS did not have an experienced sideline reporter at the Super Bowl and their coverage flew off the rails.
The moral of this story is that when a true pro is on the scene, viewers are given the information that is necessary in the moment and are properly served.