Roger Goodell hosting the 2020 NFL draft. Photo Credit: NFL/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was unexpected. Thursday’s NFL Draft telecast was a very pleasant surprise, providing exactly what Roger Goodell, ESPN, NFL Network, and ABC hoped for when committing to forging ahead with league business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For four hours, the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft provided a welcome distraction, a reason for hope and optimism among fans of the league’s 32 teams. The event provided some of the intrigue and excitement that we covet from our sporting events. And the potential ramifications of at least one of the first-round selections provided some drama that could carry for months — and years — to come.

What happened to the potential disaster many of us were expecting (and maybe eagerly anticipating)? Where were the tech blunders with picture, audio, and fans being allowed to boo and cheer remotely that were sure to occur? Cameras were dispatched to the remote setups for coaches and executives among all 32 teams, in addition to 60 draft prospects, and no notable or embarrassing slip-ups were to be seen?

OK, there were a few bumps throughout the night, which we’ll point out because that’s what we do here. But they were all minor.

The Gaffes

There was the awkward pause when NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah apparently didn’t realize ESPN’s Trey Wingo was addressing him after sharing praise from Louisville’s strength coach for offensive tackle Mekhi Becton:

The camera feed showing Miami GM Chris Grier briefly became blurry and pixelated before the Dolphins’ No. 18 selection. It’s surprising this didn’t happen much more often with so many concerns about home internet networks and Wi-Fi holding up under high demand:

New Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy’s camera was positioned perhaps a bit too up close and personal for viewers:

Wingo talked over reporter Adam Schefter to announce a pick… that actually wasn’t in:

And in what was probably the most amusing mix-up of the night, Wingo thought a special message was coming for viewers that turned out to be unavailable:

But Wingo showed how much of a pro he is by quickly side-stepping that bump to move on.

If mistakes were supposed to make Thursday’s broadcast fun, the NFL (and ESPN) was once again the “No Fun League.” But this time, that was a good thing. Hell, it was a great thing. For one night, watching sports almost felt normal. Sure, there were plenty of reminders of what’s going on in the real world with the coronavirus crisis. And the NFL raised a whole lot of money for COVID-19 relief efforts.

The Bizarre

The most memorable moment of the night came from what was surely an unexpected source: the home setup for Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel.

Just what the hell was happening in that room? Vrabel was flanked by a guy dressed as a quarantined version of Frozone from The Incredibles (or a rejected design for a new Titans uniform) and an unapologetically mulleted gentleman earning a vintage Mike Vrabel No. 50 jersey.

But the real question regarding this setting concerned what was seen in a reflection at the left of the screen. Many people thought the man sitting down was using a bathroom with the door left open. You know, on the toilet. Dropping a deuce. Leaving some kids at the pool. Going poop.

Cork Gaines dispelled that notion, however. We’d call him a party pooper, but that doesn’t quite seem appropriate.

Also, we got to see Vrabel spit out a huge wad of dip on live television.

How soon until this entire scene is made into a reality show? Especially if we all have to stay sheltered at home and work remotely in the months to come?

The Mea Culpa

New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman is a frequent and easy target for fans and media, quick to portray him as behind-the-times and out of touch when it comes to the modern workings of assembling an NFL roster and running a team. So when the time came for the Giants’ selection at No. 4, many raised an eyebrow when Gettleman donned a medical mask while sitting at his desk.

Yes, we should all be wearing masks when out in public and around others right now to prevent the possible contagious spread of COVID-19. But Gettleman appeared to be alone in his office. Why put on a mask?

HA! That Gettleman is such a goofball, right? As it turns out, however, the Giants GM had a good reason for putting that mask on and we — along with so many others, shouldn’t have been so quick to make fun of him.

There will surely be plenty more reasons to ridicule Gettleman through the rest of the offseason and during the Giants’ upcoming regular season if it’s played. But in retrospect, laughing at a 69-year-old cancer survivor who’s vulnerable to COVID-19, and taking measures to make sure he wouldn’t possibly infect the person in his office with him, was in poor taste knowing the reality of the situation. We can all be better than that, even when the easy joke is there to be taken.

What About the Future?

The NFL and ESPN probably won’t dispatch with the pageantry and excessive spectacle that have become associated with the Draft. (Neither side could completely hold back, though. With Harry Connick Jr. singing the national anthem and a couple of impressive digital animated packages, it still took nearly a half-hour before the Cincinnati Bengals selected LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall selection.) After all, this is the showcase offseason TV event for the league.

But this stripped-down version of the Draft showed us how little of all those elaborate flourishes were necessary. All we need are the selections, highlights, analysis, and some reporting.

Were the displays of hulking draft prospects walking across the stage to share a big hug and fancy handshake with Goodell really missed? Did interviews full of immediate reactions followed by platitudes with every drafted athlete and their families feel like they were missing from the telecast? (Those looking for storylines and featured pieces on the draftees could find those on ABC’s more mainstream-driven broadcast.)

For the sake of keeping media employed, let’s hope that ESPN doesn’t look at Thursday’s telecast, contemplating what might not be needed in future Draft shows, and decides that reporters embedded at team headquarters or homes of the top prospects are no longer necessary.

We were still able to see the reactions and emotions involved with the NFL Draft. We could still watch general managers and coaches (and, in many cases, their children) excited that they got their man.

We saw glimpses of young men whose dreams of a career in pro football, and the lucrative rewards that come with that, were being realized and followed them sharing that joy with their loved ones. This still felt like watching the NFL Draft, even with reduced and limited production values.

Ultimately, everyone involved with the NFL Draft telecast should be celebrated and applauded for pulling off such a smooth production under the most unusual and unprecedented circumstances. This could have been a sports TV catastrophe, something we may have talked about with shudders for years to come. Instead, the event went as well as could be expected. Everything felt natural, much like Goodell in his basement wearing a dad sweater.

We’ll probably never see an NFL Draft like this again. But if we had to (putting aside the obviously terrible circumstances of a global pandemic), it might not be such a bad thing.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.