EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Indianapolis Colts fans will always have a soft spot for Matt Hasselbeck, especially after his performance in relief of an injured Andrew Luck in 2015, in which the then-40-year-old nearly led the team on an improbable playoff run.
While Hasselbeck's playing days are now over, he's since joined his brother, Tim, as a popular analyst with ESPN, where he gets a chance to offer his two cents on everything going on around the league.
Hasselbeck is also on the Monday Night Football crew, which is where Colts media reporter Caroline Cann caught up with the cozily-dressed analyst — who was wearing a flat cap gifted to him by Luck — prior to the Colts' matchup against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Does Hasselbeck miss his playing days? Sure — well, some aspects of the game, that is.
"After the games, I'm never scheduled for an X-ray, an MRI, haven't been in the concussion protocol, so that side of it, I guess, has been pretty good," he said with a smile. "Other than that, I definitely miss playing. It's not always that easy like right before the game starts — I miss it a little bit. But I'm looking forward to this side of it and learning what I can learn."
"This side of it," or TV broadcasting, isn't exactly easy, which is something Hasselbeck has learned the more he gets in front of the camera.
He's found holding his tongue can be difficult at times as he tries to balance between constructive criticism and "trying not to say anything mean."
"That's like my big thing — I'm always just trying to criticize the play, not the player, and realize there's a person that's wearing that jersey, and guys don't mean to jump offsides or give up sacks or miss tackles," he said.
Another challenge being a former player and getting into broadcasting is getting out of that "one-game-at-a-time" mindset. Oftentimes, TV analysts are tasked with being prognosticators and trying to predict a wide variety of hot topics, like Hasselbeck's colleague, Steve Young, who "has already decided the four teams that are going to be in the championship games."
"He's like, 'It's Dallas and Seattle, and it's New England and Oakland,'" Hasselbeck said of Young. "And he may be right, but as a player, you never, ever think that way — and, really, you can't think that way because you'll get embarrassed if you look ahead."
But Hasselbeck isn't a player anymore, so he offered a bit of advice to the current Colts players, who have been in just about every game this season and, with a little bit better execution, could've/would've/should've been looking at a much better record at this point of the season.
Despite the rollercoaster season, however, the Colts (6-6) will enter Week 14 tied atop the AFC South standings with the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans.
"Really, they can control their own destiny, so to speak, with how they play the rest of the way," Hasselbeck said of the Colts. "And it starts with the first one, and they got a chance here tonight against a team that's struggling in the Jets, but they do have some good players on defense, so you've got a chance to get a win."
The Colts did just that, dominating from the start and coming away with the big road win in East Rutherford, with the franchise's favorite bald-headed quarterback looking on from the sidelines.