There’s not much action to report on in the world of sports these days, but at least the local sports talk radio world provided some excitement this week as The Game 97.3 announced that former Packers favorite and two-time Super Bowl winner John Kuhn will join the station to host a new show, "Nine 2 Noon with Kuhn," along with former Wisconsin Badger Brian Butch.
The new duo will hit airwaves for the first time on Monday morning from, naturally, 9 a.m. to noon. But before then, OnMilwaukee got to catch up with the fan favorite to chat about his new show, going from the field to the microphone, how the coronavirus will affect the NFL now and later, and yes, why everyone should probably calm down about the Packers' draft.
OnMilwaukee: What was the transition like for you, going from football on the field to going behind the microphone in the media?
John Kuhn: When I was playing in Green Bay, I tried to do a couple of different things – one of which was a show down in Milwaukee with my old teammate Mark Tauscher. We actually did a live, on-site show ten times during the football season on Tuesdays down in Milwaukee.
We came up with that idea as we were players. We’d sit in a hot tub, and we’d have wild banter and discussions that would turn heated. It would just be a lot of fun, so we thought, "Man, wouldn’t it be great to do this when we’re done playing and actually turn it into something real, something viable?" So after Mark retired and I was still playing, we kicked the idea around to a couple of people and we started doing it.
Then, toward the end of my playing career, around the same time, I took advantage of the NFL’s broadcast boot camp where you go in and you have the big networks break you down and beat you up. It’s like a training camp for athletes in journalism and broadcasting, which was really great. So I took advantage of both of those two things and got off and running – and ever since then, when my career was done playing, it was really easy through some of the networks and some of the friendships I’d made to do some sub jobs, to do appearances and to do things of that nature until it finally culminated into this: a daily show that I’m really excited about.
You were talking about these heated hot tub conversations back in the day with Tauscher. Is there one that really sticks out in your mind as particularly intense or angry?
There is one that I specifically remember – and it was about Peyton Manning. This was before Peyton was traded to the Broncos, and Mark was adamant that if Peyton Manning was not on the Colts, they would be a 2-14 team. And I was under the impression that, in the NFL, it takes a team to win football games – and at the time, the Colts were finishing almost every year at 13-3, so I had the big argument that no, it was more than just one guy. But then Peyton Manning went to the Broncos and leads them straight to the AFC championship game, so I probably would say Mark won that discussion just based on pure empirical evidence after the fact.
But it honestly could’ve been anything. It could be that; it could be arguing the color of chickens, what color should a chicken be and did you ever see a brown chicken versus a white chicken. That was an actual conversation, an actual real discussion that we’ve had at one point in time. Just the silliest stuff – but that was the kind of stuff we did, and we had fun with it. And that’s what led us here.
The description of the show talks about "sports and stuff." What falls under the category of "stuff"?
Stuff is anything. Stuff is you’re sitting around, having a beer with a buddy, and you start talking about just about absolutely anything. That’s what’s going to be on the back burner of our show. It’s going to be led by Packers and the NFL, NBA and the Bucks; it’s gonna go in that direction. But especially now that sports is not live at least, we’re gonna lean in the direction of whatever takes us anywhere. And that’s the fun part of being on air: You never really know the direction that you’re going to go.
On the topic of stuff, what have you been streaming over quarantine?
Obviously I jumped onto "Tiger King" because everybody else was highly recommending it. That is a wild story, I’ll tell you! That’s something you just cannot make up – unbelievable. "Ozark" – but I was an "Ozark" fan even before the quarantine, so that wasn’t like I jumped on anything new. Got caught up on "Homeland" and I’m diving into "Westworld" right now. I’m kinda just sticking with the stuff that got me here.
What’s your spiciest sports hot take?
Oh boy. (laughs) It’s always a hot take when you compare the four quarterbacks that I played with: Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. That’s always a hot take; it doesn’t matter what I say about any of those four quarterbacks, somebody wants to hear one quarterback is better than the other, so it’s ultimately got to go in that direction.
Sounds like you’ve got them all equally good. Is that what you would land on?
Yeah, they’re all gonna end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Obviously three of them are still playing, albeit two definitely at the end of their carers and one in the back nine. If you want a ranking, if that’s what you want, it’d be tough but I’d probably go Aaron, Drew, Brett, Ben. But Ben’s got the most Super Bowls, which makes it that polarizing of a conversation. That’s how where these things go, and that’s how the debate always gets crazy.
The draft is over now, and everyone’s eyes are now on the beginning of the season – but obviously we’re living in this quarantine moment. How do you think NFL teams are handling this limbo phase right now, and how do you think they’re going to handle whatever we’re going to look like at the start of the season and with training camp?
Well, before we even get to a training camp or preseason games, we gotta get to a little bit of normalcy in our regular lives. As long as we’re staying at home, sitting in the house, staying eight feet apart from each other wearing masks when we go to the grocery store, I don’t think we can really contemplate what it’s going to be like come August or September.
For the guys right now, trying to get through this difficult period of time with their teams, this is when teams would have their guys – right now, this week – break down the first half of their playbook. They would be installing every day, with a lot of classroom work with some weights mixed in. The guys not getting this? They’re missing what’s the foundation of their education for the season. Even guys who are vets, who have been on a team for a while, are going to miss the base foundation of what their coaches have decided they’re going to change, adapt and evolve in the offseason. They’re going to have three or four fewer chances to learn those things that they should be learning right now in end of April or the beginning of May, something that they can build on and grow with over the next couple of months.
It’s going to be a challenging task. They’re going to have their playbooks because their coaches are going to ship it to them, and they’re going to have virtual classes over the internet, but it’s not going to be the same. It’s going to be which players and which teams put in more effort on their own individually – that’s who’s going to be most successful.
It seems like playing in front of empty stadiums is something we’re looking at for this fall. As a former football player, how would that be for the players on the field?
Well, I think you’ve asked the perfect person for that question, because I played football for Shippensburg University in Division II, and we probably had maybe 3,000 fans in the stands. So I can’t really ever say that I heard the fans in college; I heard the band, but I didn’t hear the fans. So maybe they could throw a band into these stadiums so there would be at least a little bit of noise for the players.
But that would be a weird feeling. You would feel like you were at practice. There’d be no home-field advantage, so you can just throw that right out the window. It’d be a weird take. Even fans watching it on TV at home, how would you feel watching a game with no crowd noise in it? You would hear everything. You’d have to bleep out a whole heck of a lot of stuff because the fans wouldn’t be in there to tune it out. (laughs)
Judging by the draft, it seems like the Packers are going in a different direction in terms of a run focus. As a former fullback, are you excited by seeing this Packers team focus more on the run?
Yeah, and it doesn’t really surprise me. When you have a team that plays in the elements like Green Bay does, there needs to be an emphasis on running. And I don’t know if the emphasis is truly "we need to emphasize running because we need to run more numbers of times a game"; I think it’s more or less "we need to be more efficient with our running than what we were last year." A lot of people say from the draft and from the team makeup right now that they’re obviously going to a run-oriented offense, and I’m not exactly sure it’s going to be run-oriented. I just think they want to be more efficient and better when they do actually run.
It seems like, after the draft, everyone was having a panic attack thinking Aaron Rodgers is only going to throw the ball five times a game or something.
Every team wants to be closer to 50/50. They want to have that balance. There have not been many teams that have been balanced in recent history. And the Packers? I’d be surprised if they reached 50/50 – and even if they reached a perfect balance of running and passing, Aaron Rodgers is going to have plenty of opportunities to zing that football around.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.