Jeff Fedotin NFL In London

While taking a break from the production meeting on the eve of the NFL's 19th regular-season game at Wembley Stadium, Daryl Johnston was asked whether Fox Sports announcers get to choose who broadcasts the games in London.

The former Dallas Cowboys fullback chuckled.

"The assignments are given out to us," he said.

But if the network asked for volunteers, it's safe to assume Johnston would be at the top of the sign-in sheet. During the heyday of The Triplets, his Cowboys traveled internationally to England, Mexico, Canada and Japan during the preseason.

Before playing against the Houston Oilers in August 1992 inside the Tokyo Dome, Johnston and teammates Kevin Gogan, Mark Stepnoski and Mark Tuinei ventured down to the subway. A stranger from San Francisco stopped this conspicuous-looking, group of large men, explaining the difficulty of maneuvering around the Japanese city without any command of the language. (The stranger ended up calling out of work and showing the Cowboys around during his day off.)

Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston

Given Johnston's pioneering spirit on the road, it's no surprise that he has embraced announcing NFL games in London. He broadcasted the NFL's inaugural regular-season game in London -- eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants' 13-10 victory against the Miami Dolphins in 2007 -- for Fox and then the first London game this season, which kicked off the NFL's 12th straight year of the international series.

"Everybody loves this," he said. "It's one of my favorite cities in the world."

Johnston knows Europe well. Shortly after retiring as a player, he spent three weeks during the spring of 2000 calling NFL Europe games in Germany and Spain to find out whether he liked being a color commentator.

Johnston not only relished the announcing gig, but also the setting. About five years ago, after his regular-season NFL coverage with Fox Sports, he provided analysis for London-based Sky Sports during the AFC and NFC championship games, even helping diagram plays during some breaks in action, along with hosting Q&As.

"It was awesome," he said, "one of my favorite things I ever got a chance to do."

NFL London

In 1993 he played in the old Wembley Stadium. The stadium has since been torn down and rebuilt in the same area.

For his Oct. 14 broadcasting assignment at the new Wembley, he made a trip out of it, taking his 17-year-old daughter Evan, and they toured the city, going to Buckingham Palace, a Jack the Ripper tour and walking through Trafalgar Square and St. James Park.

Fox producer Fran Morison, the veritable head coach of the broadcast team, preferred to walk down memory lane -- or more specifically King's Road, a fashionable shopping area close to where he grew up in the Chelsea area of London.

Just as enthused as Johnston about the London gig, Morison, who also worked NFL Europe games and was part of the crew for the NFL's inaugural 2007 game, moved from New York City to London at the age of 9 when his father, Frank, worked for his law firm's international branch from 1979 to 1984.

"It was a great place to grow up," Morison said. "It forms you. It's part of your history."

Laura Okmin

To help commemorate its 25th anniversary of covering the NFL, Fox Sports gave ThePostGame exclusive access to its broadcast of the Week 6 Oakland Raiders-Seattle Seahawks game, which included London veterans like Johnston and Morison and newbie Laura Okmin, who was covering her first game there as an NFL reporter.

"The game is the thing, and then we add on to it -- whether it's about London or the international series or the vibe," said Chris Myers before providing the play-by-play for his second game in London. "However we can do that without interrupting the game or kind of getting in the way of people enjoying the game, that's probably the challenge."

***

Fox is based in Los Angeles, but even if the broadcast crew makes a long, cross-country trek to New York, the production truck follows.

"Wherever we go," Morison said, "it goes."

Except across the pond.

In London they use a European-based truck. In that vehicle parked in the bowels of Wembley, director Bryan Lilley acts like an air traffic controller. He looks at the angles from the 15 manned cameras (four more than the 11 used for other regular-season games) and barks out instructions through his headset on which camera to use.

Fox brought a 13-person technical crew to London while also employing 30 local staff. Even if it's a domestic game, the network always has a local crew. For the Oct. 14 game, some hailed from London; some were from other European countries.

Many of them have worked on the NFL's London games and/or helped with broadcasts of NFL Europe, which operated from 1991 to 2007.

NFL Fox In London Production Truck

"They know the game," Morison said. "Early on, when I think NFL Europe started, guys didn't know what the hell the play was, where it was going. But now we're lucky ... so there's a comfortable level there."

Lilley, though, holds a meeting Saturday (the day before the game) to go over more details instead of the morning of -- like he does for national games. He planned to give the European crew a flip card of rosters and show them video examples.

That crew helped execute four major storylines of the game:

  1. Jon Gruden. "He's always a larger-than-life story," Morison said.
  2. The new identity that Seattle's leading sacker, Frank Clark, said the defense had to establish, following the dissolution of the Legion of Boom and the departures of pass rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.
  3. Having entered the game with a 100-yard rusher in three straight contests, the Seahawks have featured the ground game for the first time since ...
  4. Seahawks-turned Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch.

To display the success of the Seahawks' rejuvenated running game, Fox used its Skycam, a computer-controlled overhead camera, which can glide down closer to the action via a wire, during Seattle's 14-play, seven-minute and 36-second opening drive. Only a couple of the crews typically get to use it, and Morison estimated that the technology costs around $30,000 per game. Even Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett loves that angle when breaking down his team's plays.

"(It) can get behind the offense," Johnston said. "There are some applications with it that are really, really good."

***

More than three hours before the game -- even before the deluge of fans descended upon Wembley, wearing jerseys of their favorite players past and present (and often from teams not playing in the game) -- Okmin was already on the field talking with players. It's when she gets some of her best nuggets.

NFL Fox London, Laura Okmin

The Seahawks-Raiders game was supposed to be played on the revolutionary new field at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It is being engineered with a retractable football field that sits underneath the soccer pitch and can be rolled into place in less than an hour.

"We would've been the first group to have done a game there," Lilley said. "It's always fun to be the first, but with that being said, we probably would've found some growing pains that no one knew about."

The architectural marvel was slated to debut with a Sept. 15 Premier League soccer game, but myriad delays, including one for faulty wiring on the fire detection system, forced the Raiders-Seahawks game to Wembley.

Broadcasting from a soccer stadium doesn't affect camera angles, but it does impact the announcers calling the game. Because the soccer pitch is more expansive (about 20 to 25 yards wider) than a football field, it helps soccer broadcasters to be farther back.

"It's a little bit challenging, difficult to see players' numbers," Myers said. "Any NFL stadium probably has a better view."

NFL broadcast booths are typically just one level up from the field. To help with the distance at Wembley, Johnston and Myers used the monitors in front of them and the aid provided from a spotter and a stats guy, who are retired NFL public relations executives. Myers calls them the "The Sunshine Boys."

Just as a telecast would show Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans when going in and out of commercial breaks of a Saints game, Fox used highlights of local sights like the Tower of London and London Bridge.

"You want people who are watching the game to feel like a part of not only the game," Myers said, "but also what's going on in the city at that time."

Myers studied up on the city's jargon and used the term minted (extremely rich) during the broadcast to describe Gruden's status as a result of his 10-year, $100-million contract.

NFL London Slang Card

Broadcasters typically talk less when the home team is on defense, allowing viewers to hear the crowd noise and the quarterback's struggles to communicate to his offensive teammates and bark out his audibles.

In London, however, it can be a bit more difficult to determine the whims of the crowd. The Raiders were technically the "home" team. The end zones were marked "Oakland" and "Raiders." They even transported the Al Davis torch, a gas-operated fixture lit by a former Raiders player or coach before each game in Oakland to honor its former owner.

Throughout the week and especially during the game, however, the number of Seahawks who descended upon the city and attended Wembley outnumbered Raiders fans. The 12th Man chanted "Sea-Hawks!" throughout the game, but big plays on both sides were met with raucous approval.

Fans roared during the third quarter when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson connected on a 42-yard pass to wide receiver Doug Baldwin but also when cornerback Daryl Worley intercepted Wilson on the very next play.

That atmosphere is similar to what Myers experienced when he announced the San Francisco 49ers' 2013 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley.

"They just cheered a lot," Myers said, "and had a good time regardless of who was scoring."

Follow Jeff Fedotin on Twitter @JFedotin.