FOXBORO, Mass. — Before every NFL game, the head coach and a few key players from each team will sit down for a meeting with that weekend’s broadcast team.
It’s a way for the play-by-play man, color analyst and sideline reporter to get the lowdown on what they can expect from each squad and, hopefully, gather the knowledge necessary to deliver a compelling and informative telecast on Sunday (or Monday or Thursday).
For years, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick held several of these meetings each season with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Nantz and Simms were CBS’s top announcing duo, and since New England annually is one of the AFC’s best teams, they often would be assigned to Patriots games.
Belichick certainly didn’t mind that. He and Simms go way back, to when he was the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants in the 1980s and Simms was the Giants’ quarterback.
The longtime coach enjoyed having the chance to catch up with one of his old players a few times each season, and the familiarity Nantz and Simms had with the Patriots allowed them to skip past the boring, repetitive scouting report questions most broadcasters need to ask in those weekly powwows.
Simms’ appeal among viewers plummeted in recent years, however, and this past offseason, CBS made a drastic change, booting the Hall of Fame QB back to the studio and replacing him with Tony Romo, who was just a few months removed from his final game with the Dallas Cowboys.
Most expected Romo to endure some growing pains as he transitioned from the field to the booth, but he’s garnered almost universal acclaim for the insight and enthusiasm he brings each week.
Though Belichick misses his old pal, Romo has impressed him so far.
“I didn’t hear a lot of games (Simms) did for us, but I heard other games that he did,” Belichick said in his Friday morning news conference. “I always thought he gave a lot of great insight into the game — not just from a quarterback’s perspective, but from a team standpoint. So, yeah, I do miss seeing him multiple times during the season.
“Tony, I’d say he’s similar. A very inquisitive guy with a good history of the game. He asks a lot of questions about when I was with the Giants or the (1970s) or the ’80s or Tom Landry or so forth. He’s pretty knowledgeable for a player who wasn’t in that era, but he knows a lot about it. He’s obviously read and studied it. He sees a lot of things, a lot of fine points of a defensive scheme or a play that, I’d say, a lot of guys I talk to don’t. … I’d say he asks a lot of detailed, coaching-type questions that you don’t get in a lot of those meetings.”
Belichick also used the opportunity to share a few old Simms stories, including one about how the star QB occasionally served as the Giants’ scout-team punter.
“Even though Phil throws the ball right-handed, everything else he does in his life is left-handed, including punt,” said Belichick, who coached special teams in New York before switching to defensive coordinator. “So when we had the great right-footed punters with the Giants, Dave Jennings and Sean Landeta, when we went up against a left-footed punter, Phil was my go-to guy there. He was always very accommodating and helpful, but he always had an interest in it, too.”
Nantz and Romo, who have worked three Patriots games this season, will be on the call again this Sunday when New England visits the Buffalo Bills.