City Sports Report

Nantz, Simms ready for Thursday Night Football by Jason Schott

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms ready for Thursday Night Football

NEW YORK, NY – Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are ready for their new spotlight as the voices of Thursday Night Football on CBS and the NFL Network. They spoke recently at a CBS Sports event promoting the new series, which starts this Thursday, September 11th, with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Baltimore Ravens.


On joining an elite club of prime time NFL play-by-play announcers that includes Al Michaels of NBC on Sunday Night Football and Mike Tirico of ESPN on Monday Night Football: “It’s a tremendous challenge. I think Sean (McManus, CBS Sports Chairman) said it beat, it’s just reinvigorated the entire network. We found out on February 5th. I was awakened by Sean about 6:00 in the morning out in California that we had gained the rights to Thursday Night Football, and there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that it hasn’t been first and foremost in my mind.

“They announced it on the Wednesday of the Pebble Beach Golf Tournament (February 19th)…It’s exciting, it’s a great challenge. Doing games under the lights, everybody likes to do that, not because it’s prime time, it’s just games look bigger, games feel bigger. When we get late in the season, and we have a national doubleheader game that it gets dark early, it feels just a little more special. This is really important to CBS. This is going to be my 30th fall coming up, I’ve never in my 29 previous years ever seen CBS get behind something as much as they’re behind this Thursday night package.”

On the importance of Thursday night to CBS, which has always been successful: “It’s the biggest night of the week the way I understand it, I’m talking a little bit out of my realm here, but Thursday night prime time is the night of the biggest ad revenues because people are wanting to put their ads on for weekend sales and things like that. It’s important to win Thursday night, CBS has had a tremendous track record on Thuirsday night, and I’m sure the NFL is going to do really well for the whole network.”

On if there is room for a third prime time game on the schedule: “It’s a fair question, we’re gonna find out, I think that the answer’s going to be yes. It’s going to be going against some pretty stiff competition, not that the NFL has ever shied away from it. Thursday night is a very important night for the programmers, and we’re going to be going against people that are launching new seasons on the other networks, so they’re gonna be throwing their best punches. I can’t name them right now, but I know there are some really big shows that are going against us, and I can’t wait to see the results. I think the NFL is going to win again.”

On what his and Simms’ schedule will be like: “It’s going to be, as of right now, it’s 15 Thursdays and 12 Sundays…I don’t think there was a plan, I think it all happened and I think Sean and David Berson said, ‘we’re gonna figure it out, they won’t do every Sunday,’ but there was never a plan. The way it’s working out, we’re gonna do every national doubleheader game, and we’re gonna do more than that. Well, take Week 1, we don’t have the Thursday game, so we’re gonna be on the air there Week 1 with a regional game (Jets-Oakland). And there’s no Thursday game Week 17, so we’re going to be doing that Sunday. There’s a smattering of other regional weeks where we’re still gonna do a game on Sunday where there’s some blockbuster 1:00 regional games.”

On his preparation for each game with this new schedule: “My biggest concern is not how am I going to fly from here to there, it’s just how prepared am I going to be when that game kicks, because I prided myself on reading everything. I’m a voracious reader, and I don’t feel comfortable putting the headset on until I’ve read every clip, I’m maniacal about it. I’ve really, in the past, like everyone else, spent a whole week getting ready for a game, and that includes Friday production meetings with the home team, Saturday production meetings at the hotel with the visiting team and, during the week, reading, phone calls and all that. Now, I’ve got basically every third day I’ve got a game. I have boards and charts, everyone has their own way of doing it; that’s just the way that I have kind of grown accustomed and comfortable with doing it, all these color-coded boards that…it makes sense to me, people look at it, they don’t even know what it is. That’s the biggest question I have going in, I’ll figure it out though, I will figure it out.”

On the increasing popularity of the NFL: “The league just finds a way to tweak it to get the interest level bigger and bigger every year and, whether it’s been through expansion of the coverage like to Thursday night, or to fantasy football, it’s the only can’t-miss sport there is out there right now. People love everything about the NFL, and the information-gathering process 52 weeks a year now. There really isn’t an offseason for us that live in the league, we’re in it all the time, and I love it.”


On how doing Thursday Night Football will affect his preparation for Sunday afternoon games: “Not worried at all, it’s going to be very easy. I have one less TV show to do (referring to Inside the NFL), so that frees me up. Nowadays, the great thing is technology. I literally can get off a game Thursday night, and when I catch a flight Friday morning to go to my Sunday game, I’ll be watching the games on the place, making notes. I have people that are going to be working with me, it’s great.”

On if there is room for three primetime network TV packages: “We’re gonna find out, I venture to say if you want to bet against it, I’ll take your bet. I think it’s gonna be big, I think it’s gonna be great. I think we’re going to do football differently than we’ve ever done it at CBS, so I’m very excited about that, I think it’s just gonna be more detailed. I’m really excited about it, I really am. I’m probably as much excited about this as I would be doing playoff games or whatever because we’re gonna get this feeling every week, everybody’s nervous, wants it to go well, it’s gonna go well.”

On how this is independent of CBS’ AFC package and getting to broadcast a game like Giants-Redskins on September 25th: “I love it, I’m so excited about just doing games that I never would have had a chance to do, I really am. I was, over the weekend, watching tapes on…well, I was watching Green Bay, I watching some of San Francisco and Seattle, these are things I wouldn’t have done in the past because I really did focus mostly on the AFC, it’s good. It makes each week exciting, different and I just get to meet more NFL people.”

On how the NFL just keeps getting more exciting each season: “It does, I think there’s many reasons, the biggest thing is the publicity never stops, they’re always constantly publicizing the NFL now year-round. I think there’s one or two weeks in early July when it’s not in the forefront, but that’s about it, so I think that’s what makes it more popular. I think the fact that what’s it done for all the networks and ESPN, the NFL Network, what it does for them, it only benefits them to drive it forward. And fans know the games are big, they count, it’s fantasy football, the list is endless of why it’s more popular now. I’ve answered this question 15 years ago, ‘Don’t you think it’s gonna start to settle down?’, and I’ll never say that now because we find out, like you said, it keeps going up.”

On how the league keeps generating new stars like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning go into the sunset of their careers: “There’s always gonna be stars, it doesn’t matter. I remember somebody once at NBC said to me, ‘NFL’s gonna start to go down,’ I said why, ‘well, Dan Marino are gonna be out of the game soon,’ I go, ‘so what? It’s not gonna change anything. You don’t think there’s gonna be 80 thousand people sitting in Denver? You thing the ratings on TV are going down? There’s no way.’ It’s the helmet, it’s the league, it’s the game. Yeah, the personalities do drive it to a certain degree, but nothing like other sports, not like basketball or whatever…There’s always gonna be stars, there’s always gonna be a Dan Marino, a John Elway, a Peyton Manning, a Tom Brady. There will always be that type of player.”

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