Jim Nantz will be entering his third season calling Thursday Night Football with Phil Simms for CBS and the NFL Network.
I caught up with Nantz at NFL on CBS Media Day, and he discussed last year’s Super Bowl, Peyton Manning, the Broncos’ prospects this season, and Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Jason Schott: What are your memories of last year’s Super Bowl, with Peyton Manning going out on top?
Jim Nantz: That was a thrill. To have the responsibility of broadcasting Super Bowl 50, I don’t know, it’s going to rank up there when my career many, many years down the road comes to a close. I will always treasure that on the short list of things I’ve had a chance to do. Very special.
You know, to be able to broadcast the game, when you had one of the greats of the game retiring, we didn’t know at the time, in all likelihood walking off the field one last time as a champion. It’s a good story, a lot of good stories. To get to call Super Bowl 50, a milestone game, it was a thrill.
JS: Are you friends with Peyton off the field?
JN: You’re friends with a lot of these guys off the field. I mean, sure, I’ve known Peyton for a long time. I did his games when he was in college. Good for him. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time, but it was decided to take football season off and stay at home, enjoy the time with his family, I wish him well. I hope he enjoys the season as a fan.
JS: What do you think is next for Peyton? Ownership?
JN: it could be. I really don’t know what he’s going to do. I think he’s going to have a lot of options, but whatever it is he decides to do, he’ll think it through, he’ll be prepared, and he’ll excel at it.
JS: What do you think of Eli Manning and the Giants, with a new coach for the first time in a long time?
JN: I know we don’t have them on our schedule. Usually, we would have a couple of games, one early in the season. I don’t know if we’ll see Eli and the Giants this year, but I can’t wait to see what the new Giants look like.
JS: NBC is now a partner on the Thursday night package. What advice can you give to Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on how to handle two football games a week?
JN: Al’s a great friend of mine, Cris, I know Cris really well too, but Al’s a really good friend, and it’s going to be harder than it is on us because we have the ability to take off some Sundays when FOX has the doubleheader.
None of us want anybody to feel sorry for us, we’re doing something we love, and I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, I love what I do, they tell me I’ll do five games a week, I would do it; but just the preparation that goes into it and the fact that it’s double the amount plus the travel, the fatigue that comes with being exact for three hours on live television and then coming back 72 hours later and being on the air again, it’s a lot and not having every other Sunday or every third Sunday off; I have that benefit. Al and Cris are not, and (producers) Fred (Gaudelli) and Drew (Esocoff) also, they’re not going to have that benefit. That’s going to be a lot.
I wish Al, and I’m just saying Al because we’re play-by-play guys, and I admire him so much, I really wish him well, and he’ll be brilliant as always, no question.
JS: Could you see this being a template for future deals, like maybe the Sunday Night Foootball package gets shared in the future?
JN: I don’t think they’re looking at doing that, I don’t think so. I think this was a way of trying to build the Thursday Night brand. I don’t see that as a template, I really don’t.
JS: Do you think Thursday Night Football still needs to be sold?
JN: No, I mean, the audience is there, you see the numbers, it outranks Monday Night substantially, there is an audience there, and I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it. It’ll be our third year going into it, Lance (Barrow) produces the games (pointing to him at our table), and I’m eager to get it started.
We have six games total in the first 18 days, September 11th through the 19th, six games to call. That’s a lot of tonnage, not looking for people to say ‘oh man, he’s overworked,’ but it’s a lot to get prepared for, and I’m already starting on that right now.
We’ve got the Jets in the first two games, against Cincinnati and Thursday night against Buffalo. I’m eager to get the season going. I’m recharged, I had some time off this summer, played some golf, I’m ready for it.
JS: Do you have the Patriots in one of the four games that Tom Brady is suspended to start the season?
JN: We do, we have their third game against Houston on a Thursday Night, so we’ll have a pretty good idea about what (Jimmy) Garoppolo looks like coming into his third start.
JS: What do you think of the “Deflategate” saga now that it’s finally over?
JN: It’s not over until he (Brady) returns against Cleveland. I think there’s a lot of “Deflategate” fatigue factor for a lot of fans and viewers and, of course, I know how personal it is for Tom, but I think a lot of us can be grateful when the day comes that “Deflategate” is behind everyone, the sports fan in particular.
JS: You were on the call for that game, when New England beat Indianapolis 45-7 for the AFC title. Did you notice anything?
JN: Nothing. I mean, it was 17-7 at halftime. Of course, we know they were driving in to go up 24-0 when Duval Jackson picked off the pass and then took the ball to the sideline, presumably, and that was where the whole thing began. We weren’t aware of that. And then in the second half, the Patriots outscored them 28-0, had no clue. That was an AFC Championship Game, so that was the end of the season for us. We wrapped it up, gave the trophy away down on the field, and headed home, and then to find out the story, you know, a few hours later.
JS: How about the way the college basketball season ended, with Villanova winning on a buzzer-beater?
JN: To me, that was maybe the best championship game of all time. I just saw the actual cut the other day at Bethpage (golf course), somebody had put like a resume tape together, and they had the last play of the Villanova game on that reel, looked at it, had a chance to kind of be removed from it, time and distance enough, to where I could hear it, feel it again. I was really proud to be there for that moment. I’m proud of the job everyone did.
JS: You came close to a buzzer-beater in 2010 with Butler missing a halfcourt shot as time expired against Duke. Were you hoping you would have that chance again?
JN: I had not had a buzzer-beater in the final, I actually had 1997, I had Kentucky and Arizona, went to overtime with a shot that tied it late. I also had (Mario) Chalmers in ’08, wasn’t a buzzer-beater, that tied it with two seconds left to send it to overtime. I had some last-second things happen, but this was the ultimate. Clock went to :00. I’m glad I had one that went in instead of ‘almost went in.’
JS: What themes do you see going in to this NFL season?
JN: There’s a lot. What will the NFL look like in Los Angeles? We’ve already gotten a pretty good bird’s eye sneak preview of that, You could tell there’s an appetite there in Los Angeles for the Rams. It’s going to be interesting to see how the season goes on what that’s going to look like.
The Broncos, now with (Trevor) Siemian at quarterback. We talked to Von Miller earlier today, and I could sense, and he didn’t agree with me, but I sense that maybe the Broncos don’t have as much chatter as some returning championship teams get as the defending champions. They have the whole defense intact, and I’m not getting the sense that people are picking them as a favorite.
I saw the NFL Today guys in our seminar, and not one of them picked Denver to be the AFC champion. Sure, they don’t have Peyton, they’re losing that leadership and all, but that defense is intact. You still have (Demaryius) Thomas, you still have (Emmanuel) Sanders, and your line’s coming back, too. They were really injured by the end of the season. It should be really good. They should be really good.
JS: Can you see Carolina going back to the Super Bowl?
JN: Sure, I can see both of them being really good, no question. Kelvin Benjamin, they (the Panthers) didn’t have him last year. He could be just a huge weapon for Cam (Newton). I think they both are going to be right back.