Announcers get pigeonholed. Vin Scully is immediately thought of, and rightfully so of course, as a great (greatest) baseball announcer. Yet he was also terrific at football. Jim Nantz (left) is considered by most as the voice of golf. Some quickly overlook his superb work at football and basketball. No matter the sport he’s covering, Jim captures the drama as well as anyone.
He’s respectful of both the history of the sport he’s covering and past broadcast colleagues who sat in the same chair as he. He talks with great reverence of the late Jack Whitaker whom he admired. Yet Jim reminds me most of Dick Enberg. I sometimes think that Dick figuratively passed the baton to Nantz.
Jim’s got the same pleasant command as Dick had and similarly infuses the human element in each broadcast as well as any broadcaster today.
As Nantz wrapped up yesterday’s Tennessee-Kansas City broadcast, he pointed out that fifty years ago, the last time the Chiefs were in the Super Bowl, Jack Buck did the game on CBS. Although he did many on radio, it was Jack’s only one on TV. Now, a half-century later, son Joe would be doing the Super Bowl in Miami.
I asked Joe about it last night. He had great praise for Nantz and said that his mom and sister cried when they heard Nantz’ sentimental reference. Jack Buck passed in 2002.
It’s worth noting that after Jack Whitaker’s death last August, Tom Hedrick is the only broadcaster alive today who covered SBI in 1967. Tom, 85, was the Voice of the Chiefs and also did SBIV, the 1970 battle in which Hank Stram’s KC club knocked off Minnesota for the title. Hedrick did the broadcasts on CBS Radio.
Football review by Brian Seitz, Student of the Game:
- Jim Nantz tells CBS’ audience early that play action for Tennessee has been effective. Romo takes it a step further, suggesting that it’s Tennessee’s greatest strength. As the game evolved early we did indeed see how how well the Titans use play action. Romo said it was because Kansas City doesn’t have the defensive strength of the teams that the Titans faced earlier in post season so that they had to put more defenders in the box to stop RB Derrick Henry.
- Many games are won or lost by how a defense performs on third down. Yet Romo believed the key for Kansas City’s defense was stopping the Titans from getting to third and short. He said if Tennessee is in third and three or less they are almost impossible to stop, but if you force them into third and long they are not built to convert those plays. In the second half of the game the Titans were consistently in third and long and came up short almost every time. It is exactly what Romo projected.
- Nantz and Romo exude warmth. Their on-air delivery has a friendly sound to it. The temperature in KC was downright nasty, 17 degrees at game time. So a funny moment developed in the second half when Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill studied plays on an iPad on the sideline. Instead of employing his fingers, Ryan used his nose of all things to swipe the screen. Chuckling, Nantz captioned it saying, “It’s so cold, players don’t want to take their gloves off.”
- I wish Romo would have elaborated how Kansas City, one of the worst defenses at the start of the year, stopped Derrick Henry in the second half where he’s consistently wreaked damage. Watching the game, viewers saw KC stacking the box, pushing most of their defenders to the inside of the offensive line, and gang tackling. But it would have been nice to hear Romo explain the nuances and specifics of what KC did.
- With about five minuets left in the second quarter, the Chiefs had scored only seven points. But during their drive then, Romo spewed a flash-point comment, saying he saw something click with Mahomes which made him think that the QB figured out the Titans defense. We then watched Mahomes produce 28 more points by slinging the ball where he wanted and when he wanted and also running past the Titans defense. Tony said that when it appeared that Tennessee was playing man-to-man but switched to a zone after the snap, Mahomes didn’t find it confusing. He knew he’d have an open running lane.
- Like many others, Romo believes that Mahomes could be the new face of the NFL. He said something about Mahomes that caught my attention. He called the QB a “game wreaker.” This term is mainly reserved for defensive players and usually all world D-lineman like Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack and other defensive superstars. Romo believes it is also an appropriate label for Mahomes because he can change an entire game plan by himself.
- I loved the announcers’ depth of knowledge about the players, their strengths and what makes them different. Romo points out that Mahomes watches defenders when he throws the ball, whereas most QBs watch their receivers.
- Nantz also did a good job when he compared Tyrek Hill’s speed to the kind of stuff in the old Bo Jackson Techno games. Anyone who has played this game knows this is a good comparison.
- Romo, known for predicting plays based on formations or situations, didn’t do so at all on Sunday. He didn’t review many plays on replay either, doing so only on big plays. To the average viewer watching the game this isn’t a big deal, but for people interested in seeing why a play was run or how it was run, you were often out of luck. Overall, Nantz and Romo did well, but whether it was the fact that the game turned one sided late, they presided over more exhilarating broadcasts in the past. I give then an A for their work.
GAME #2—Green Bay at San Francisco
- Joe Buck does a good job at the beginning of the game detailing the intertwining history of the coaches on both sidelines. He did so with graphics so the factoids resonated. Two senses, eye and ear, reinforce anecdotes. Another great story Buck told was how Aaron Rodgers went 24th overall in the 2005 draft while being passed up by his favorite team with the number 1 pick, the 49ers. This too was supported by images making it easier to remember.
- San Francisco has had the best defense all year and there are multiple reasons why. Still, Aikman tells viewers that the Niners know where they’re vulnerable and that they can anticipate where the Packers would attack. Almost on-cue, 49ers’ cornerback Emmanuel Moseley projected that Rodgers would throw a seam pass to Geronimo Allison, so he jumped the pass for an interception.
- Aikman points out that the 49ers offensive line creates holes so big a semi-truck could drive through them. He adds that the 49ers run the ball so well that QB Jimmy Garoppolo only threw eight passes including six through the first three quarters. Almost astonishingly, Troy said that it feels like he didn’t throw a pass in an hour and a half of real time. I thought Aikman was kidding when he said it but Buck quickly pointed out it was accurate.
- Aikman comes from a time in football where running the ball was very much in vogue whereas today it’s more a passing game. The Chiefs are an example of the new type of a pass-first offense. Aikman believes though that there’s a place for the 49ers style of run-first and play great defense. He added that a run-first approach will never go out of style, noting how that type of offense won many championships over the decades including his three Super Bowls with Dallas. The 49ers proved Aikman right again Sunday with their unstoppable rushing attack led by Raheem Mostert.
- One of the biggest rule controversies this year has been the back to back penalties on a punt play to let more time run off the clock. Buck said the 49ers were Vabreling, while Aikman said they were Belichecking, referencing how Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel outsmarted Bill Belichick in the Titans-Patriots playioff game. Rules analyst Mike Pereira let the audience know we wouldn’t see this a third time because it would then result in a 15-yard penalty. I’m glad the two broadcasters mentioned what is probably the weirdest rule loophole we’ve seen this year. It will most likely be addressed this off-season by the league’s competition committee.
- Buck and Aikman are different from Nantz and Romo. They’re very business like, hits and tackles in approach. They don’t get mushy or giddy. Aikman focuses exclusively on what he sees on the field and details the whys through effective use of replay. Listening to Aikman is a learning experience. Aikman and Buck did an outstanding job calling the game. They get an A+. Should they perform similarly in the Super Bowl they will excel again. Miami should host an epic battle on Fox on February 2nd.