It can’t be fun for Phil Simms to hear America celebrating his job being given away to somebody else, even more than the country isdebating whether that somebody else can even do the job.
The nation is divided on Tony Romo as the next great NFL game analyst … but it's fully united in telling Simms to pack his headset and beat it.
However, here’s hoping that Simms lands somewhere in the football broadcast world. Not necessarily a broadcast booth. But that's on CBS, not him. He's been calling games mostly for that network for the better part of 22 years. He's got receipts — he's won two Super Bowls (and one MVP) and called eight of them.
It isn’t until now that someone has a window to consider whetherthere’s a better way to use him — to make the most out of what he knows and how he gets it across.
Former CBS colleague Bonnie Bernstein pointed at that in some heated Twitter comments as the news trickled out Tuesday.
Romo/2 A network's #1 NFL analyst is one of the most coveted positions in all of sports broadcasting. For those of u who think...— Bonnie Bernstein (@BonnieBernstein) April 4, 2017
Romo/3 "All they do is talk," *live* broadcasting so much harder than you realize! Try, on the fly, sharing cohesive thoughts in 10-15 secs.— Bonnie Bernstein (@BonnieBernstein) April 4, 2017
Bernstein probably could turn to Romo's introductory conference call Tuesdayas the perfect example. Right now, Romo is ... not smooth. A much smaller audiencegot excellent insight into what he needs to work on, very hard, between now and September.
Simms'knowledge and how well he conveys it, meanwhile,can be vouched for by personal experience, from a couple of recent visits to CBS’s annual summer previews of their NFL coverage in their Manhattan headquarters. There, all the announcers, from those calling the games to the studio crews and the reporters, wereon hand to talk the game and show themselves off. Some of them were better at the latter than at the former.
Simms was excellent at the former; he was a go-to interview each time,insightful, thoughtful, perceptive, honest, blunt, not afraid to say whether he might be wrong, but willing to stand by what he believed.
In short, he came off like he does on "Inside The NFL," where he has co-hosted since 2008. For all the heat he takes for his work in the booth — and deservedly so, a little too often — it’s way harder to pick apart his work on "Inside."
Right now, as they gush over Romo’s addition, CBS is "discussing with Phil his future role with CBS Sports,"as CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement and on the conference call. Simms is still under contract, McManus said, and they are"talking about a number of different roles for him in the booth."
It was far from a concrete commitment about anything. Which isn't good from one perspective, because — to borrow colleague MichaelMcCarthy’s words — he's still twisting in the wind.
But it’s good for Simms … if other networks are smart. He likely knows that. His agent, Steve Rosner, told NorthJersey.com that after having spoken to CBS recently, he and Simms “will regroup within the next month or so"to decide what’s next.
For CBS, though, this should be an easy one, on a couple of levels.
First, keep him right where he is on "Inside," which airs on CBS property Showtime. It’s settled into a good niche. He and James Brown are the only remaining members of the cast from the start of the Showtime era of the show.
And speaking of James Brown …
There’s an open spot in the "NFL Today" studio. Sports Illustrated reported last week that Tony Gonzalez was leaving after three seasons. Brown, of course, hosts that show brilliantly, even through all the cast changes in recent years.
As Gonzalez slides out, Simms can slide in.
More than anything, it wouldgive the NFL audience a fresh look at Simms’ strengths. Italso would give them less reason to dwell on, obsess with and ridicule what are nothis strengths.
Presuming, in fact, that they're really not his strengths. McManus didn’t hesitate to equate Simms’ 20-year run as their lead NFL analyst with the three that preceded him dating back to the 1960s: Pat Summerall, Tom Brookshire and John Madden.
"I’m hoping Phil can remain part of the CBS team,"McManus said.
Simms shouldn’t limit himself to staying there, though. The NFL spans four networks, including its in-house one. Yes, their studios are bursting at the seams with ex-players. Not all of them have much worthwhile or memorable to say, or even memorable ways to say it (or not say it).
Simms can, does and has.
If he says it somewhere other than in live-game conditions with a headset on and a partner playing off of him, that’s better for us.
And, likely, better for him.