FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For the 20 years that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were the top broadcasting team at CBS, they called so many New England Patriots games that their presence was almost expected on a weekly basis.
And before those games, as is standard protocol for all teams, they have production meetings that included coach Bill Belichick and various players.
With Nantz now working with Tony Romo (the duo will call this Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game), this seemed like the right time to ask Belichick a question that has been on the mind: How much does he miss regularly catching up with Simms, who was on the Giants teams in the 1980s that Belichick was part of, and what has it been like meeting with Romo?
Belichick obliged on the topic during his Friday morning news conference:
“They did a great job and I always enjoyed Phil. Even though I never really coached Phil -- Phil was the quarterback, I was the defensive coordinator -- we’d talk a lot. I thought we had a real good relationship with the Giants. We talked a lot about coverages and schemes: ‘What do you see? How can I help you? How can you help me?’ Phil was great that way. He was a very knowledgeable player that even things like the kicking game, which as a quarterback you’re not really a part of, Phil was always interested in. I actually involved him in different things when I was with the Giants.
“Even though Phil throws the ball right-handed, everything else he does in his life is left-handed, including punt. So when we had the great right-footed punters at the Giants -- Dave Jennings and Sean Landeta -- when we went and played against a left-footed punter, Phil was my go-to guy there. Things like that, he was always very accommodating and helpful. But he always had an interest in it, too.
“Honestly, I didn’t hear a lot of games he did for us, but when I heard other games he did, I always thought he gave a lot of great insight into the game -- not just from the quarterback’s perspective, but from the team standpoint. So, yeah, I do miss seeing him multiple times during the season when he would have our games.
“Tony, I’d say, is 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 70s, or the 80s, or Tom Landry, and so forth. He’s pretty knowledgeable for a player that wasn’t in that era. He knows a lot about it and has obviously read and studied it.
"He sees a lot of things -- a lot of fine points of defensive scheme or a play that I’d say a lot of guys I talk to don’t, and he asks about those: ‘What was this guy reading on this? Why did this guy do that? Was this guy’s job on this play to do something that is kind of subtle?’ He picks up on those things and I’d say asks a lot of very detailed coaching, technical-type questions that you don’t get in a lot of those meetings. He’s good. I’ve enjoyed working with him.”
When asked about the frequency of seeing the Nantz/Simms team over almost all of their 20 years together, and if it almost felt like a routine, Belichick smiled and compared it to his weekly radio interview with Scott Zolak on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
He then added, “When we had those meetings, sometimes when you do a crew that only does one game a year, [you might hear questions like] ‘How are you using your tight ends? How is this guy rotating in? What is this guy’s role? Where does he play?’ It wasn’t like that with those guys. They saw enough games that they know kind of what everyone’s role was and ‘this guy played because someone else was hurt’ or ‘this guy played because you used a different package that week’ and so forth. That part of it -- they were very much on top of it as much as any TV crew we’ve had.
“It would be more specific to ‘What are you going to do this week? How are you going to handle this? How are you going to handle that? What do you think of this part of their game or how are you going to attack that part?’ It was much more specific. Not that I don’t get those from other crews, but I’d say there wasn’t the ‘Who is your backup slot receiver?’ They knew who that was.”