One of the toughest jobs to earn — and then keep — in sports is starting quarterback. It takes years of preparation, lots of unseen sweat and tears and a little luck.
In the eyes of Chris Simms, the son of a Super Bowl quarterback, knows all about that. But he’s apparently confused about what it takes to land one of the most choice announcing gigs in the NFL — and how to handle replacing someone who previously held that spot.
We’re talking, of course, of his father, Phil Simms, and the man who soon will replace him — former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who went immediately from that gig to the seat next to CBS’ Jim Nantz as the No. 1 color analyst for the network. It was an astounding and fairly stunning promotion for Romo and a crushing fall for Simms.
Chris Simms might be fairly new to the media side of things, but he lashed out by saying he thinks CBS did not play fair when it came to replacing his dad. On an episode of his Bleacher Report podcast “Simms & Lefkoe,” Simms said he — not anyone from the network — was the one who informed his dad that his dad might not be long for the job he’s held since with Nantz for more than a decade.
“You can’t sit there as a normal person who’s evaluated this and seen it happen before and go, ‘They handled it like professionals,'” Chris Simms said. “It’s been out there rumored for two weeks. I had to tell my dad first before CBS or anybody because I found out from an NFL insider.”
The timing on this is a bit hazy, and CBS has denied this is what happened. The network says it told Phil Simms of its decision before anything with Romo was made public. But what Chris Simms is saying is that the rumors were out there first before his father knew anything.
“I forwarded the text message that I was sent and it basically said, ‘Hey, listen, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Romo’s being offered your dad’s job on CBS. That sucks, I’m sorry.’ And my dad was in Barbados, and I had to forward the text message to him to let him know,” Chris Simms said. “I don’t think he feels like they talked to him right away, at least warned him to let him know what was happening. I mean, that’s just not what you do to a good, hard-working employee for 20 years.”
UPDATE: Chris Simms tweeted Friday afternoon that he was mistaken, and CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus informed his father’s agent the network was pursuing Romo.
Some of this is just business, and though CBS should try to do right by its employee — Phil Simms has been with the network since 1998 — it also can’t help leaks from getting out if people are prone to whisper about these things. Plus, CBS clearly had to have Romo on board before it moves Simms out of that chair. Is it dirty business? For sure it is, and it’s never pretty to see how the sausage gets made.
The more interesting angle, to us anyway, is the role Nantz played. Clearly, he’s a “made man” at this point and in a position of power at the network. We, like Chris Simms, have to believe that any move on Phil Simms had to get approval from the institutionalized Nantz first.
“Listen, I think that certainly a company like CBS, they’re going to run this by Jim Nantz,” Chris Simms said. “If I’m going to sit here and be honest with you … yeah, that’s what I would envision happens. Jim Nantz is their guy. ‘Hello, friends.’ He’s kind of the face and voice of the network. He’s a bigger linchpin than Phil Simms for that network, that’s for sure. So I would think in some degree or fashion — I’m not trying to throw Jim under the bus — but yeah, I think he signed off on this.”
And now Phil Simms sits in limbo. Still with CBS — he wasn’t fired and apparently will get paid well for the next two years still — but he’s not in the No. 1 spot anymore and has an unknown role going forward. He’s been replaced by the Jeff Hostetler of announcers, if you will, even if it remains to be seen if Romo can handle the job ably.
Others such as Bonnie Bernstein, who worked with Simms previously at CBS, have called out the network for how they handled this. There’s clearly an ugliness to this side of the business, which can be cold and awful at times. But it had gotten to the point where the widely mocked announcer even was being clowned by colleagues from NFL Network during a “Thursday Night Football” broadcast last year. Phil Simms was eminently replaceable, even if the way CBS handled it might not have been ideal.
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