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Four years into recreating himself in studio, Phil Simms still enjoys every minute of talking football

Phil Simms admitted his "pride might have been

Phil Simms admitted his "pride might have been hurt," but he had embraced his role on "The NFL Today." Credit: CBS/Mary Kouw

It has been 3 ½ years since CBS upended the announcing world by hiring Tony Romo and installing the TV novice alongside Jim Nantz in its No. 1 NFL game booth.

The move has worked out nicely for CBS and Romo, who was an immediate hit and last offseason re-signed with the network for a fourth season and beyond.

But what about the guy his arrival displaced after two decades in that role? He is doing just fine, too.

That would be Phil Simms, who admitted in April 2017 his "pride might have been hurt" upon Romo replacing him, but who vowed to embrace his new role as an analyst on "The NFL Today," and did.

He is in his fourth season with James Brown, Boomer Esiason, Bill Cowher and Nate Burleson.

When told recently that cynics wondered in 2017 whether he was serious about his positive spin, Simms said, "Of course I was serious! I do Showtime [on "Inside the NFL"] and people go, ‘Is he going to be any good?’ I think I do OK on Showtime, so why wouldn’t I transfer some of that?

"Even though it’s a totally different show, it’s still talking football. I’m not going to change who I am. I watch and think, and I’m always going to have an opinion."

Simms, who turned 65 on Election Day, spent 15 seasons as a Giants quarterback and was MVP of Super Bowl XXI before turning to TV. He said he did not treat the studio job as a demotion or consolation prize.

"I never took that attitude — never," he said. "I’ve said many times to my wife and other people, I’m so happy because now I get to do two shows a week — sometimes three with the [COVID-19 altered] schedule now in the NFL — and I’m staying home.

"I get to work more. I get to look at the NFL even more than I did as a game analyst. [In the past] I would follow the league, of course, but I spent most of my week studying the teams I was going to talk about [in the game booth]. Now it’s opened it up, and I really enjoy that."

Steve Rosner, Simms’ longtime agent, said CBS’ change in its No. 1 booth did not come as a complete surprise at the time, but he added, "When you get that call it’s still a shock."

But Simms quickly pivoted to what came next, and after Rosner laid out the options during a long conversation, they presented to CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus the idea of Simms moving to the studio.

"The first show he did, I got a call from him about 7:30 or 8 o’clock and I said, ‘How did it go?’ " Rosner recalled. "He said, ‘Steve, not only did I really feel good about it, I’ll be home [to New Jersey] in 20 minutes.' "

Rosner said he is "thrilled" for Simms at how everything turned out and admires his positive nature. At the time, Simms reminded Rosner that he had made the Pro Bowl with the Giants in 1993, then was cut after that season. At least this time he still was under contract.

Simms called himself "a busybody" who likes to consume as much NFL news as he can during the week, from his own video study to the thoughts of everyone from coaches to TV commentators to talk radio hosts to writers.

Come Sunday, he gets to hang out with his work buddies and watch more football.

"I mean this in a good way: It’s like a locker room," he said. "There’s Super Bowl-winning, Hall of Fame coach Bill Cowher, and we’re not afraid to say anything about him. and he takes it. He loves it.

"It’s just: Is it your turn to be the pin cushion this week? Well, you’re going to be picked on, and it’s OK."

Burleson, 39, who is more than 20 years younger than everyone else in the cast, said he has learned from Simms.

"You quickly realize how fun he is to work with, but as soon as he starts talking about the game you immediately want to step your game up," Burleson said.

"Right out of the gate you understood the situation he was in because of the job that he once had being in the booth and the surrounding hype that was going on when it came to Romo.

"You could look at it one of two ways: You can take it as a threat and fold or you can do what Phil did and take it as an opportunity to recreate yourself."

CBS’ broadcast center in Manhattan employs strict COVID-19 protocols that include the analysts being seated farther apart than usual.

"It really hasn’t interrupted the show at all," Simms said. "Maybe it’s interrupting your life getting to the show and you walk out of the studio, you better have your mask on. And you can only walk certain places. But that’s a very small price to pay to keep working, that’s for sure."

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