Phil Simms will join the cast of “The NFL Today,” CBS announced on Wednesday, providing a comfortable landing spot for the network’s longtime lead NFL analyst two weeks after he was replaced in the No. 1 game booth by Tony Romo.
In a joint interview with Simms and CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, Simms told Newsday that after some initial wounded pride when he got the news, he is eager to start his new role in the coming season.
“When I first was told that I wasn’t going to do the games, was I upset?” Simms said. “I think my pride might have been hurt, but then when the studio [job] was offered to me, after I thought about it, I said, man, this is going to be great.
“Now I have a chance to talk about all the different teams. Different set of preparation, a different life for me, of course, not on the road. The more I thought about it the more excited I got about it, and I’m just looking forward to the season and looking forward to working with all the guys.”
Simms will fill the spot on the studio panel vacated by Tony Gonzalez, who left the show after last season. Simms will continue to be a member of the “Inside the NFL” cast on Showtime.
Simms, 62, was vacationing out of the country when McManus informed his agent, Steve Rosner, that CBS was bringing in Romo, the recently retired former Cowboys quarterback — to join play-by-play man Jim Nantz.
The announcement was made publicly on April 4. McManus insisted and Simms confirmed that Simms was kept informed throughout the process.
“I did the best I possibly could in making sure that everybody was included and nobody being out of the loop,” McManus said.
Said Simms: “Sean and I talked and that was it. That is the truth. For years, I think ever since I started on ‘Inside the NFL’ after a couple of years Sean had mentioned to me would I ever think about coming into the studio. I can remember my answer being, ‘Yeah, maybe one day, but I still love doing games.’
“So when this came up and Tony Romo was hired, being presented with the opportunity to go into the studio, it’s awesome. I really mean that. I was with [CBS analyst] Boomer Esiason [Tuesday] and he goes, ‘Man, I’m just telling you this is the greatest thing.’ He told me all the good stuff and we had some good laughs and I’m looking forward to it.”
There was rampant speculation inside and outside the media business about potential new roles for Simms. He said the notion of him moving to another CBS game booth never came up.
“I thought about it and I didn’t have to think long,” said Simms, adding that his comfort level with host James Brown and analysts Esiason and Bill Cowher will ease the transition.
“I think it’s a good thing with all of us together, having fun, disagreeing for sure on what coaches are doing, who’s performing at what level, all that stuff is good, fun talk. I like to keep the information great, but I like to have fun doing it, too.”
Simms said there never was a chance he would bolt for another network. He is under contract to CBS.
“That was just all rumors and people trying to think about what was going to happen,” he said. “But I knew I was never going anywhere.”
Said McManus: “I never anticipated when we made this move that Phil would be going anywhere else. He was going to be a long-term part of the plan at CBS for the NFL. If he had wanted to talk to somebody else, I would have said no.”
Simms said it did not take him long to get over the initial hurt of CBS’ decision.
“I can remember sitting at the kitchen table with my wife and we started talking about it and talking about the pregame show and talking what I’d be doing all week long and everything like that,” he said. “Really, I’m going to say it was two days before I decided, oh, man, this makes too much sense. I want to do ‘The NFL Today.’
“Once it was presented to me, I really didn’t have to think long about it. I thought, man, it’s going to be a great life. I’m not being corny when I say this: Just to get a chance to really follow the league the way you really want to, I think that’s pretty exciting.”
Simms said he was well aware of all the speculation about how he might be feeling and what he might do next, but he decided not to react publicly until matters were settled.
“I didn’t have to read it, because everybody’s telling me wherever I go what’s being written and said and everything,” he said. “I kept quiet. I wanted to wait until I got all the information in and decided what I was going to do. I was kept in the loop the whole time, no question.”
Simms said the grind of doing two games per week last season during CBS’ portion of the Thursday night schedule was not a negative to him in the game analyst role.
“I know that’s been written and told to me and people ask me that question and I never looked at like, wow, this is a negative,” he said. “Doing the work and really cram and everything, but all of it was worth it, for real. When we’d be in the booth and getting ready to come on the air, you’re like wow, it’s all worth it, because it’s so exciting to be at the games and have a chance to talk [about] ’em and just be involved and be around all the players and coaches.”
That will be Romo’s job now. Simms said his transition to game analysis was helped by being in a booth with a veteran in Paul Maguire at NBC, but he expressed confidence Romo will figure it all out.
“I know this: When I got into the business it took a while for me to get over the feeling of, I miss football,” Simms said. “But there comes a point where all of a sudden you go, you know, I don’t miss football. This has definitely taken the place of it and it’s a good feeling to know you’re still involved.”
He said he would advise Romo that “it’s quick, it goes fast. It happens fast and you have to talk a different language, but it doesn’t take long to adjust.”
Simms has a new gig now, and he said he is only looking forward.
“It’s excited about the challenge,” he said. “It’s another step in the evolution of my broadcasting career and I’m telling you, the last however many days people say things and I say, ‘Listen, don’t worry about me, I’m happy and I’m excited about this, the whole thing.’
“I can’t wait to whatever the countdown is and JB comes on the air for ‘The NFL Today’ and here we go and it’s going to be great.”
Said McManus: “I think if anybody has watched him on Showtime they will understand that he’s an incredibly opinionated analyst. He doesn’t mind mixing it up in a respectful way with other analysts. He’s got a terrific perspective on the NFL. I think it’s going to be a win-win-win — a win for Phil Simms, a win for ‘The NFL Today’ studio and a win for the viewers. I’m really excited about this. I think Phil is. As I said, we’ve been talking about if for a while and this year for a variety of reasons turned out to be the perfect year to make the move.”