Jim Nantz will call Sunday's Eagles-Seahawks game in Seattle on CBS, along with color analyst Phil Simms and sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson. As Nantz prepared to head to the Pacific Northwest, I chatted with him about Sunday's game, the impact of Carson Wentz, and some other interesting topics.
What do you make of Carson Wentz's rookie season so far?
It's got to be a good feeling if you're an Eagles fan, knowing that you have the most important position in football covered for at least the next 12 years, and probably well beyond.
I've seen him once in person: Week 3, when the Eagles hosted the Steelers. Philadelphia was running on all cylinders at that point and blew out Pittsburgh. My impression of Carson Wentz is - hey, congratulations to the Eagles. They found their guy, they found their franchise guy, and identified him when other teams didn't se him.
The Eagles gave up a lot to get him. Was doing that worth it?
Oh, it was well worth it. Trust me. When you're in cities that go through a 10-, 20-, 30-year battle trying to find a franchise quarterback - and they keep bringing in the next guy that's going to solve their problems, only to find out after a year or two that it's more of the same - believe me, you'd be willing to pay a heavy price.
For as well as Wentz has played, the Eagles' offense still has major flaws, and it seems that there's only so much he can do to cover those flaws up. Do you think it hurts Wentz when the rest of the unit around him isn't good enough?
Yeah. You've got to look at the year as already being a success.
I know that's not what you set out to do. You begin every year, no matter who you're putting on the field, trying to win a Super Bowl. But look, the Eagles still have a great chance of making the playoffs as a wild card team. They've gone through a very rough part of the schedule here - this will be their fifth road game in seven weeks. They're going to come back for four of their last six at home.
This will be a very good test for not only Carson, but everyone else on the team, going into arguably the loudest arena in the game, and a team that's coming in on a roll, and seeing how you measure up against a very well established NFL power. They're going to learn a lot from this experience, win or lose. You can talk about some of the weaknesses the Eagles have.
You can't solve all your problems in one year, but they've solved the biggest one. They've found their quarterback, the player that they're going to wrap their franchise around.
As you mentioned, the Eagles go to Seattle this weekend, and there will be a wild atmosphere. You've been to pretty much all the stadiums in the NFL, new and old. Where does CenturyLink Field rank in terms of hostility?
That's a good word for it. I would say it's co-number one with Arrowhead in Kansas City. There's something about those two that when they get going, it gets so loud that it actually shakes the building. I can be sitting in the broadcast booth during the game, and can actually feel the vibration. The building is quaking. It's intense.
It's one of the things to me that has been a great contribution to Seattle's success, the "12th Man." And man, are they going to be revved up for this one coming off that win in New England [last Sunday]. You're running into a buzzsaw here if you're the Philadelphia Eagles.
But it's one great thing about this league: one never knows what's going to happen. I'm not going to sell the Eagles' chances short. I think they all know that this is going to be a very tough assignment, but look, the Eagles can do it. After what I saw they do earlier this season to Pittsburgh, in any given week, this team's capable of beating anyone in any arena.
It's interesting that you mention Kansas City as the comparison point with Seattle, because a lot of the modern stadiums in the NFL don't have the same kind of intimidating acoustics that older venues like Arrowhead do. CenturyLink Field's ability to hold noise in is somewhat rare among the new era of venues.
I don't know why that is, but you're right. I think people would say that about MetLife Stadium [in East Rutherford, N.J.] And I think people would say that about the Dawg Pound in Cleveland now. Of course, they've had fewer occasions to get stirred these days, the Dawg Pound, and I know they're still smarting over giving up that pick and trading it away to allow Wentz to come to Philadelphia.
But [in] a lot of these stadiums that have been newly built, for whatever reason, the sound doesn't bounce off the walls like it used to... These architects that are constructing these new stadiums, they ought to be smart enough to figure out a way to contain the noise and have it become more of a factor like it was in the old arenas.
In addition to Wentz's arrival this season, Dak Prescott has exploded onto the scene in Dallas. There have been plenty of comparisons of the two players, since they're both rookies starting at quarterback in the NFC East - and for big-time teams in the NFL as a whole - and it seems like both players are going to be in the spotlight for quite a while. What do you make of the two of them?
I think it's hard to compare. I just did a radio show where somebody asked me to compare Tom Brady with Joe Montana, and I got on this whole diatribe about how it's very difficult to compare different generations. Well, these guys are of the same generation, and they're going to be matched up twice a year for, again, the next 12-plus years.
It's too early to draw any fast conclusions. All I know is it's a gift to the NFC East and it's a gift to the league that one of the better rivalries in the sport has set itself up here for a magnificent run. Many great occasions to come.
The thing I would just say is that the comparison gets back to similarities in how they're both winners. Dak was able at one point to bring Mississippi State to No. 1 in the rankings during his time down in Starkville. Carson was part of a system at North Dakota State that was winning national championships at their level. He won two national championships. They're winners. They have the ability physically and the smarts mentally to come in and handle all that's being thrown at you as a rookie.
I grew up at a time when it was automatic that you draft a quarterback and he wasn't going to see the field the first year. He would sit and watch. Kind of what it looked like the [Los Angeles] Rams were going to do with [No. 1 overall pick Jared] Goff, but now he's going to start, beginning this week. That used to be automatic thinking around the league. The culture of the NFL was, "We're not putting that guy on the field this year."
It began to change, and I've seen it change here over the last 10 years. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco came out of the same draft class, and they were able to take the reins starting with their first games, and have success. People started to say, "Well, why not? Why can't we entrust this position [to a rookie]? This guy has checkmarks by all the boxes. Is he bright enough? Is he physically talented enough? Can he lead? Let's go with him." It's an amazing thing to see.
In Carson's case, what really struck me was how you had such limited exposure to him in preseason games, because he was hurt. So he played that first preseason game, and then eight days before the season starts, they make the Bradford trade and anoint him as the starter. Good on Doug Pederson and his coaching staff. They saw enough to believe that this kid could handle it, and he certainly has.
One more question for you, and it's not about Carson Wentz. It's about statistics showing that the Eagles are the most penalized team in the NFL this year. And in general, there have been a lot of complaints this year from fans about games being less watchable because there are too many flags. ESPN's Sean McDonough even raised the subject during a Monday Night Football broadcast in October. What have you seen from the TV booth?
You know, I think it depends on the game. I had a game last weekend [Broncos at Saints] where it seemed like there were five minutes to go in the second quarter and I said, "Denver is penalized for the first time in this game." It's a game-by-game, week-to-week basis.
I think we've all been looking for reasons why the game [overall] has been drawing a smaller audience, as the ratings were down in the first half of the season. I know you read the same things that I did - that this last weekend, post-election, the numbers for Sunday Night Football were up. Our games were down on CBS' regional [coverage].
That's one of those things that you have to ask yourself. If people want to blame it on too many penalties, who are we blaming? Are we blaming the players? Are we blaming coaching? Are we blaming officials? Are they supposed to not call things that are obvious penalties? Or are we saying that they're getting too nit-picky and calling things that could have easily been overlooked?
I think we need to go through the full season. Obviously there's going to be some team that leads the league in most penalties, and that's saying a lot when the Raiders had 23 in one game this year. That's the all-time record, and the Eagles still have the most in the league this year.
There was a big non-call in Philadelphia last weekend when Jordan Matthews took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal.
They're going to miss some, and that's not the only one. Yes, I saw it, and I don't know what the answer is to that. There's a lot of things we can complain about that may have contributed to the NFL seeing a slight downturn in its ratings. I'm of the opinion that in the second half of the season, there's going to be a rebound here. I don't think the officiating and too many penalties is what to really hang your hat on.
Do you notice as a broadcaster when the flow of a game is hurt because a lot of flags are being thrown?
I do, but not any more than I have in the past. Sometimes you get a game that just seems very choppy, and it seems like there's a flag coming out on every play, and it's frustrating. Then you can go weeks and not have anything that even makes you think about it, that the officials are in the way or slowing down the pace of the game.
I had Thursday Night Football for the first half of the season, plus Sunday games. So I've already called something like 15 games through 10 weeks. I really can't tell you at this point that I feel like there's a difference in the way the games are being officiated.