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Marcellus Wiley Is Swinging For The Fences After ‘Speak For Yourself’

“I’ve been broadcasting for 25 years, and I’ve never swung for the fences… I think that was starting to starve me. Some of my muscles were atrophying in terms of what I really want to do globally.”

Brian Noe

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Marcellus Wiley

There’s a new commercial for FTX featuring Tom Brady. The concept is that Brady is always looking for ways to be better. He’s striving to be an improved version of himself with smarter ways to practice, recover and diet. If things can be better, why would you be satisfied with anything that’s second-rate? I don’t know if Marcellus Wiley will be the next pitchman for FTX, but he has the same mindset and approach while viewing his professional career.

Wiley, a former 10-year NFL defensive end, has been a great broadcaster for over two decades. The Compton, California native is a dynamic blend of intelligence and entertainment. In ways, he’s like a modern-day Todd Christensen. Wiley is a former player-turned-broadcaster, a scholar who graduated from Columbia that also possesses the ability to joke around on a locker-room level. I’m convinced that if Wiley sat down for five minutes with pretty much anybody, he’d be able to connect with them. Not everybody has that ability, but a smart person with personality and widespread interests does.

Dat Dude, a nickname affectionately given to Wiley by his former San Diego Charger teammates, talks about his professional goals and visions. He reveals why he’s no longer doing Speak For Yourself with former co-host Emmanuel Acho. Wiley also talks about big things that are brewing for him at FOX Sports, no longer wanting to sell cotton candy, and some great advice he received from Mike Golic. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: When and why did you decide that broadcasting was something that you wanted to pursue as a career?

Marcellus Wiley: The when was probably my fourth or fifth year. I actually had a show in Buffalo my rookie year. I’ve been broadcasting since I was in the NFL, day one. They would come to my house. We would do interviews, I would show them my life. I would cook, I would rap, I would DJ, I would do everything that I was normally doing, but a camera was there. I guess I was the first Kardashian because I had a reality show back in the ‘90s.

I didn’t make a decision to do it. I didn’t even think that was broadcasting. I thought it was just like, all right, y’all filming me live. It was about San Diego, second year, we didn’t make the playoffs again. They were starting the NFL Network. Like starting it, and I remember being a correspondent. It was the weirdest feeling ever. I’m not in the playoffs, but I’m still an active player. I’m doing this San Diego Chargers game. The Chargers lost and I’m interviewing LT (LaDainian Tomlinson). I remember when the game was over, the scrum of everyone running and trying to get an interview. I was so nervous. I didn’t run, I was like, I feel weird, like I should be playing. I should have on pads, but here I am with a microphone and a suit on. I’m like what happened to me?

I remember walking slower than everybody being over cool, really in fear, and LT finding me. I got the LT interview, and I want to say Peyton Manning somehow, some way, was like my second interview. That was easy. Everyone else bum-rushing him, bum-rushing him, and they’re giving me eye contact in the fifth quarter as they’re walking to the locker room, and just talking to me for real. I was like, whatever that feeling was in that moment, that was as close as I felt to being on the field running out the tunnel making plays. I think just because of that closeness in terms of energy, and translating to sport, probably planted the first seed in my head like yeah, when this is over, this is what I’m going to do.

BN: What’s the most fun you’ve had either in radio or TV along the way?

MW: Man, I am really trying to narrow down from a thousand and one different moments. I will start it off like this: I got in broadcasting and then I worked at ESPN. NFL Network didn’t want me because I wasn’t a Hall of Famer; I was like forget y’all. I’ll pay y’all back. Here I am at ESPN and I’m doing the car wash as they call it, all the shows, NFL Live. I remember Mike Golic came up to me the first day after doing Mike & Mike. Now I’m an active player just retired. I don’t know how big Mike & Mike is. I just think it’s a normal radio show. I’m like, why are y’all filming? It’s a radio show. Find out after I do that show — I co-hosted it with him — how big it was. Everyone was blowing me up like, dog, you did Mike & Mike and you just got there?

Mike Golic told me he said, man, keep your personality and keep telling stories. He says that’s your secret sauce. I was able to navigate a career where I was able to have personality in all of my broadcasting more than just analytics or just X’s and O’s. I was more I’s and you’s from day one. So I’m doing NFL Live and we’re talking about third-and-goal and fourth-and-goal, and I’m sitting here talking about the club, and stories, and I know that guy, and we hung out.

Seth Markman at the time, the boss of the show, came to me and he was like, Marcellus, you’re not long for this show, and that’s a good thing. What happened from there is SportsNation. I started doing SportsNation, which was so personality driven. It started to snowball from there. I carved out a lane before it was really carved for us in the industry.

All of that said my favorite moment? I don’t really have a favorite moment. I know when I feel the best. I feel the best when I’m with a co-host or a guest and we came here to talk one thing and we end up talking that, but we take it to so many different levels and peel back so many layers. We all do it, even if we’re in disagreement, with respect. That’s my favorite place to go is to bring all four corners of the room together, and talk through it and smile about it.

BN: What has been the most challenging show you’ve worked on?

MW: The most challenging. Ahh, man. Probably Speak For Yourself the last two years. Let me preface it by saying it’s because it switched from the first two years. I left ESPN with Jason Whitlock being a recruiter, coming to my back yard it felt like every day. It wasn’t that often, but he made me feel like a 5-star player. [Laughs] Recruiting me to come to FOX. He had this show structure and he had this show element and design and heart to do a show he wanted to do.

It was right up my alley because for the longest I’ve always been this balancing act. I’ve never been the football. I’ve never wrapped my entire identity around sports. It’s something that I did, but it wasn’t who I was. When the offer came to do a show that was deeper than sports or more than sports, oh, I was all-in. Then that shifted because Jason left. And he didn’t even tell me he was leaving too so you know, he’s still my boy, but hey, Jason, you already know how you got your boy. But that wasn’t a death blow.

Nick Khan, my super agent, friend, co-CEO of WWE, he also left. So I’m not even talking about the show; I’m talking about what’s going on while I’m doing this show. The reason I went to FOX to do a show is now gone, and my conductor, navigator of it all was now gone. But he planted the seed in me that really has blossomed of late. He was like, look man, at this point in my life, I’ve done amazing at what I’m doing, but there’s a certain point you got to stop swinging for singles and doubles and try to hit one over the fence. I was listening to that because he was really saying, I gotta get deeper into my passion, but also swing for it.

I’ve been broadcasting for 25 years, and I’ve never swung for the fences. Okay, you got this base hit. Okay, now I’m doing a show with Golic. All right, another base hit, I’m with Beadle. Then a base hit, I’m with Max. I’ve always kind of just been with great co-hosts who, at times, they swung for the fences in their respects. I always just sat there taking my base hits just rounding the bases.

When Acho came, one, the show completely switches in dynamic because they’re two different people. Duh. I’m doing the same show a different way and then it’s all of a sudden not the same show. I love doing it with Acho because I knew Acho from before. That’s my friend. He used to be quote-unquote, maybe a mentee, if you could call it that. He came to SportsNation one day and we just exchanged numbers and we used to talk all the time. I used to tell him how I was and he was telling me how it’s going. We just broke bread like that and became like my little bro, big bro, just because I’m way older than him. He was my boy. We had fun doing the show, but it was a different show.

I think that was starting to starve me. Some of my muscles were atrophying in terms of what I really want to do globally. I like it real. I like it raw. I like it deep. I want to bring the sociology of sports out. Our show was going in a direction and format that was going to be lighter. I have done fluffy long enough and I had done SportsNation. I’ve done fluff. I know how to sell cotton candy, but it was time to get to the meat and potatoes. No slight to my boy, Acho, but I was looking different at what I was doing than what he was doing. So, got to a point where the bosses and us, we started to talk through it. They gave me a great plan. They gave me a great consolation if you would.

I still have that muscle that needs to go back to the gym and get his reps in and doing that show wasn’t going to allow me to get those reps. Now the show has rebranded, has shifted to those places. I wish all those dudes luck, and Joy, my girl. I’ve known Joy since she was itty-bitty. I knew Joy before she could even drive, like back in the Miami Dolphin parking lots, Jason Taylor my homie days. I love them all. But I want to tap into my greatest passion and I haven’t been able to do that just yet.

BN: What does swinging for the fences look like for you? What do you want to do next?

MW: Well one, it’s not just commentating sports, it’s connecting with the people. I was going to be a school teacher, or a Dean of Students. That was like my life goal. But I just kept getting bigger, faster, stronger, so I ended up playing football. I wanted to just return home and be a teacher. That’s carved into me. I look at people in this world, all walks of life, and we all meet that moment where it’s a fork in the road. I just kind of want to be a life coach. I want to be a grander voice for those who are confronted with those forks in the road and help them go right, not left, go the right way and not the wrong way. That’s where I need to tap into.

Those are the opportunities that are being presented to me right now in terms of still being who I am in my sport thread. I’m still an athlete, I get it. I’m still a commentator, I love it. I’m still going to do a show on FOX Sports and it’s going to be sports based. It’s going to be football focused..

Swinging for the fences is me taking off the suit, getting from behind the desk, not talking about sports in a binary fashion, not being argumentative, not constantly trying to pit things against each other because it is a competition. But really weave through those nuances that we all sit back when we’re sipping a brew or we’re around our friends or we’re in the bar. There’s a different energy and spirit and there’s a different way that we consume the game than what is happening largely in broadcasting right now.

In broadcasting, we’re going Cowboys, we’re going Dak, we’re going NFC East and then we’re going LeBron and he sneezed. Then it’s going oh, Westbrook’s not happy. And it’s like, I know all these dudes. I know all these scenarios. I lived through this. How dare we now undermine them? How dare we now antagonize everything to kind of bring it to a lower common denominator instead of the love for this? I coach youth football. Every single parent would switch places with every single guy we demonize right now. It’s like you’re on a road to nowhere if we can’t start at the top and properly articulate it, and let people properly consume it. I’m ambitious, but since I’ve been through it, it’s not too far gone.

BN: I’m divorced. For a long time people would ask what happened. It’s like, ahh man, I get why you’re asking, but I’ve been asked that so many times and I just don’t want to talk about it. Is that how you feel with Speak For Yourself when people ask you what happened?

MW: Not completely. But everyone wants to know what happened and I do want to set this straight. FOX loved me. FOX loved Acho. FOX didn’t love what we were doing because that’s not what we were supposed to be doing. Y’all remember that. So FOX said let’s figure out the best alternatives for both. Speak was changing its format. I didn’t want it (to be) Speak. I didn’t want it (to be) Speak For Yourself because Whitlock was Speak For Yourself, as Colin Cowherd was Speak For Yourself with Whitlock. Let’s go all the way back. I wanted to do what I wanted to do.

Now the best version of that was an opportunity and offer to do First Things First. And I wanted to do First Things First, but first, there was conversation of it coming to L.A. Ultimately, it stayed in New York. I still had that opportunity, but as you’re divorced, I’m married with three little ones and a fourth one in New York, which got me on the edge. Boy, I was running that ball, open field, five, four, three, goal, and then no, I didn’t want to cross the goal line.

But my heart is with those guys on that show. I love that show. I love what that could have been and what may come. But I couldn’t do it. We then tried to, all right, land the plane differently, different versions, hybrid New York and L.A. Then I started to feel half pregnant as they say. I’m robbing myself, I’m robbing you, I’m not all-in. This is a trial, this is all new.

Now if they would’ve moved the show to L,A., done deal, I would’ve been the guy. That’s why they don’t have the football guy there constantly right now. It was going to be me. But we’re not there, so I’m going to do my show, which I need a name for — so anybody, everybody something with Dat Dude — I’m going to start it off twice a week and just ramp it up. It’s going to happen that way and meanwhile all these other opportunities — we’re going to have to do a Part 2 interview after everything settles over there because of legalities — I’ll have those other entities land and then I’ll be doing my show on FOX Sports. Then you’ll start to see a fuller expression of me and hopefully it’s going to be a better conversation around sports and life for you.

BN: Awesome, man. I’ll start brainstorming. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. Dem Dudes? [Laughs]

MW: I’ve heard worse. I’ve heard better, but I’ve certainly heard worse. Hey look, if I’m stuck, I’m not judging anybody.

BN: I want to do a couple of rapid fire questions with you; just a couple of quick thoughts on each of these. Who’s the smartest host you’ve worked with in radio or TV?

MW: Oh, Max Kellerman. Not even close. I don’t know how his brain fits in that little head of his, but goodness, he’s like an almanac. He’s like a dictionary. He’s corrected me so many times on air as well. That’s how you know that’s my boy. He’s like, that’s not it. [Laughs] I love that. We went to the same school. It took him way longer to graduate than me. I don’t know how. Maybe he wanted to get like nine degrees, but he’s a genius.

BN: Which school did you both go to?

MW: Columbia. Yeah, we went to Columbia together. He was there before me and after me, but Max at that time was a rapper and in them streets. Different dude.

BN: Who’s the funniest host you’ve worked with?

MW: Oh, man. Oh, that’s so close. Kelvin Washington comes to mind. Kelvin Washington, I call him Wayne Brady light. Like he’s Wayne Brady, a different version. This dude is like the most talented cat I’ve ever seen. Impressions, comedy, it’s almost like he should be on every game show as the host. This dude is next-level hilarious. Every time I see K Dub, I’m cracking up.

BN: Who’s the host you enjoyed working with the most?

MW: Beadle’s so close, but man, she’s a firecracker too. One day Beadle coming in and you’re, aww, look out, mama mad. We used to always say mama mad, and then that wasn’t the day. Most fun? A lot of these are going to get Max. I don’t want to keep Max-ing it out, but let me think, most fun. Charissa is like the best hang. Charissa Thompson, it’s like, oh, we’re working? You forgot. I’ll probably go Charissa because your shoulders are always down with Charissa. She works the room and she just keeps it light.

BN: Last one, not so much rapid fire, but just the script for your next five, 10 years professionally. If you could write it, what would you want that script to look like?

MW: It would have to be full expression of who I am and all of my experiences and perspective. I am creating a structure, a machinery that I can now be in connection with the masses, with the people. What does that look like? I want to be Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, my version. Kevin Samuel, rest in peace, just these people who have these perspectives that enlighten, unify, even sometimes disrupt, but they’re in pursuit of the universal truth, and really trying to just display who they are for all in fullness. 

So for me, no more just athlete because I used to hate that growing up and I forgot it for the last 20 years. I became now just broadcaster. You’re getting fluffy off the cotton candy. You’re doing the same thing and it’s amazing, I’m not trying to slight it, but then there’s a part of you that’s starting to grow a little hungry, starving itself as I said before, starting to atrophy. I just want to feed that muscle as well.

The players, before they put the helmet on or after they take it off, I want to talk about that. The times that my family would drive to my games and tailgate in my living room before I left for the stadium. Those experiences where people would be like, what the hell? Yeah, my mama and my grandmama was drunk before kickoff at my house and offered me beer. Never took it. Should’ve, probably would have played better. But the point is, there’s a trillion different ways we can talk about sports, and I just felt that I had done a lot, if not all I could do in just that one vein. Now it’s time to expand it.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. blank

    Robert

    September 21, 2022 at 2:36 pm

    We love Marcus and Acho that was a GREAT show

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    Mike

    September 21, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    Great interview and l love Dat Dude!!

  3. blank

    Gerald

    September 21, 2022 at 2:56 pm

    Miss Dat Dude & Acho together….chemistry like no others! Always looked forward to seeing you in the afternoon. Best wishes for your future endeavors Beloved.

  4. blank

    Wayne

    September 21, 2022 at 3:01 pm

    Never missed and episode when you were on speak for yourself martellus Hope to see you soon back on Fox sports

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    Mr Tillman

    September 21, 2022 at 5:48 pm

    I’m glad he’s not on SFY anymore because that Acho guy is corny. The show was at its best when it was Whitlock & Wiley IMO. Good luck Wiley.

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    John Quinley

    September 22, 2022 at 1:15 am

    Good because he brought keen insight and an unusual debth of conversation which kept me tuning in but similar to other broadcasters that finally attend good schools (I.e. J. Rose), they mold their speech and mannerisms in the likeness of the the subject; on one hand splitting verbs, speaking as if in the street, clowing around as with friends but when speaking to someone with the least bit of even implied social standing and or common sense, they turn a switch and merely play actor; leaving at the door of either threshold just a flimsy unobstructed screen to their true self.

  7. blank

    T

    September 23, 2022 at 1:10 am

    Ok…that makes sense. I had been boycotting fs1 because I thought they screwed you for a cheaper Shady McCoy…

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    Jesse Berlin

    September 23, 2022 at 8:00 am

    Marsellus, I wish you the best! Whatever you decide to do, you will be great! I am a married 63 years young white man who
    Respects your takes on sports and life. Be blessed! Jesse

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BSM Writers

790 The Ticket Was Something Special And Stugotz Knows It

“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen, that they’ve ever heard.”

Demetri Ravanos

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When I was making the transition from the rock world to talk radio, there was one show I looked at as a guide. I got laid off from 96 Rock in Raleigh, NC in the summer of 2011. That was the beginning of my flirtations with streaming and podcasts, which is how I stumbled onto The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on 790 The Ticket out of Miami.

Coming from a format that I felt out of place in at times, I instantly latched onto a show that reveled in pointing out how out of place it was in its own format. It became a daily listen for me, which opened me up to hearing other voices on the station like Jonathan Zaslow, Joy Taylor, Brian London, Brendan Tobin, Brett Romberg and others.

There were unique thinkers and passionate sports fans in every day part on 790 The Ticket. What set the station apart though is that I never heard anyone that sounded uncomfortable when the conversation turned to something that wasn’t a Dolphins’ loss or LeBron’s stat line. They talked sports the way normal human beings talk about sports. It was part of their lives, not the only thing they paid attention to.

Look at the outpouring of love for the station on Thursday. Hosts, producers and programmers from across the country took to social media to eulogize the station when the news broke that it would cease to exist the following week.

I can’t say for sure that all of those people felt the same way I did about the station and I cannot say whether or not it was for the same reasons. What I can say is 790 The Ticket had an influence that stretched far beyond South Florida.

Jon Weiner, better known as “Stugotz” to fans of the The Dan Le Batard Show, helped start the station in 2004. He told me that it didn’t take long for him to learn just how much The Ticket’s approach was making an impression on everyone in sports radio.

“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen or heard,” he said in a phone call on Sunday. “I had people from out of market who had secure jobs at places that weren’t startups sending resumes and tapes because they wanted to be part of it. So yeah, we were aware and it is what we were going for. We got there pretty quickly and we were aware of the impact, not just in South Florida, but throughout the country.”

Last week, Brian “The Beast” London said his internal alarm bells first went off when he heard the Miami Heat were giving up their relationship with 790 the Ticket. The station and the team had been partners since 2008. He said in a YouTube video that it was hard to imagine the team’s games being heard anywhere else.

I asked Stugotz if he had the same feeling when he heard that news. He said in hindsight, he realized it was the beginning of the end, but he didn’t really get a sense something was up until Jonathan Zaslow was let go.

“[Zaslow] had been there since basically day one with us. And so I just kind of figured, yeah, between the Heat and then that I felt, okay, you don’t make a move like that unless there’s going to be some sort of seismic change. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to let him go. That was the moment I was like ‘okay, 790 is likely going away.'”

His feelings are no secret. He took to social media immediately on Thursday and said that the news that 790 The Ticket would soon be going away filled him with both sadness and pride. What Stugotz told me in our phone call was that he realizes that the station lasted about 15 years longer than it should have.

When the station was sold to Lincoln Financial Media, he was not expecting that company to want to keep a sports station. Senior Vice President Dennis Collins surprised him.

“The company saw so much potential in what we had built, both from a lineup and a sales perspective that they kept it going and that’s why it lasted all the way to 2022. We got it up and going and were responsible for the first three or four years, but Dennis saw the growth potential with the lineup we put together. That made me feel great because I had a pit in my stomach like ‘Oh, man, this thing we started is going to go away. It’s going to be three, four years and gone.’ And he said, ‘No, we love it. We want to keep it going’. So that was a huge compliment to everyone.”

Stugotz described the original owner of 790 The Ticket as a “young, good looking real estate mogul driving around in Lamborghinis.” That certainly helped the image of the station when it launched, but it is also a phenomenon that was very of the moment. It’s not 2004 anymore. Lamborghini-owning real estate moguls aren’t chomping at the bit to pour money into radio stations.

The conditions may be similar to what Stugotz and his partners saw in 2004. You could look at the radio landscape in Miami and see a way that a new challenger could fit in the sports radio scene. But what are the chances it actually happens?

It’s a great question,” Stugotz said. “So just to go back to that time, two sports radio stations were popping up in every market. I’m not certain if that’s still the case anymore just because of podcasting and the way the way younger people are consuming media through Tik Tok, Snapchat, and other things that aren’t AM radio.”

He is quick to commend Audacy, the current owners of the 790 AM frequency. Dan Le Batard and Jorge Sedano were part of his early lineups at 790 The Ticket because Stugotz recognized the Cuban-American community in Miami was not being served in the sports space in 2004, just like it isn’t being properly served in the news/talk space right now. That’s why there’s room for the conservative-leaning brand Radio Libre in Miami and other markets are likely paying attention.

“It seems like a good plan, and I know it’s something that the Spanish population should have and deserves to have and probably was not being catered to correctly. So, yeah, I could see there’s a warning sign to some other sports radio stations or news stations in other markets where the Hispanic population is great. Absolutely!”

It is a shame that 790 The Ticket is no more and it is concerning that a station with its legacy and influence can simply disappear. But if we are being real, it isn’t the first station of its kind to suffer that fate and it won’t be the last.

As the media business changes and leaves sports stations vulnerable to something cheaper and with broader appeal, 790 The Ticket and stations like it should be touted as examples of how to rise above the noise and make an impact. Stugotz and his partners looked around in 2004 and said “we can be different and we can do this better” and that’s exactly what they did.

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BSM Writers

Chris Simms And His Self-Professed ‘Big Mouth’ Enjoying Life At NBC

“One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”

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To be a good football analyst, one certainly has to know and love the sport but you also can’t be afraid to use the most important tool that you have to do the job. Chris Simms has all of those attributes and NBC lets him use them to the best of his abilities.

“I love football and I love X’s and O’s and I got a big mouth so it’s a great combination,” said Simms. “Between my podcast, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Sunday Night Football, I get plenty of time to talk and get my studies out there.”

There’s no doubt that Chris inherited that self-professed big mouth from his father, former NFL quarterback and longtime NFL on CBS analyst, Phil Simms.

So, the question had to be asked…does Chris have a bigger mouth than his father?

“Yeah, I probably do,” admitted the younger Simms. “That’s a big mouth to overcome, but I think I probably got him beat in that department.”

Chris Simms set out to follow in his father’s footsteps on the field and played quarterback for Ramapo High School in New Jersey where he earned a pair of All-State honors. After graduating high school in 1999, Simms moved on to play quarterback at the University of Texas where he posted a 26-6 career record as a starter and was the team MVP during his senior season in 2002.

Simms was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft and he would guide the Bucs to a playoff berth in 2005.  He would also go on to play for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos completing a seven-year NFL playing career. He spent one season as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots before taking his talents to the world of broadcasting.

He started with FOX Sports as a college football announcer in 2013 and then joined Bleacher Report in 2014 while also serving as a color commentator for the NFL on CBS.

And then in 2017, Simms joined NBC Sports where he has certainly found a home.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Simms. “It’s a great company to work for. Just good people all around. They’ve given me the platform to be me. One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”

Simms wears many different suits at NBC Sports, most notably his role as a studio analyst on Football Night in America leading into Sunday Night Football. He’s also a part of the SNF post-game show Sunday Night Football Final on Peacock, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Chris Simms Unbuttoned, a streaming/digital show that is also a podcast multiple days a week.

But the most eyeballs are on him during Football Night in America, the most watched studio show in sports.

“I grew up wanting to play in these games more than be the guy in the studio but this is like the second-best thing,” said Simms. “I was kind of that kid at 4 or 5 (years old) who could tell you every player in the NFL, their number and all that type of stuff. It’s the NFL on the biggest stage. It’s such a well-done show. I get to be there with Maria Taylor along with Tony Dungy, and Jason Garrett, and Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. We got a great team and it makes Sunday fun.”

From the “it takes one to know one” category, Simms has also made a name for himself with his ranking of NFL quarterbacks. He’s very diligent when it comes to watching the live action and also in his film study and his top-40 rankings have become a hot topic within the business and around the office coolers.

Simms is well aware that his rankings have become a lightning rod of discussion.

“It all kind of started organically just because I would make statements,” said Simms. “People were like ‘Why don’t you start making a list?’ It’s a really hard thing to do. It offends a lot of people and I hate that. I root for all of these guys and I say on my podcast all the time I hope this guy proves me wrong. I hope he shits on me and shows me that I was wrong. It’s certainly not personal. One of the things I pride myself on is studying and immersing myself in the game all of the time.”

Simms became a full-time employee of NBC Sports in 2019, but his first role with the network came in 2017 when he became a studio analyst for Notre Dame Football.

Here’s a kid that grew up in North Jersey where there’s a ton of Notre Dame alumni and he’s standing on the sidelines at South Bend as part of Fighting Irish telecasts.

“Another special entity,” said Simms. “I used to get chills being out on the field every Saturday there. It gave me great experience in a different way with the halftime show and the pre-game show. One of the years I was kind of the third man in the booth but I was on the sideline. It gave me some reps on in-game stuff as well. I think most importantly what that did for me more than anything is that it opened up more eyes at NBC about me.”

And now Simms’ work has him in the discussion for a new potential opportunity down the road. 

NBC, alongside FOX and CBS, has secured a seven-year media rights deal with the Big Ten Conference that will commence next season. NBC will air Big Ten Saturday Night, the first time that Big Ten Football will have a dedicated primetime broadcast on a national broadcast network. Peacock will stream an additional eight Big Ten games each season and NBC/Peacock will air the 2026 Big Ten Championship Game.

There have been rumblings that Simms could be involved in the coverage. Is he interested?

“I’m intrigued by it,” admitted Simms. “I’m very all NFL right now but broadcasting game is fun. It’s definitely something on my radar for sure. I do have some producers here in the building that are like ‘I’m going to tell the boss I want you to do some of the Big 10 games this year and what do you think about announcing?’ I’ve already had some people in my ear talking about it. It’s awesome for the company regardless. It just expands our football world. As far as me being involved, we’ll see.” 

In a relatively short amount of time, Chris Simms has built up quite the broadcasting portfolio. From FOX to Bleacher Report and CBS to his current expanded role with NBC, Simms has established himself as one of the premier NFL analysts in the business and his podcast has given him the freedom to do something that he loves to do. Including putting his money where his mouth is. 

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The Pat McAfee Alternate Broadcast Presents Unique Challenges

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Alternate broadcasts are all the rage these days, and ESPN, in conjunction with Omaha Productions, debuted a new one this weekend as The Pat McAfee Show aired an alternate broadcast of the Clemson and North Carolina State game Saturday evening.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that Manningcast copy-cats were destined for failure. And while I don’t believe McAfee’s debut was a failure by any stretch of the imagination, I couldn’t help but notice it brings its own set of challenges.

First and foremost, College Football Primetime with The Pat McAfee Show — the world’s most convoluted way to say “The McAfeecast” — doesn’t really resemble the Manningcast. And rightfully so. I’m not sure there are two more polar opposite sports media brands than the Mannings and McAfee. The Mannings are funny, but not too funny and never “blue”, while often concerned about how finely quaffed their hair looks and whether the button-down shirt color matches with the Nordstrom quarter-zip they’ve donned. Meanwhile, McAfee wears his black tank-top, like usual, and put his best Pittsburgh-ese foot forward.

Even though the Mannings and McAfee are opposites doesn’t mean they can’t work together, however. The alternate broadcast was a win for Manning, a win for McAfee, a win for ESPN, and a win for viewers.

People love Pat McAfee. Plain and simple. For a multitude of reasons that we can get into in a later story, but let’s focus on that for a moment. It was a big portion of my column a few weeks ago. The Manningcast works because people like Peyton and Eli. The KayRodcast doesn’t work because people hate Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. It’s honestly, truly, that simple.

I think it benefitted the McAfeecast to debut with a smaller game, which seems counterintuitive because it was a matchup of top ten teams in primetime. But let’s be realistic, a number five versus number ten ACC game doesn’t hold the same weight as a number five versus number ten Big Ten or SEC game. And it helped McAfee and crew, because there are obvious kinks to work out.

Firstly, there are entirely too many people on the screen. I’m going to have nice words to say about BostonConnr than the eight-and-a-half-year-old that went viral earlier this summer, but god love ya, your time to shine likely isn’t on primetime on ESPN. In my opinion, for the McAfeecast to really work in the future, a similar setup to the Manningcast with McAfee and A.J. Hawk being the prominent figures on screen is the best solution to the problem. I know McAfee believes in his boys. It’s one of his more endearing qualities, and is frankly part of the reason his show is so successful. But you’re reaching a different audience on ESPN2 on Saturday nights, and the reason the either tuned in or will stay is because of McAfee’s presence.

I didn’t get a great feel for McAfee’s thoughts or reactions on the game simply because you didn’t get a closeup of his face. The best moments of the Manningcast, outside of Eli flipping the double birds or Peyton saying “I can’t hear shit”, have been when the pair have been absolutely disgusted by a decision made by a coach or player and their face shows it without any words following up their reactions. And McAfee definitely holds that ability, and I wish I would have gotten a better sense of his facial reactions on-screen.

Also, and I know this is something McAfee can’t actually control, he had to be a bit more reserved on cable television. Part of the allure of The Pat McAfee Show is the — let’s call it extreme candor — with which he speaks. I believe that’s the scholarly way to write “he says f*** frequently”. And believe me, I subscribe to the theory that the FCC should allow hosts the ability to say obscenities 15 times per week, so I’m down for McAfee’s swearing. But you’re just simply never going to get that on ESPN2. You’re likely never going to get that if the broadcast aired on ESPN+, either. For a “family friendly” company Disney, those cards are just flat out never going to be on the table for McAfee.

One of the things McAfee is known for is his boundless energy, which felt lacking at times on Saturday, but it’s understandable. The man was on College GameDay earlier in the day, flew back to the studio to do the alternate broadcast after travelling the day before to get to Clemson to be on GameDay. I’m sure that takes a toll. On top of that, you’re doing something new for the first time, while trying to, essentially, heard cats on the screen, and you can be a little wiped out by the end of the night.

However, the goodwill McAfee has bought with fans over his extreme generosity was on display as the alternate broadcast donated more than $100,000 to Dabo Swinney’s charity, The Jimmy V Foundation, and the American Red Cross. It was a brilliant move for a debut broadcast, because it acts as a slight shield for criticism. How can you complain about something that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity?

The alternate broadcast, for the most part, avoided the biggest problem I have with the Manningcast. The interviews. I’ve never been watching Monday Night Football, or the Manningcast for that matter, and thought “Man, I wish they were talking to Tracy Morgan right now!” McAfee brought on Peyton Manning, for obvious reasons, and former NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers. That’s it. They didn’t rely on guests to carry them through down periods. The eight folks on screen did most of the heavy lifting, and for that, I thank them.

The McAfeecast was certainly different than any other alternate broadcast I’ve consumed. The crew shooting hoops for extra donations to charity during stoppages of play definitely kept things light and interesting. I couldn’t help but be invested in whether or not someone would bury three out of five threes during an injury timeout for more money for charity.

Speaking of injury timeouts, McAfee planned a giveaway and told fans to use a certain hashtag and when to screenshot or take a picture of their TV. Immediately following him saying “now!”, an injured player appeared on the screen, and he instantly shouted “No! Not now! No! We don’t want that, and we hope he’s ok”. It was a light-hearted, nearly hilarious moment that brought levity to the situation.

The highlight of the cast, however, was — in true McAfee style — picking up on things other broadcasters wouldn’t, like an angry fan. The entire crew shouting at the same time in this specific moment was spectacular television.

Overall, I thought the McAfeecast got off on the right foot. There is undeniably a market for an alternate broadcast based around the former NFL punter’s personality, and I look forward to seeing where the show goes from here.

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