Hello, friends. What? That's taken as a go-to intro already? Ah, I'm sure Jim Nantz won't mind, especially since CBS's signature play-by-play voice took more than a few minutes this week to discuss Sunday's Patriots-Colts matchup, which he will call alongside Phil Simms. It's the fifth time CBS's top NFL broadcasting tandem will call a Patriots game this season, and the third time in New England's last four games. They've seen the Patriots dozens of times over the years, and let's just say Nantz thinks any discussion about finding a successor to Brady -- a popular topic around here this week -- is way too premature.
1. It's still jarring watching the Colts and not seeing Peyton Manning under center. How much of a chance have you had to see Andrew Luck?
Nantz: “We did one game, and it was probably their worst performance of the year. It was against the Jets, and they got thumped. For whatever reason that day it just didn’t come together. Chalk it up to a youthful team that when things go sideways they may not always have the solution to correct it. That was one of their poorer performances of the season. Still, though, in the meetings we had with the Colts before the game, and getting to the stadium early and watching warm-ups, and having time to spend with Andrew, you can see it. You can see there’s a whole lot there. It’s a pretty amazing and quick transformation for a team that pretty much jettisoned everybody and put a whole new roster together, Reggie Wayne and a few others excluded. It’s amazing on paper that they’re 6-3, but I’ve gotta say, when you watch the film and even when you see them on the field on a bad day like the day that we saw them, you can tell that there really is a lot there.’’
2. There has to be some envy around the league when it comes to the Colts, who have Manning for 14 years, have one awful season when he's hurt, and have the good fortune of hitting the jackpot with Luck. Especially given how crucial quality play is from that position.
Nantz: “This is a true testament to how important the quarterback position is in the National Football League. It’s a true eye-opener here as to how important it is to have a franchise quarterback. There aren’t 32 of them to go around. That’s the problem. You’re lucky if you can sit down and really say there are 10 in the league that I would entrust to build my franchise around for the next 10 years. I was doing a radio tour Tuesday and I got a question about whether Brady was getting some age on him. People are starting to feel like, ‘Hey, the window must be closing. Like I said, we see the Patriots about every other week, and I don’t see it at all. Tom’s always said he wants to play for a long, long time, and I think he will. There’s no slowing down. He fires it in there like he did 10 years ago. Even though I know the birth certificate says he’s a certain age, the way he’s taken care of himself, he’s got a long run to go. And then you get questions about Manning, too. Earlier in the year we had several Broncos games, four of their games overall, and we’ve transitioned from questions being asked “Is Manning ever going to make it all the way back and be the same player?’ to 'Is he the MVP.'
“I have to say that when you look at the success of the Colts and how they’ve built this back up so fast, it’s got to leave fans in cities like Jacksonville and Buffalo shaking their head and saying, “Wait a minute, we’re trying to slowly gain on this thing every year and build something sustainable, and we’re not. And we’re signing high-priced free agents like Mario Williams. How does this happen? We’ve got the same record we had the year before, the year before, and the year before that. Indianapolis blows up in one year, comes in gets, Luck, and wow, they’re 6-3 and making a playoff run again. It really gets down to the quarterback, again, though there are other factors, none as important as a franchise quarterback.’’
3. Sports radio being what it is, the Manning/Luck thing has made discussing the Tom Brady succession plan a popular topic up here. Is that something even worth considering at this point?
Nantz: “I don’t think they need to worry about that right now. I really don’t think that’s anything of a concern right now. Who knows, maybe Ryan Mallett develops, but I don’t see this as two or three years in the offing, by any means. Yeah, one day, that franchise is going to face an important crossroads – yeah, what do we do now at quarterback? – but that day is a long way away. I don’t even want to add to the speculation. That is not something right now that’s a big priority for them.
4. Can you maybe call a couple of programs up here and share that point of view?
Nantz: [Laughs.] "People are just playing the numbers. Playing the age numbers. Because I look at his numbers and I see 18 touchdowns against three interceptions. A 6-1 ratio. I’m looking at the Patriots putting 30 points on the board every week and there is my mind no concern with their quarterback position this year, next year, or the year after that. Probably several years beyond."
5. At this point a season ago, the Patriots had the same record and the same most obvious flaw -- an inconsistent-at-best pass defense. They ended up winning the rest of their games until the Super Bowl. Is this team capable of a similar run?
Nantz: “I don’t think there’s any question they’re capable of it. There’s that two-week stretch that everyone knows coming up in December. San Francisco and Houston back to back. But they get them at home, and the schedule other than those two – and that’s a big 'other' –it’s an extremely favorable schedule, and you’re looking at a team that has three losses by four points, and while I can hear Belichick saying “We are what our record says we are,’’ this team right now could be 9-0. And it’s not like somebody really whipped ‘em. I know there have probably been some nailbiters the fan base isn’t accustomed to, like this past weekend, but that’s the NFL. That’s the NFL. If the Patriots end up cranking out wins the rest of the year and go 13-3 or 12-4, there’s not going to be anything wrong with that."
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.