It’s been an odd kind of hiatus for Mike Giardi since he announced Aug. 6 that he was leaving NBC Sports Boston.
Sure, the brief professional limbo was of his own doing. The anchor/reporter, a fixture on the New England sports scene for two decades and best known for his even-handed coverage of the Patriots the past nine years for NBCSB, has been waiting to begin his new gig at the NFL Network.
But sometimes, in the familiar surroundings of Gillette Stadium, it was easy to forget for a moment that things had changed.
“I’ve been going over [to Patriots practices] the last 10 days, because you never want to lose track of what’s going on and fall out of the mix,’’ said Giardi, who was with New England Cable News before joining NBC Sports Boston — then Comcast SportsNet New England — in 2009. “And I found myself gravitating to the camera guys [at NBCSN], Moose [Bill Messina] and Glenn [Gleason].
“I’d be over there talking to those guys, and after a while they’d be like, ‘Well, we’ve got to go do TV now. See you, Mike.’ And then I’d remember.’’
While Giardi’s employer has changed and his profile will grow with the national audience, the new job should seem fairly familiar. He’ll still primarily cover the Patriots, and the Norwood native will remain based in Massachusetts.
“I think [the NFL Network] recognized that it had been remiss in not having someone devoted to the Pats on a fairly regular basis rather than flying people all over the place to do it,’’ said Giardi, who will make his debut on the network Thursday in advance of the Patriots-Eagles preseason game.
“The network doesn’t want it defined totally as the Patriots, but I’ll be devoted heavily to them. I think there will be some opportunities to go some other places and do some other things. I’m going to have go to Los Angeles [the NFL Network’s home base] to do some studio shows. But mostly it will be familiar turf.’’
Landing the NFL Network job was both a long play and a whirlwind for Giardi. There has been somewhat of an anchor/reporter pipeline from Boston to the NFLN in recent years, with the Globe’s Albert Breer and the Herald’s Ian Rapoport both leaving their newspaper duties to join the network. (Breer is now with TheMMQB.com and NBC Sports Boston, while Rapoport remains.) Anchors Rhett Lewis and Cole Wright also have stints in Boston on their résumés.
Through the years, Giardi would talk with friends and peers at the network who would ask if he was interested in coming aboard. “We’d say, yeah, sure, let’s talk about this, but it never really came together until recently,’’ he said.
Quite recently, actually. Giardi flew to LA for an interview in early July. Or more accurately, several interviews. “It was a serious ‘car-wash’ interview,’’ he said, using the industry’s terminology for when you go from one interview to the next in succession.
“Flew out on a Sunday night, and from Monday morning from 8:30 a.m. until 4 o’clock, I just went from one person to the next to the next. By 5:15 I was back at LAX to take a red-eye to come back to Boston. It was hectic to say the least.’’
Giardi will be missed on NBC Sports Boston, where he built rapport and camaraderie, especially with fellow Patriots-centric reporters Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry.
In tandem with Curran for years, and then as a trio with Perry more recently, there was a good-natured and authentic approach to their coverage of and commentary on the Patriots, which included informative stand-ups on the field in the game’s immediate aftermath for the network’s postgame show.
Giardi will be missed — something he was told often over the past 10 days on, of all places, social media.
“There’s always going to be an element of people where you can’t do anything right in their eyes,’’ he said. “People who want you to leave Bill [Belichick] alone or leave [Tom] Brady alone or stop asking about Malcolm Butler. But by in large I think people recognize that we were coming from a place of knowledge and not just throwing stuff up against a wall. If we were, we’d always say, ‘Look, speculating here, but maybe this is what’s going on.’
“Because of the nature of social media, when people say nice things about you, it’s always a surprise. It’s been kind of overwhelming, actually.’’
Part of his appeal to viewers comes from his resistance to the insincere contrarianism so prevalent in the Boston media, including on NBCSB. It must be noted, though, that Giardi did get some grief for asking Belichick if “the quarterback position would be evaluated’’ after the Chiefs pummeled Brady and the Patriots, 41-14, in September 2014. Belichick scoffed. Brady kept his job. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.
Giardi later became known as one of the early true believers in Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots backup quarterback from 2014 until his surprising trade to the 49ers last October. It got to the point that his appreciation for the quarterback known as Jimmy G. became a running gag.
He was amused by the jokes from Patriots fans who, when learning he was leaving NBC Sports Boston, needled him that he must be following a dream to go west and cover Garoppolo again.
“Listen, I have a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. If they told me I could do this job but I’d have to move I would say that would be a deal-breaker,’’ he said, before adding with a laugh, “but I wouldn’t mind getting over there to the Bay Area once or twice. I wouldn’t complain about that.’’