Kevin Harlan enjoys watching as Patriots evolve over the years

Mitchell Leff
New Patriots quarterback Mac Jones will be under Bill Belichick's guiding hand.

Kevin Harlan, who will call the first two Patriots games this season along with analyst Trent Green for CBS, is eager to check out Bill Belichick’s new-look team for many of the same reasons fans are.

Harlan wants to see how rookie quarterback Mac Jones fares now that the games count, and he wonders if the major upgrade in talent on defense has an immediate impact. But there are subtler, big-picture things on his mind, too.

“What is amazing to me is how the roster turns over, and Belichick gets players, even players he signs off the street, to thrive in a defined role,” said Harlan. “He puts people in positions to do exactly what he envisions them to do. And, if they follow what they’re told to do, they usually find a role.


“That’s the beauty of him. He’s always changing things up. If you love football and all the ways rosters are put together, he is just about as fascinating a coach to watch as any I’ve ever encountered, and I want to see how all of that applies to the team he’ll have on the field Sunday.

“In that sense,’’ he continued, “maybe it’s not worth worrying much about having Jones out there as a rookie. It’s natural to worry about a quarterback making his debut. But Belichick has that real ability to recognize a player’s strengths and put him in a position to succeed.”

Harlan, who has called NFL games for CBS since 1998, will be getting plenty of reps himself early this season.

He called Thursday night’s Cowboys-Buccaneers opener for Westwood One radio. His plan when we talked Thursday morning was to fly into Providence on Saturday, head up to Foxborough for the broadcast teams’ conversations with coaches and players, call the 4:25 p.m. game, and then try to catch a 9 p.m. flight out of Logan Airport to Las Vegas, where he’ll call Monday night’s Ravens-Raiders matchup on the radio.


Then, next Sunday, he’ll rejoin Green, his CBS broadcast partner the past two seasons, when the Patriots visit the Jets.

“I’m excited to get to this season,” said Harlan. “I think we’ve all read a lot of stories about people being as excited to get to this season as any they can recall. And of course, next week we’ve got Mac versus Zach [Wilson, the Jets’ rookie QB], the No. 15 pick versus the No. 2 pick. So I’m looking forward to having the Patriots back to back. It’s a great way to get this season started.”

Leyden cut loose at Ch. 25

Sports director and anchor Tom Leyden was a casualty of financial cutbacks at Boston 25. His last day at the station was Friday.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on jobs and the economy,” said Leyden via e-mail. “Lots of people have unexpectedly found themselves without work and I feel for many of my former colleagues who are in the same boat as I am. It’s tough, but it’s a reality.”

Leyden came to Boston 25 in 2015 from WXYZ in Detroit. He’s been nominated for eight local Emmy Awards in his time at Boston’s Fox affiliate.


“I’m very thankful for the 6½ years I spent at Boston 25,” he said. “I’m especially thankful for the amazing support and teamwork I received from sports producer Chad Amaral and my colleague Butch Stearns.”

Leyden acknowledged that the decreased role sports plays on local newscasts likely means it will be challenging to find a similar role.

“A job does not define you,” he said. “What defines you is your passion, your energy, your loyalty, and the way you treat others. In that regard, I feel good about the foundation I’ve laid in Boston.”

Call for reinforcements

Tim Clarke, the senior vice president and market manager in Boston for WEEI’s parent company Audacy, mentioned to me this past week that the immediate plan in the wake of Glenn Ordway’s retirement was to have holdovers Christian Fauria and Lou Merloni co-host the afternoon drive program at least for the time being. “You’ll probably hear occasional guests/co-hosts drop in and join them, but I don’t have any schedule for that at this point,” said Clarke. Neither Fauria nor Merloni is a natural when it comes to getting in and out of breaks and other duties of the No. 1 chair, but they play off each other well, and their chemistry as a tandem works. That show might be best served by keeping them together, with a rotating cast of third voices contributing . . . Amina Smith will host NBC Sports Boston’s studio programming on Patriots game days this season, with the familiar cast of Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Phil Perry, Albert Breer, Ted Johnson, and Matt Cassel all contributing again . . . ESPN’s alternate “Monday Night Football” broadcast featuring Peyton and Eli Manning should be entertaining (it airs on ESPN2, with the primary Steve Levy/Louis Riddick/Brian Griese broadcast on the main network). But after seeing a certain video on “Funky Friday,” I think I’d rather watch Cam Newton and his dad, Cecil, break down a game “Mystery Science Theatre 3000”-style than watch the Manning brothers.



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