Color commentators have it tough. Even the best of them are still torn to shreds by sofa-dwelling critics who think they could do a better job breaking down games on the fly. This website has about 10 of them. But top CBS analyst Phil Simms has taken such a public beating of late that you have to wonder what the future holds for him.
The fact that Simms has lasted as long as he has in this job — he's been a lead analyst since he joined NBC in 1995, one year after retiring from the NFL — indicates the networks love him despite the fact he's become a caricature of everything that people hate about the current sports broadcasting landscape. Simms' form has dropped in the last few years and that was played out on the game's biggest stage.
Sports broadcasting is notoriously slow to change and it'd be a shock if CBS did not let Simms work his seventh Super Bowl when the network televises Super Bowl L from either San Francisco or Miami on Feb. 7, 2016. But if things change between now and then, here are potential candidates who could analyze the 50th Super Bowl…
I don't think CBS would bench Simms for Dan Dierdorf or Dan Fouts because both have been doing this for a long time and neither is considered to be a rising star. Rich Gannon is too green and dry and I can't see Steve Tasker, Solomon Wilcots or Steve Beuerlein being promoted that quickly or into a role with that much prominence.
If CBS moves current talent into the role, look for Boomer Esiason to be the man. Boomer has served as the primary radio analyst for the last 13 Super Bowls on Westwood One and Dial Global. He's also worked five games as a studio analyst and called Super Bowl XXXIV with Al Michaels on ABC. He's edgy and experienced but also not a dinosaur, and I can't figure out why CBS hasn't been using him as a more prominent member of their television arsenal in recent years.
Outside of the network, three names that stand out are NFL Network's Mike Mayock as well Brian Billick and Daryl Johnston of Fox. Mayock probably gets better reviews than any other analyst doing live NFL games today. If a Super Bowl job opened up at CBS would he think about leaving his Thursday night and Notre Dame NBC duties? One would think he certainly would consider it. Mayock is widely regarded as one of the best game analysts in the sport and can capably fill a top slot. Billick is considered to be an up-and-coming star (in spite of his troubles in Atlanta) after he and Thom Brennaman were promoted to do a playoff game this January. It's extremely rare to see analysts jump networks and doubtful that CBS poaches Billick from Fox, but Moose could be a candidate to jump ship.
Could a current player do what Simms did and step into a top broadcast booth soon after retirement? If there's one player who has the name recognition, network favorability, and potential as an analyst to call a Super Bowl in three years it would be Peyton Manning. Manning would be perfect for CBS since he's played in the AFC his entire career and fits the prototype for what a network looks for in a top analyst, specifically a famous former quarterback. He's already shown a knack for television on many platforms and could even slide into a three man booth with Nantz and Simms to break him in to the business.
My money's on Simms joining Jim Nantz again in three years' time, but I'd much rather see any of these individuals working the big game, with Esiason and Mayock leading the wish list.