In today’s game, with the enhanced video and replays from nearly every angle at frame rates that can show a quarterback blink three times before he throws the ball, Simms is routinely exposed as being incapable of seeing the play in real time, relying on video replay as much or more than those watching at home. He doesn’t even seems to care, constantly admitting he misses plays live, too focused on what the quarterback was doing to see the rest of the play develop.
And yet, his defense of the quarterbacks may be his biggest weakness as an analyst. Manning was off on a lot of throws on Sunday. He was 17-of-32 on the game, with at least six or seven of those completions being off-target throws reeled in by his receivers. Manning missed several wide-open players throughout the game, but made up for it with two perfect touchdown passes to no interceptions, giving the perception that he played well, and didn’t do anything to hurt his team.
The play before Denver’s second touchdown was a great illustration of Nantz doing everything he can to spoon-feed Simms through the game at this point, asking, “what happened on a pass like that” after Manning flat missed a wide-open receiver for a score.
“Just misjudged him, Jim,” Simms said. “Tried to hit him and overthrew it.”
Now, yes, that is true, but we all saw that. He tried to hit the receiver and he over-threw him. What Nantz was asking Simms there was clear: was it rust, was it old age, was it Manning’s noodle arm, or poor mechanics or panic or good defense at the line? Instead we got, “Tried to hit him and overthrew it.”
What’s worse, if that’s possible, is what Simms said after that, as Nantz let the game breathe before the next play.
“You know, I always say this. You know the quarterbacks are not machines. They’re not going to hit every single pass that’s open. They’re not always going to make the right decision.
“It’s adversity always—you always have in the game. You’ve got to overcome it.”
The nex play was a touchdown, which some might suggest made Simms look like a soothsayer—Manning immediately overcame a bad play with a good one—but that’s not adversity, that’s a bad throw followed by an excellent one. There was no actual analysis there. Just words.
At the end of the game, Nantz and Simms rightly focused on Manning getting back to the Super Bowl, with the camera squarely pegged on the quarterback for Denver and really no one else. Whether Manning got Denver to the Super Bowl or Denver got Manning there can be dissected for the next two weeks, but Simms’ final thought on the moment, again, illustrated how he lets narratives, storylines and surface-level nonsense dominate his commentary.
“He knows the team; they’re tough. It’s about the defense, you’ve got to go out there and compliment it, and the offense did all day long.”
Denver had 244 net yards on offense to New England’s 336. Denver had two drives in the game more than nine plays, one, granted, a 10-play 48-yard field goal drive that lasted five minutes of the fourth quarter, but Denver went three-and-out on each of its next two drives when one first down in either would have sealed the game. Denver’s second touchdown came on a 16-yard field after an interception and following that play, Denver’s offense had five first downs the entire game.
Denver had 83 net yards offense in the second half. Manning was 7-of-12 in the second half, but for just 48 yards.
The Denver defense bent and bent and bent and almost broke at the end of the game—and would have, if Bill Belichick had elected to kick a field goal either of the two drives New England opted to go on fourth down before the touchdown pass on the final drive—and Simms either didn’t see any of that, or didn’t remember it, because all eyes were on Manning, and regurgitating the narrative is seemingly better than doing one’s job.
And, yes, that moment with the confetti flying and both teams shaking hands is probably the one moment to make Manning’s trip back to the Super Bowl about the narratives, not about the facts. Nantz knows that better than anyone in the history of the medium. That said, if Simms wasn’t doing that the entire game, doing it there would have been fine. But that’s all we ever get with him, and as CBS gets another Super Bowl, it’s clear they are lagging behind every other network in terms of quality analysis from the top booth.
Cris Collinsworth, Troy Aikman, hell even Jon Gruden will be sitting and watching the Super Bowl on TV this year. Esiason and Fouts will be calling the game on radio for Westwood One. Remember that when CBS builds two weeks of coverage around Simms this year.
Fans deserve better. The game deserves better.