After it was announced that Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock would the new Thursday Night Football announcing team starting this season, NFL Network held a conference call with the two men and Mark Quenzel, the Senior Vice President of Programming and Production. We have a transcript for you can you can start reading now.
BRENNA WEBB: Thank you for joining us this morning on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football conference call. We sent out a release earlier this morning regarding our new booth team. If you didn’t get that, please let me know. Before we open it up to questions, I’d like to introduce NFL Networks senior vice president of programming and production, Mark Quenzel, to talk about our new announcing team for Thursday Night Football.
MARK QUENZEL: I’ll be brief because Brad and Mike are really the stars of the call. All I’d say is obviously we’re thrilled to have Brad and Mike join us in the Thursday Night Football booth. Thursday Night Football is one of the primetime NFL packages. It’s a destination for football fans every Thursday.
I think it’s unique in the respect that it’s also the first game of the week, which factors a lot into what we say and how we say it beyond the game that’s in front of us. But I think that Brad and Mike will bring an energy, in?depth knowledge and perspective to football fans.
I think it will be a very entertaining broadcast. I’m looking forward to November 10th in San Diego for our first game.
Just a minute on Brad and on Mike. Obviously, I’ve known Brad and I’ve worked with Brad for years and years at ESPN. I think he is one of the premier play?by?play announcers in all of sports. I’ve always been impressed with his work on multiple sports but certainly on football.
He knows the game. He knows the NFL. And I think it’s important that he has the unique ability, which I’ve seen many times, to bring viewers the important information that they need for the game that’s in front of them, to talk about that, while at the same time integrating sort of a global view of the season, of the league, where we are, what it all means. I think for the first game of the week that’s a big deal.
Also one thing I’ve always been impressed with Brad is that as the stage becomes bigger and the moment becomes bigger, in those big moments, that’s when I think Brad has always been at his best. I think you’ve seen it in National Championship games, college National Championship games, and a number of bowl games.
Brad has that ability to, I like to call it fourth gear. He can put it in fourth gear, and I think that’s a big thing when you’re doing a primetime game.
For Mike, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Mike really is a rising star in sports broadcasting. Just his incredible knowledge and the precise analysis were on display again last week during our coverage of the draft.
I’m excited. I think Mike is unique in that he knows. He breaks down. He knows the players and the teams from the inside out. He breaks them down. Many analysts can tell you what happened. Football fans and particularly fans of NFL Network really want to know why, and that’s Mike’s wheelhouse. That’s where he excels.
I think he also does it in a way that is direct, candid, he doesn’t pull any punches, and I think our fans have shown that they respect that.
So I’ll sum it up by saying, as I started in the beginning, we’re excited. We think that Thursday Night Football is a premier property, and we’ve got two premier guys doing it.
BRENNA WEBB: Right now I’ll turn it over to our new play?by?play voice, Brad Nessler. Brad, why don’t you tell us what you’re looking forward to joining our new Thursday Night Football team?
BRAD NESSLER: I think excitement’s the keyword. We’ve used it several times. It was in the release and Mark talked about it. And, Mark, I appreciate the kind words you had for me.
I think it’s not that often that at a certain stage in your career that something comes along that gives you that rush of excitement. I love that feeling.
When Mark was talking about when games get big, things seem to get bigger and we can make them bigger than life at times. Overall, all games are good, but some are a lot better than others.
I think there is a quality in some people that you can make an average game sound good, a good game sound great. The great games take care of themselves. You don’t have to have big moments. The games just take care of it.
But that rush of excitement, I have that right now. This is a new challenge for me. I couldn’t be happier to be working with Mike. We’ll be awful busy guys in November, both of us, I know that.
But Mike and I have known each other a long time and actually worked a few games together back in the day. And I’m really looking forward to it because everybody uses the term “rising star” with Mike. I think he’s always been a star, but it’s just that people are letting him do his thing now.
Not only is he obviously a great talent evaluator with all of that, with the draft and the X’s and O’s of the other shows he brings, but he’s worked with a friend of mine, Tom Hammond, not only on NFL games but on Notre Dame games, and I get a chance to watch those games before my night games on Saturday. I know how good of a game analyst he is.
He adds a new partner to my list, and I’ve had some great ones over the years. I expect him to be exactly like that. I can’t wait to start working with him, and I can’t wait for the opening game. We just have to get the games together and get the owners and players together, and get through the OTA’s and free agency and signing the draft choices in mini camps and training camps and then get on with it.
I expect that to happen, and I couldn’t be more excited about the new challenge that lies ahead for us.
BRENNA WEBB: Now, Mike, why don’t you tell us what you’re looking forward to. You’ve already tackled Notre Dame football and our draft coverage with NFL Network. Why don’t you tell us a little bit what you’re looking forward to your next step with Thursday Night Football games?
MIKE MAYOCK: Thanks, Brad. It’s funny Brad said we worked together years ago. It was probably 1993 somewhere around there. If I remember his sideline reporter, Adrien Karsten had some kind of personal emergency, and I had to go in and do the sideline for he and Gary Danielson. That’s how long a period of time.
I’ve had an unbelievable respect for the way Brad goes about his business. I’m talking about before you can get to the game, the knowledge, the work ethic. Then once the game starts, he’s phenomenal. So I can’t wait to work with Brad Nessler. I can’t wait to work with the whole team.
I tell you what, for me, it’s been kind of a surreal timeframe. If you told me ten months ago that I’d be calling Notre Dame games on NBC, followed by an NFL playoff game on NBC, followed by the NFL Network offering me this NFL package, I don’t know. I would probably inquire as to your hallucinogenic of choice and figuring that that stuff wasn’t going to happen for me.
I start with a really fundamental approach. My belief is this: Football’s the greatest game on the earth, especially on television. And if you respect the game, I believe the viewer will appreciate the telecast.
I promise you Brad and I respect the game. We’ll bring you a football telecast that answers all the questions you’re looking for. I’m excited to become a part of the NFL Network Thursday night team.
When we get Oakland at San Diego on November 10th, I promise you Brad and I and the entire team will be ready to go. Thank you.
BRENNA WEBB: Thanks Mike, Brad and Mark for your words. Now we’ll open it up to questions. Please identify who you’re directing your question to, and we’ll get this going.
Q. Mark, I was wondering if you could briefly comment on who else was in the mix and why ultimately you went with Brad for this job?
MARK QUENZEL: We considered a number of people. I don’t want to go candidly into a lot of detail as to who they were. But the point is when you’re looking at a broadcast team, and the key is team, it’s a combination. It’s two guys.
You have to make sure that they can each be individually talented. You have to believe they’re compatible, they work together and they’ll make each other better.
Once we decided that Mike was really the guy that was the best for us on the analyst side, we looked around and it was clear to me that Brad, with all his experience and all the things I mentioned earlier, gave this team the best chance to succeed.
So I’m very excited. I think they’ll be a great combination. But I emphasize it really is about the combination.
Q. Mike, we’ve got the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium this October. Our fifth international series game. What do you think about the growth of the NFL in the UK and also the players to look out for on the Bears and Bucs?
MIKE MAYOCK: I’m always amazed, and I probably shouldn’t be, that no matter where you go or who you talk to, they want to talk NFL football. Obviously the commissioner and the NFL are interested in growing the game internationally.
I think what you’re going to see with Chicago and Tampa Bay, number one, is quarterback play at a very high level. One of the guys I’ve been most impressed with is Josh Freeman. Without Josh Freeman, this Tampa Bay team doesn’t go from where it was two years ago to a team with playoff credentials. Even though they didn’t make it a year ago, they have playoff credentials. It really comes down, I believe, to the quarterback position in the NFL.
This kid’s exciting. He’s a star of the future. You look at Chicago, and if I’m going to be honest about it, I didn’t think their offensive line was good enough to get them into the playoffs last year. I didn’t think they could protect Jay Cutler.
And Jay Cutler is another one of those exciting young quarterbacks. Sometimes he throws the ball more than he should. But if they get that offensive line stabilized, and they drafted an offensive lineman in the first round this year in Dave Carimi, and if they get that stabilized, there is no telling how good this team can be.
So I think what you’ve got are two playoff quality teams with two emerging quarterbacks. And I think the people will have a great time watching them play.
Q. Mike, I wondered if there was any consideration for a three?man booth instead of a two. I prefer two and you have done it different ways. Then, Mike, how does preparing for a telecast, though you’ve done a great job with the preseason games, how is preparing for that kind of telecast different from doing playbook or path to the draft? What do you have to do differently?
MARK QUENZEL: I’ll jump on the three?man booth question. I’ve been involved in both situations, both here and at ESPN where they have a three?man booth as well. I think it can work either way.
I think I prefer a two?man booth. I think the dynamic we have between Brad and Mike lends itself to a two?man booth. So I’ve seen them work both ways, but I prefer a two?man booth, and I think we’ve got an excellent two?man booth right now.
MIKE MAYOCK: The way I look at things is I love talking football. It doesn’t matter if I’m at my table or down the street with buddies. It doesn’t matter where we are. And I love doing the studio shows, the playbooks and the path to the draft.
But for me there is nothing like doing a live game. When you’re talking to the coaches and meeting with the coaches and players and watching the tape, you get there and you smell the grass and you get there three or four hours early. It is the closest thing I can experience to when I played.
You’re getting pumped up and there is a build?up and a crescendo that comes to live games that is unlike anything else I’ve experienced other than playing in one of them.
So my favorite thing in broadcasting, and, Quenzel, I don’t want you to hear this, but my favorite thing, I can’t believe they pay me to do live games. It’s mind boggling.
My father was a coach for 40 years and he calls me Jesse James without a gun. He says you’re stealing, son, and he’s right. That is the way I feel about it.
I’m blessed just to be able to talk about the game for a living. But to do NFL games and Notre Dame games, are you kidding me? It’s just unbelievable.
MARK QUENZEL: Mike, I’m glad I’m on the call. I was just reading my notes that says we’re paying you. I’ll have to find that out.
MIKE MAYOCK: I signed the contract. That’s the only way I can say it.
MARK QUENZEL: Right (laughing).
Q. About your opening game, Raiders and Chargers, it really seems like the AFC West has evolved in the last couple of years. For so long it was the Chargers, and then three pretty wobbly teams. Now you have the Chiefs making the playoffs and the Raiders running the table of the NFC West, Chargers are a little unpredictable. Maybe they’re turning things around in Denver. I wonder if you could speak to the rise, again, of the AFC West?
BRAD NESSLER: I’ll jump in because I did the Chargers and the Chiefs opener last year, which I remember before that game talking to Norv. He said this is my best team. I said can I quote you on that? And he said, absolutely.
The problem has always been they get slow out of the gates. And I don’t think on that rainy night at Arrowhead they were expecting to go home with a loss. But that also set the table for Todd Haley and the Chiefs to have a much better year than a lot of people thought they were going to have.
It’s a new coaching system again for the Raiders. But the Raiders have got to find a way to win outside the division. If they he could have done that last year, they would have had a great season.
So you’re right. Denver’s got to be a question mark. They’ve got John Fox in there now and that will change their defensive scheme of things, I’m sure.
But, yeah, it’s wide open. It’s not just the Chargers and the sisters of the poor anymore. Anybody could win that if they could not only do as well as the Raiders did within the division, but go outside and win on the road and win outside their own division.
MIKE MAYOCK: I think that San Diego has got to come out of the gate quicker than they historically have. One thing I’ll give you on San Diego, number one offense, number one defense, and horrible on special teams a year ago. They went out and hired one of the guys that I consider to be one of the top special teams coaches that I’ve ever been around. His name is Rich Bisaccia from Tampa Bay.
No matter how good or bad Tampa Bay was their special teams were always among the best. So look for their special teams to finally be special.
Oakland and Kansas City, I loved watching them on tape last year because they both became really physical teams and they ran the football. With Kansas City and Scott Pioli and what they’re doing and how they’re drafting, this is a physical team. They’re going to throw the football better this year.
They drafted John Baldwin from Pitt who is a little bit of a diva. But what wide receiver in the NFL isn’t? He’s going to make plays because outside the numbers and in the red zone and in the end zone because of his height, weight and speed.
And I’m excited about Denver. It’s a wide open decision like Brad said. Denver’s going with the four?three. They’ve got the best edge rusher in the draft in Von Miller. They drafted heavily on the defensive side of the ball.
I think it’s really important for San Diego to get out of the gate quickly again this year, because you can’t just expect you’ll make playoffs by winning the last seven or eight in a row.
Q. I hate to take a right turn with this, but I have to ask you a draft question. Obviously the draft was different and there was no free agent activity at the end of the draft. I wonder how that changed the 7th round, if at all, changed the dynamic of the 7th round? And you might not have your draft in front of you. But were there 7th rounders that stood out to you as a great value pick in that spot?
MIKE MAYOCK: I’ve heard a lot of talk about the 7th round being drafted differently. I’m not sure I buy into it. What you’re trying to get in the 7th round is you’re trying to control a guy that you think other teams may have value or interest in so you don’t have to go out and compete with them in the undrafted college free agency market.
So from my perspective I don’t really believe they looked at it a whole lot different. It’s the same thing to me, control the guy. And there are always seventh round guys. Lee Ziemba was a four?year starter at tackle from Auburn. Jeremy Beal was a starting defensive end from Denver. I mean, you can go down the list and look at different guys that appeal to me for different reasons in every round.
And the most interesting thing is bottom line I saw more recruiting of late draftable kids than ever before. It was almost like colleges recruiting high school kids. They were burning up the phone lines talking to these kids, knowing they wouldn’t be able to once the 7th round ended.
So the last several months they’ve been recruiting these kids trying to get them to have the best possible feel for their opportunity so that whenever the CBA finally gets done, they’re hoping to be able to sign their college free agent of choice.
Q. So stuff they typically do at the end of the draft when they make those recruiting calls and head coaches make those calls they were doing during the draft?
MIKE MAYOCK: They were doing it for the three months leading up. They were actively recruiting kids and telling them how much they loved them and how much of an opportunity they would have and during the draft itself they were loving them up again.
So it’s a battle to get these kids. And with the uncertainty of the CBA, it’s just kind of intensified this year.
Q. What do you expect your schedule to be like with ESPN next fall?
BRAD NESSLER: It’s not going to change any. It’s going to be very hectic for about a five?week stretch, basically. And we knew that when we talked about all of this, and I talked about it with my bosses at now both networks or all three if you want to talk ESPN, ABC and NFL Network.
Obviously, there is going to be a point when I’m doing a game on Thursday night, I’m going to be missing my practice of the home team of the college game that I have to do. Luckily there’s only going to be roughly about a four?week overlap because the first game is November 10th, and then the second one, and then Thanksgiving. And I have a Thanksgiving all the time anyway, and then I have a game the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Then the following week is championship week in college football. And I could be doing the ACC Championship. I could be doing a west coast game, whatever. So from that Thursday I’ll miss a day of practice too.
I have to give up a little on one end, but I guess my two middle names are going to be time management.
I know Mike’s going to have the same thing going on with Notre Dame for a couple of week stretch. It will be very hectic.
Q. Brad, as someone who has been in the business for a long time, I’m not sure the last time you had to do, for lack of a better word, a tryout. So what was that like for you doing a practice game with Mike? Were you nervous? It’s obviously a big gig, but you’re probably someone who hasn’t had to do anything like this in a lock time.
MARK QUENZEL: Let me jump in there. Brad did not do a tryout with Mike. And the reason is, I said upfront, Brad and I worked together for so many years. I know what Brad does, what he brings to the table and where the strengths are. I think when we’re done doing a couple with Mike, it was as much to understand what would work with Mike as anything else.
So at that point I felt like I had enough information in my knowledge of Brad over the years allowed us to go in and say we know what’s going on, and we know what we’re looking for. And Brad was the best thing for us.
Q. That was Mark, correct?
MARK QUENZEL: This is Mark.
Q. So Brad and Mike have not had any kind of practice run at this point.
MIKE MAYOCK: Not since 1993.
BRAD NESSLER: Richard, I will answer your question partially. The last time I did what would be considered an audition game was 22 years ago.
Q. I just wanted to follow up on Richard’s question for Brad. Brad, with having two games in three days, have you ever had a challenge like that in preparation prior in your prior broadcasting career?
BRAD NESSLER: Yeah, I have. In fact, it happened last year. It was either Thanksgiving weekend or the first weekend in December. I don’t ever want to do that again, and I pretty much told my bosses that we did Oregon?Oregon State on a Friday night and we did USC?Notre Dame on a Saturday night. That was not an easy booth.
It can be done, but you don’t want to make a habit of it. But at least having a day and a half in between is a lot different than literally doing two games in 21 hours or whatever it was.
MARK QUENZEL: I think the only thing I’d add to that is one of the things with the history of Brad and obviously from Mike, is they both could be classified as workaholics. They study and study and study some more. So I’m comfortable.
It was obviously one of the things that we talked about, and I know the ESPN guys talked about. I think we were comfortable with Brad, as was ESPN in doing this, because we know that Brad will be prepared. He’ll make sure he’s prepared.
Q. Mike, I was wondering if you’d bear with me for a couple player questions. You mentioned Josh Freeman, a guy that I’m writing about, is a rising star. Couple of other guys. One, Eric Berry. You mentioned how well the Chiefs have been drafting. Can you just talk about Berry how good you think he could be, and also Brandon Pettigrew the tight end with the Lions.
MIKE MAYOCK: Sure, a thumbnail on each of them. Freeman is a guy that when he came out of Kansas State, I saw him play his freshman year in a bowl game we had done at NFL Network. I remember the first time I saw him in practice and I turned around and it was either Charles Davis or Paul Burmeister. The first time I saw him throw the ball in practice I said, wow, that’s a first rounder right there. If everything else checks out, that is who he is.
Then you meet the kid and he’s an articulate kid that cares about the game. In today’s NFL at the quarterback position, if you don’t have football IQ and a work ethic, you don’t have a chance no matter how talented you are.
So he’s one of the bright young guys in the business. He reminds me a lot of Joe Flacco. The two of them together are dynamic, tall, big framed guys with the whole future in front of them of unbelievable football.
As far as Berry, when he came out I thought he and Earl Thomas were the two best safeties in the draft a couple years ago. Berry is a physical, tough kid that has the ability to play man or zone, which is an attractive skill set for safeties.
In today’s NFL, my belief is ?? everybody says you can’t have enough good corners. Well, I think you can’t have enough good defensive backs. Because if you have a safety that can play in the middle of the field, drop down on the slot, play in the box, that is something special.
The Chiefs have that in Berry, and they utilize him very well. He’s got another rookie they drafted in the fifth round out of Ole Miss. The same year they paired him with. Talking about an exciting young safety tandem, then Kansas City has it.
Finally, Pettigrew coming out of Oklahoma State, again, an excellent player. Won a bowl game we did at NFL Network. I did it with Sterling Sharpe. He’s an old school, in?line tight end.
He can block. He’s not just a positional guy, a tough guy when he’s an in?line tight end. He’s also gifted enough to split them out and run vertically.
Where he excels is intermediate and short stuff. He can use that big body to post?up linebackers and safeties, another up and coming young star in the league.
BRENNA WEBB: Thank you, everyone, especially Mark, Brad and Mike for the call today. Our season of Thursday Night Football begins Thursday November 10th with the Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers, the game at 8:00 Eastern.
That will do it. I have a few more releases to post. Bear with me.