Well, I hope CBS is satisfied with themselves.
This all started when CBS engaged in a fierce scrimmage with NBC over who would televise the Broncos/Patriots game back in Week 15. At that point, the Broncos were on a six-game winning streak, and Tim Tebow, supplanted as the Broncos’ starting quarterback after their bye week during Week 6, had been 7-1 as a starter.
Ever since then, all three Broncos games that had been shown on CBS were called by their number one announcing booth of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.
And wouldn’t you know it, the Broncos end the regular season on a three-game losing streak.
As are Jim Nantz and Phil Simms when it comes to “Tebow Time.”
Funny how karma works.
Let’s review: The Broncos were 1-4 B.C. (before changing starting quarterbacks). In the eight games that followed with Tebow under center, half of them were CBS games. You may recall that one of the originally scheduled CBS games went to FOX after NBC flexed Lions/Saints in Week 13. That would be followed by another FOX game in Week 14. The lone Broncos loss in that eight-game stretch was also a FOX game, Tebow’s second start of the season, in Detroit in Week 8. And there was the NFL Network primetime game in Week 11.
For CBS’ Broncos games in this stretch – all of which were Broncos road games in other AFC team cities, coincidentally – their announcers of choice were: Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots (Week 7 at Miami), Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf (Week 9 at Oakland), Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker (Week 10 at Kansas City) and Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts (Week 12 at San Diego).
With Tebowmania at an all-time high between the Week 13 and Week 14 games, at which point the NFL would decide which game in Week 15, if any, would be flexed into “Sunday Night Football.” NBC, for obvious reasons, had its eye on the Broncos/Patriots matchup. CBS, after realizing that they have been assigning only their second-tier and below announcing teams to Broncos games during the Tim Tebow era, tells NBC, not so fast. They suddenly realized that the Jets/Eagles game that they protected back in October – right around the time Tebow was named the Broncos’ starter – wasn’t as valuable as Broncos/Patriots. Heck, CBS now realized that any game in which the Broncos are playing is gold, period, due to the Tim Tebow factor.
The two networks tussled until one Wednesday afternoon, when NBC decides to pull out and go on with the originally scheduled Ravens/Chargers game that Sunday night on their air.
This is our chance, Nantz and Simms probably said to themselves. Seeing those wild Bronco game finishes take place with the other CBS announcing teams, they would be getting ready to call some “Tebow Time” magic of their own.
Much to CBS’ dismay, Tebowmania would peak after Week 14.
In Week 15, in Denver – on a game that would eventually not be seen on NBC, thanks to the strong-arming of CBS, backed by Patriots owner Robert Kraft – the Patriots would end Tebow and the Broncos’ winning streaks.
Things would get worse in Week 16, where Tebow would throw three interceptions en route to a 26-point defeat in Buffalo. That result, coupled with the Giants’ win over the Jets on Christmas Eve, enabled NBC to opt for Cowboys/Giants on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 17. Now, keep in in mind, NBC could have had any game they wanted, and CBS and FOX couldn’t fight NBC’s taking it. Meaning, they could have taken the Chiefs/Broncos game, which had playoff implications, but certainly not the “win and you’re in” aura that the Cowboys/Giants game possesses – with both teams tied at 8-7, the winner would take the NFC East division, and the loser would not qualify for the playoffs at all – NBC figures this matchup would give them a bigger ratings bonanza than Tim Tebow starring in a revival of “Pink Lady and Jeff.”
So despite the Broncos losing both of their last games on CBS – both called by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms – by a combined score of 81-37, and upon learning that the network would retain their regular season finale against the Chiefs in Week 17, they sent Nantz and Simms back to Denver, anyway.
Granted, CBS could have sent their top announcing duo to a host of other interesting games. Nantz and Simms were usually supplanted at games involving the Patriots, Jets or Steelers. The Patriots had actually came back from a 21-0 deficit against Buffalo and closed the game with 49 unanswered points. The Jets and Steelers were both involved in close games. Even the Titans/Texans matchup was tight. Instead, Nantz and Simms called what turned out to be the lowest-scoring game of the entire weekend, with just ten total points scored. Only one team, the Browns – who were playing the aforementioned Steelers – scored less points as a team.
And perhaps it was poetic justice that the Broncos would score the least points of the weekend.
Tim Tebow would finish the game with just 76 total yards. The Browns’ starting quarterback, Seneca Wallace, would muster nearly three times as many all-purpose yards (220) on this same weekend.
Maybe it was the appeal of the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, Kyle Orton – who was the Broncos’ starting quarterback at the start of the season – facing his former team and possibly eliminating them from playoff contention, that led to CBS deciding to plug Nantz and Simms in for that game. (Note that they did call a Broncos game this season, in Green Bay – but it was back in Week 4, when Orton’s tenure with Denver was still in effect.)
Or maybe it was because they were so determined to have a “Tebow Time” moment at their expense. Certainly, if the likes of Bill Macatee and Ian Eagle – with due respect – called such games on CBS’ air, Nantz was due, right?
And with a 7-3 score for most of the second half, clearly, the possibility of another episode of “Tebow Time” was on the horizon.
Alas, Denver’s four ensuing possessions since a third quarter field goal would end in punts; their final possession, with less than a minute remaining, would end with an interception.
Three straight games with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms behind the mic. Three straight losses.
Bill Macatee 1, Jim Nantz 0.
This is exactly what CBS gets for not letting NBC have the Broncos/Patriots game back in Week 15.
In three consecutive games with CBS’ top announcing team in place, the Broncos are 0-3, lose by a combined total of 50 points, and Tim Tebow, with just two interceptions coming into the big Week 15 showdown with Tom Brady and the Patriots that CBS fought like hell to keep off NBC’s air, tripled his pick total.
With all of these factors, I have come to the conclusion that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are Tebowmania jinxes.
Granted, this is only after one whirlwind season. You can bet Nantz and Simms will likely be calling at least six Broncos games next season. Then and only then will their Tebow jinx truly be put to the test.
Until then, Jim and Phil are Tebow Time mushes.
Incidentally, despite the Broncos’ loss this week, they still clinched a playoff berth by virtue of the Chargers beating the Raiders. And they will host a playoff game next week against the Steelers. Usually, Wild Card Weekend consists of two Saturday games on NBC, and one game each on CBS and FOX. The early word is that the AFC game scheduled for Saturday is the Broncos/Steelers matchup, which means that it would indeed be shown on NBC. The other AFC Wild Card game has the Bengals traveling to Houston for the first playoff game in Texans franchise history, and from what I hear, that is scheduled for Sunday of Wild Card Weekend.
You might recall one of the key items behind CBS fighting NBC over the Broncos/Patriots game was due to their owned-and-operated stations in Denver and Boston.
And, big surprise, CBS also owns a television station in Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, on Sunday night, it was confirmed that the Texans/Bengals game would be played on Saturday at 4:30 PM ET – and the Broncos/Steelers game on Sunday at 4:30 PM ET.
I guess Sean McManus won’t be doing a lot of heavy lifting this week – but I wonder if Mark Lazarus will be lifting a “terrible towel” on Sunday. That is, if he had any intentions of letting Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth experience “Tebow Time,” for once, provided there is any left this season. CBS realizes that, if the Broncos might beat the Steelers, they’d get another Broncos playoff game the following week, right?
Looks like NBC will have to wait until next year for “Tebow Time” – perhaps on the opening Thursday night season “kickoff” game vs. the team that wins the Super Bowl – if not the Broncos themselves. Bank on it.
In the meantime, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will have another chance to prove if they are indeed not Tim Tebow kryptonite.
Remember: it ain’t over until Pink Lady sings.