Buffalo Bills fans have been punished enough over the last 15 years without having to hear rookie CBS analyst Chris Simms call a game.
But if the Bills aren’t going to become a playoff team, fans in this small market will have to continue listening to newcomers getting on-the-job training.
Play-by-play man Brian Anderson was fine during the Bills' 26-24 loss to Oakland Sunday that knocked them out of the playoffs for the 15th straight season. He has a decent voice, kept his mistakes to a minimum and was quick to note that an apparent fumble by Bills receiver Robert Woods was likely to be overturned on review before it was overturned.
But Simms was more annoying than ESPN’s Jon Gruden in praising just about everybody on the field, starting by saying Bills quarterback Kyle Orton “has done such a nice job” this season.
And I’m not just talking about his voice, which became irritating. Simms comes from the Gruden Positive School of Broadcasting and actually made Gruden seem like a pessimist as he talked about the bright futures of both teams before the game was over.
I'm going to try and be in the holiday spirit and not be too critical of the son of CBS’ top analyst, Phil Simms. Chris Simms is a former quarterback at the University of Texas and for several NFL teams so he obviously knows the game and had a good feel for play calls. He has some potential, primarily because he is more opinionated than his father. But Simms seemed like he thought he was being paid by the word as he never stopped talking or annoying. He made me want to shout “please give it a rest” by the second quarter.
CBS should have sent the game to North Korea as punishment for its hacking of Sony and the killing of “The Interview.”
OK, the holiday spirit didn't last too long.
Buffalolove: It was most prominently displayed for former University at Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, who Simms quickly labeled the “defensive rookie of the year.” “This guy is going to be a superstar, I have no doubt about that,” said Simms. That would have meant a lot more if Simms hadn’t praised so many other players and coaches, including Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. During the game. Mack was so dominant that CBS showed a package of his disruptive plays at one point. He almost made one briefly question why the Bills didn’t move up in the 2014 draft to get him rather than Sammy Watkins even if they needed a receiver much more than a linebacker. Mack went fifth in the draft, one spot behind Watkins.
Phantom Call: Anderson’s worst moment may have come when he had Brandon Spikes in pass coverage on a play in which CBS’ cameras showed that the Bills linebacker was on the sidelines on a passing down.
No Cheering in the Press Box: Simms seemed to be friends with just about everybody in the game, having been Orton’s backup in Denver, knowing Spikes from his time as a coaching assistant in New England, growing up in the same town as Bills receiver Chris Hogan and being family friends with an Oakland receiver, Kenbrel Thompkins. After a Thompkins catch, Simms said he was rooting for him. Someone should tell him there is no cheering in the press box.
Best and Worst Shot: Before Bills defensive tackle Marcel Dareus was ruled out of the game, CBS’ cameras showed him on the sideline trying to run while he tested his knee. He fell down on the run, which suggested he wasn’t coming back. It was a key in the game as Simms repeatedly noted how much better the Raiders were able to run without Dareus in the middle.
Double Coverage: Early in the game, Simms noted that Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr had to get rid of the ball quickly because of the Bills’ strong pass rush. A brief time later, he confused things by suggesting Carr wait a half second more to make throws. He was right the second time as Carr hit two 50-yard passes that you wouldn’t have thought he could have been able to throw with the Bills pass rush this season.
Where’s Mario? Where’s Jerry? CBS would have been wise to focus on how the Raiders’ neutralized Bills ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes. Williams was credited with half a sack but wasn’t as dominant as he has been in several games this season.
No Joke: After the Bills scored on a touchdown pass to Robert Woods to close to 26-24 with a little more than a minute left, a CBS camera shot caught a player in street clothes smiling during a brief conversation with Orton. It was a harmless gesture. But Bills fans might not have thought it was time for a smile since the Bills were a minute away from playoff elimination.
The End of Conspiracy Theories? CBS showed a clear replay of the Raiders’ Justin Tuck being held by Bills center Eric Wood on the Woods touchdown play. It was the kind of non-call that has gone against the Bills and led to silly suggestions that the NFL was out to get the small market team. This time, the non-call helped the Bills have a chance to stay in playoff contention for one more minute.
Now That’s Funny: After Simms advised in the final two minutes that Orton should not throw any completions over the middle that would waste precious time, Orton threw a pass over the middle.
That’s Not So Funny: At least Anderson apologized before CBS played “Home Run Throwback” or "The Music City Miracle" to illustrate the last time the Bills had a playoff game.
Howard Cosell Firm Grasp of the Obvious Award: Late in the game, Simms said the Bills had to win today or “they will be in deep trouble.” Of course, the loss eliminated them from the playoffs.
Bad or Good Timing: With the Bills down 19-10 going into the fourth quarter, a local mattress company ran an ad in which the spokesman asked, “I believe in the Bills, do you?” Most people probably said no at that point, but Orton hit tight end Scott Chandler for a touchdown on the next play to cut the lead to 19-17.
No Debate: With the score 19-17, the Bills had a third and one on their own 46-yard line with 8 minutes, 22 seconds left in the game. After Orton threw an incomplete pass in the flat on third down, Bills Coach Doug Marrone elected to punt on fourth down. It was the kind of conservative decision that has annoyed Bills fans for much of the season, although Marrone has become riskier in recent weeks. It wasn’t the time for Simms to be silent. The decision was worth at least some debate in the announcing booth. Simms wasn’t silent. He spent a lot of time talking about the importance of having athletic linebackers. Nothing was said about Marrone’s decision,which looked like a good one when the Raiders’ had a third down and 22 yards to go. But then Carr hit a 51-yard pass to Andre Holmes and the Raiders later finished a touchdown drive to make it 26-17. It turned out to be the winning touchdown. Marrone’s call undoubtedly will be debated on talk radio today.
Top Tier? After it was noted that it has been a long time since either the Bills or Raiders have made the playoffs, Simms said it “was pretty unbelievable for two top tier organizations to be out for the playoffs for so long.” It has been a long time since the words "top tier" and "Bills organization" have been in the same sentence or the same decade. Simms clearly has a long way to go before he gets in even the middle tier of young announcers. It would be a good start if he stopped praising everyone.
Mute Point: Near the end of the game, Simms got Twitter going by referring to an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Raiders' Tuck for protesting the non-call against Wood. Simms said "hopefully" it will be a “mute” point. He meant moot point. The comment added to the feeling it would have been best to watch this game by putting the volume on mute.