Behind the Scenes with FOX’s NFL crew: When the best-laid plans go awry

By Richie Zyontz
FOX NFL Lead Producer

Editor’s Observe: Richie Zyontz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and the lead producer for the final 20 seasons. He has greater than 40 years of expertise protecting the league and has produced six Tremendous Bowls. All through the 2022 NFL season, he’ll present an inside look as FOX’s new No. 1 NFL staff makes its journey towards Tremendous Bowl LVII.

At a mid-October FOX NFL crew dinner, we went across the desk soliciting opinions on potential contributors within the NFC Championship recreation, nonetheless months down the street. Between forkfuls of pasta and meatballs, the 15-person vote was close to unanimous. Our collective selection have been the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles. Maybe it was wishful considering.

The Eagles have been then undefeated and the 49ers had simply acquired dynamic working again Christian McCaffrey. The prospect of a late-January collision was a scrumptious thought. And yesterday, the long-awaited showdown occurred within the alleged Metropolis of Brotherly Love.

However a humorous factor occurred on the way in which to what we hoped could be an immediate basic. The sport had some basic qualities, however for all of the flawed causes.

Craziness ensued in lots of varieties nearly from the outset.

We noticed game-altering accidents, a damaged sideline chain, an immediate replay snafu, claims {that a} punted ball hit an overhead digicam wire, a benches-clearing brawl and sufficient penalty flags to final a lifetime. I am exhausted simply writing about it. However Sunday, I needed to produce, and it was fairly the problem.

To problem or to not problem?

The moment replay system locations a TV broadcast smack in the course of the method. Our video determines whether or not a coach ought to contest sure calls on the sector. Time is of the essence — as soon as the ball is snapped for the subsequent play it is too late.

“They deserve a trip to the Super Bowl”

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen discuss concerning the Eagles’ convincing win over the Niners within the NFC Championship.

We have been confronted with a tough state of affairs early within the recreation.

Philadelphia receiver Devonta Smith seemingly made a spectacular diving catch down the far sideline. Area-level cameraman Don Cornelli was positioned completely (as all the time) to supply an exquisite image. Our ideas within the truck instantly turned as to if Smith was in bounds and whether or not he held on to the ball. 

So with time for just one replay as Philadelphia was speeding to the road of scrimmage, we confirmed the view from Don’s digicam, which appeared to point a accomplished catch. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan could not problem the play primarily based on that angle. The Eagles then snapped the ball shortly, shutting down the potential for a overview. 

In the course of the subsequent industrial break, we found an angle from reverse angle cameraman Keith DeSantis (one other sensible operator who captured the basic shot of the Giants’ David Tyree’s catch in Tremendous Bowl XLII). This one conclusively confirmed the ball wasn’t caught — it hit the bottom. As my grandmother would have mentioned, “oy vey.”

Evidently, I am kicking myself at the moment. That is what producers do. We attempt for perfection and are continuously disenchanted. Contemplating the frenzy, in addition to what our eyes initially noticed, I am unsure we may have proven the correct replay in time. However that was only the start of an odd day.

Cinderella or pumpkin?

San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy was the Cinderella of the playoffs coming into the championship recreation. 

After accidents to the 49ers’ high two QBs in the course of the season, Purdy took over and helped steer his staff to seven straight wins. What a storyline, as this freshly scrubbed child took the sector in opposition to a ferocious Philly crowd and protection. After which he obtained damage! After which his backup obtained damage! After which an injured Purdy needed to return regardless of the actual fact he could not throw the ball. 

Evidently, the printed was ready with a plethora of graphics and pretaped tales on Purdy’s meteoric rise. Whoops.

However his damage and the resultant saga did maintain reporter Erin Andrews busy on the San Francisco sideline. And she or he was glorious, monitoring Purdy’s each motion and facial features. 

Sideline reporters do far more than seem sparingly in your TV screens. They continuously feed info to the truck which interprets into photos. 

Whereas getting precise damage info from the groups might be difficult, it is the photographs that turn out to be much more invaluable. And invaluable is the proper adjective for Erin on Sunday in Philly!

Drop the gloves

One different second of craziness price mentioning: a bench-clearing brawl.

Fairly appropriately, it occurred in Philadelphia — residence of the Broad Road Bullies, the nickname for the Flyers hockey staff that terrorized the NHL again within the Nineteen Seventies.

This time, nevertheless, violence got here from the guests. This was close to the top of an extended, irritating recreation for San Francisco when future Corridor of Famer Trent Williams body-slammed an Eagles participant like he was a rag doll.

Tempers flare!

Tempers flare!

A struggle broke out, leading to two ejections, close to the top of the Niners-Eagles conflict.

Williams was straightforward to love throughout our assembly in the course of the week, describing his preparation and pleasure concerning the upcoming recreation. However he misplaced it, and each benches emptied to hitch the fray.

For us within the truck, it meant preserving the cameras huge on the sector to seize the surreal scene of gamers pouring on the sector. The tendency is to tighten in, exhibiting simply the principle combatants. However that takes away from the complete perspective of the occasion.

My favourite picture was that of Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, his work achieved for the day, warmup jacket on, quietly watching from afar because the mad scene unfolded.

What’s subsequent? A visit to Arizona, the place I’ll have the nice fortune of manufacturing my seventh Tremendous Bowl. There are storylines galore. Chiefs coach Andy Reid going through the staff he as soon as led for 14 years. The brothers Kelce; Jason of Philadelphia and Travis of Kansas Metropolis on opposing sidelines. Will two weeks be sufficient for Patrick Mahomes to heal from a sprained ankle? And does it even matter?

We simply hope for an awesome recreation — and perhaps rather less craziness.

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