THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for joining us today for our Super Bowl LII Pre-Game Show conference call. On this call to talk about it, we have our executive producer of NBC Sports and the pre-game show Sam Flood; our host, Dan Patrick; co-host Liam McHugh; and analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison.
SAM FLOOD: Thanks for joining us today. It’s fun to think that in 2009 in Tampa, this team really started coming together because Tony and Rodney were guest analysts on the Super Bowl there for us, and then joined the team full-time after that Super Bowl because they did so well and showcased what they could accomplish. So I’m excited that they continue to grow into their roles.
They’re going to be joined by John Harbaugh for this Super Bowl. John was with us three years ago in Arizona and really had a unique talent for breaking things down and playing well with Tony and Rodney. It was just the three of them worked so well together. And of course Dan Patrick will be with them a lot of the day, and it’s fun to add Liam McHugh to the core of the Super Bowl team as he’s going to start the day with Tony and Rodney.
Dan Patrick gets to start the day at Nicollet Mall in a really unique studio we set up there on top of a snow hill, and that snow hill is going to enable us to be a part of the entire Minnesota scene. We’ve got skijoring, which is dogs pulling people on skis. We’ve got fat tire bikes. We’ve got tubing. We’ve got a snowcat. We’ve got ice fishing. You name it, we have it. We’re engaged in the place.
But as we get closer to the game, our focus will become more and more about football as well as the fun and energy and excitement leading up to this game. We’ve already done some very good interviews and conversations with key players, telling the stories of this game and the two sides of the story, which is the underdog attitude of the Eagles and the Patriots who are coming back as part of this dynasty. We’ve had a good time breaking down those stories, getting the content on those, which will make for some good viewing. But again, our key focus is to build to the game and get people ready for it, and in doing so, Dan Patrick is now in the lead chair. He starts the show out at Nicollet Mall in the snow. We’ve made sure he’s got some feet warmers because Dan is not as tough as he once was, but we think he can still stand out in the cold for more than half an hour. Dan, take it away.
DAN PATRICK: Proud to be part of the team doing the Super Bowl again, and as Sam referenced, Rodney and Tony came aboard when we were in Tampa, and I remember how much fun we had, and as we came away from that Super Bowl, and Sam and I talked about it, and he said, what do you think of adding Rodney and Tony, and Rodney as a permanent co-host, Tony as an analyst. I said, he’s sneaky funny, and he was honest and insightful in telling you things and just removed from playing for the Patriots, and then putting him with Tony and their personalities, it just made sense after we saw them in the biggest moment you could possibly make a debut on.
I’m there to be a traffic cop, navigate, and we have a lot of different people, a lot of different elements, and as Sam said, my job is to help make that buildup process come to life as we get to that final hour when we give you nuts and bolts. I sat down with Tom Brady on Monday, got a chance to spend 30 minutes with him talking about a variety of things, from his summers spent here in Minnesota, to his mother’s health, to his legacy, to his relationship with Belichick, a variety of things that came out that I was proud of what we were able to do, and his willingness to open up. So that will be in the final probably 40 minutes of the show, but we’re ready to go.
John Harbaugh was a pleasant surprise. I don’t think you realize how good somebody is or how willing they are to open up until you’re there in battle, and he made his debut on the biggest stage, too, and it just seems to bring out the best in these guys and these coaches, and we’re thrilled to have John back.
Liam is going to be helping me with the hosting duties, as well. Dale Jr. is going to be part of the festivities, Mike Tirico from South Korea. So we hope we provide a great pregame show that gets you ready for the entree, the Super Bowl.
I get to hand out the trophy for the fourth time, and one of the highlights of my life, my career. I look forward to it, and if it’s handing it to Nick Foles and the Eagles, great; if it’s Tom Brady and the Patriots, great as well. We’re just looking for a great story line and a great game.
LIAM McHUGH: I don’t think it’s really hit me. It probably won’t hit me until game day that I get to be a part of this. But right away I’m just so excited to be in this role with NBC’s coverage alongside Dan, and good to have another opportunity to work with Tony and Rodney, guys who are really tremendous teammates to me during our Thursday Night Football broadcasts during the season.
A big thanks to Sam Flood and all the other producers at NBC Sports who have been working with me and who are trusting me in this role.
I think Dan mentioned a lot of stuff we’re going to get into. I think from a pure football standpoint, you’re going to get a great pre-game show. I personally love that it’s in Minnesota, and as Sam mentioned, we’re going to be showing you some of the winter activities. We’ll showcase those. We’ll be embracing this idea of the bold north. My in-laws are from way up north, northern Minnesota, right by Hibbing, Minnesota, so personally for me it’s great that they get to see this and see that we’re bringing them a true Minnesota Super Bowl. And just on another note personally for me: it’s special; my father turns 80 today, and I spoke to him, and he was very much looking forward to going to lunch with all of his buddies and bragging about what his kid is doing this weekend.
I turned 40 this year. I have kids of my own. But I think I’m still in many ways a guy who really wants to make his father proud. I hope I do that, and I’m looking forward to this Sunday.
TONY DUNGY: Well, hard to believe my fourth Super Bowl broadcasting as well, and I remember that first one in Tampa and just how gracious Dan was in helping us get ready to go, and that has continued through our nine years. He and Sam have been just awesome in helping Rodney and I grow as broadcasters, and it’s going to be an honor to do another Super Bowl with our crew.
Sam had a great idea. He sent Rodney to New England for the championship game. He sent me to Philadelphia, and we got to stay there and spend time in the city. For three days I was in Philadelphia, saw their fans, the atmosphere, the energy that’s there, and spent time with their players and their staff. It’s a team that is really embracing this. It’s new to them. You can sense the energy, the excitement they have, but I can tell you one thing, they’re not awed at all by the whole thing. They’re not awed by the Patriots. They feel like they deserve to be there, and it’s going to be exciting to watch.
I got a chance to spend a lot of time with Coach (Doug) Pederson and with Nick Foles and ask them about what it’s going to be like to take on that tandem of Belichick and Brady, and you’ll be anxious to hear their comments on our show.
Looking forward to it very much. I think we’re going to have a great game.
RODNEY HARRISON: For me, I’m really excited for the opportunity. I’d like to thank Sam Flood for trusting myself as well as Coach Dungy years and years ago, Dan Patrick for really working with us, Bruce Cornblatt and all the guys that have always worked with us on a day-to-day basis, a weekly basis, and a year-to-year basis. Like coach said, this is my fourth Super Bowl with NBC. This is the fourth Super Bowl I’m covering. I’m really excited, and you really don’t understand the magnitude of the Super Bowl and all the deep stories and story lines until you’re able to actually cover a Super Bowl.
I got an opportunity to get on the field with Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty, and just to hear Devin McCourty talk – I had one mindset about Devin McCourty and then just spending some time with him, he totally changed my mind. Just a tremendous, articulate guy. Stephon Gilmore, really laid back. Also had a chance to talk to Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola, two guys that just made me want to suit up, guys that just bring so much intensity, and just being around the Patriots’ organization, they were very excited about winning the championship game.
But the day after it was just businesslike. It was like they belonged there. They’re not taking Philadelphia for granted. They have a lot of respect for them, and I love the fact that Philadelphia is not bowing down to the Patriots. I think it’s going to be a high-scoring event. I think it’s going to be one of the best Super Bowls if not the best Super Bowl ever.
Sam and the guys, if you can just talk a little bit more about the unique setting for this game and the fact that it’s probably going to be in the single digits if not below zero on Sunday. How many clothes will you be wearing? Are you looking forward to that, is Minnesota going to live up to its billing on Sunday?
DAN PATRICK: I was here 25 years ago, and I went ice fishing with Chip Lohmiller, and it gave me a good sense of what this weather is like. We caught walleye. We cooked it right there on the lake. He gave me a perspective from a Minnesotan of what this is like and what this means. So to be able to come back, I know how they fully embraced it before, and hopefully we do it justice. Nobody wants to hear the media complain about the cold, but the cold is an element of just the surroundings, the feeling, who these people are. But when you get in that building, everybody is going to be warm, and those watching are going to be warm. But to be able to embrace the elements with the Winter Olympics – I think going to Sochi was supposed to get me toughened up for this, but Sochi turned out to be about 60 degrees when we got there, so that didn’t work. But I’m ready to go. I’ve got my hand warmers, my hat. I’m ready for battle. I don’t want to be soft like Rodney and Tony were.
SAM FLOOD: We’re also sending folks out in the weather. We’ve got Rutledge Wood and Dale Jr. who are going to experience every aspect of the outdoor fun and games of this place. I think that’s leading into Minnesota and the fun of it. I’m someone who loves the cold, so I love to put people in the cold and have them have fun with it. Snow makes for fun elements, and you add that to the fact that we’ve got the Olympics coming up four days after the Super Bowl ends, there’s a natural tie-in, and it’s a perfect synergy for NBC in the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl. It ties together brilliantly.
These shows last a long time. Do you ever watch shows, Super Bowl pre-game shows, when you’re not involved, and what do you see that you like and that you want to do, and what do you see that you want to avoid?
SAM FLOOD: We’ve studied all those Super Bowl shows of the last six years. We sat and watched our shows and other networks’ shows, and there are great things that everyone accomplishes. We want to make sure we build to the game. We realize the most important thing ultimately is getting us to the Super Bowl prepared to watch a great football game, and at the same time entertaining a much broader audience than you do leading up to a Sunday Night Football game.
So there’s a slightly different mindset. I think that balance of entertainment and education are important, and I think we’ve got the right team of people to do that.
DAN PATRICK: Yeah, I think also energy. That’s what I notice when I look at the host and who’s done this previously, the energy that it takes to build up, you almost have to pace yourself. And also you’re going to do a deep dive on certain topics, and other topics you’re not. So you’re going to pick and choose whether it’s coming out of the Brady interview, what do Rodney and Tony have to say about that; when we’re on the field live and we’re looking at players, there’s a different energy there. Also when you’re on the field as you get closer to game time, there’s a different energy that you need to bring, whereas two hours prior, you may be talking about something that’s sort of ancillary to the Super Bowl. Not that it’s not important, but I think you have to pick your spots of when do you get all in and when do you just sort of do a cursory drive-by with something. I look forward to that. I think we’re all experienced now in understanding how long that pre-game show is, so we’re not going to be surprised – you know, the more I thought about it, I talked to Rich Eisen, and Rich goes, we are on for eight and a half hours, and I thought, gosh, five, that doesn’t seem bad at all. By comparison, we should be able to handle that.
Will you switch locations or will you be in the same location for the entire show?
DAN PATRICK: I think I’m switching – I think I’m at the Nicollet Mall for about two hours.
SAM FLOOD: Yeah, two hours, Dan.
DAN PATRICK: Yeah, and then I’m with Rodney and Tony and Coach Harbaugh and Liam, so we’ll be in the stadium and various places there.
Rodney and Tony, this is for both of you. Rodney, obviously you played and a lot of people thought you defined the Patriot dynasty into two Super Bowl eras, the one that you played in and the one that’s going on now. Tony, you coached against them in that first era; Rodney, you played for them. How do you compare the two eras from what you see?
RODNEY HARRISON: I think the major thing is just looking at the talent that we had back when we won our Super Bowls. We had a really good mixture of players that were outstanding football players, and we had a good mixture of young guys that really looked up to the veteran players.
I think the thing that gets me excited is the fact that Coach Belichick, I didn’t think that Coach Belichick could change his personality to be able to adapt to this kind of new kind of generation of kids, and he’s done that. You see him, he’s a lot happier, and he smiles a lot more. Maybe you don’t see it, but when I see him, he smiles a lot more, and he knows how to relate to the players. I thought he would have a difficult time relating to the players because they’re so different. And when I say different, maybe I mean they’re not as tough as the old school guys. But just the personalities and with the technology and everything, I thought Belichick has done a wonderful job of adapting to all the new players and their personalities.
Tony, you coached against that team in that era. How do you see the two different eras?
TONY DUNGY: Well, I look at their identity, and they had great players all the way around, offense, defense and special teams. But there was so much of it in that first era that was defense, and three or four multiple things, great players, Hall-of-Fame guys on defense that were stifling. Tom Brady was excellent, no question about it, but they ran the ball a lot, they played defense, Adam making clutch kicks.
And then the second time around there’s so much offense, just varied offense, five wide receivers, three tight end formations, different things, Tom throwing the ball 50 times, sometimes it’s running, short pass, long pass. It’s definitely an offensively explosive group.
That to me is the genius and the greatness of Coach Belichick. What I have, I can work with it, and whether it’s defense or special teams, they’re taking the forefront, whether it’s the passing game, just being able to adapt, as Rodney said, I think he does it as well as anyone.
I have one for Tony. I am from Philadelphia representing Philadelphia here, and you were really one of the first folks to come out and say to Eagles fans, “Hey, don’t worry. Nick Foles is really going to carry you all the way, you guys are going to be fine.” I know he threw 27 touchdowns in the 2013 season and threw seven once in a game, but aside from those kind of two stats right there, what really gave you that confidence in Nick for him to get the Eagles to this level?
TONY DUNGY: Well, there were two things for me. No. 1, the Eagles have a very good football team, and everyone was focused in on Carson Wentz because he was having a great year, but they had defensive stats that were at the top of the league. They had four running backs that could go in there and do different things. They had three tight ends that were making plays for them. They had wide receivers that were making plays. It was a talented team.
And then I look at Nick Foles. I had the chance, my son played at Oregon, so I saw him play in the Pac-12. I saw him play under Chip Kelly because I’m good friends with Chip and I watched him, and I know Nick Foles’ character. He was not a rookie that was going to be afraid. He’s a strong Christian young man who had plenty of belief that he was there for the right reasons, and I just thought he would play well. I thought with their team, they would do well, and I’m not surprised they’re here.
Liam, how do you just overall prepare for 100 million people watching you and listening to your every word?
LIAM McHUGH: I think first and foremost, you probably don’t focus on the fact that 100 million people are watching you, try to eliminate that, and you realize that in the end it’s a conversation about football. I mean, you want to – it’s a big show and you want to entertain and you want to express the true excitement of the moment and you want to deliver that to people in a way that they can relate to and enjoy. But you’re building to the game, and you have a plan. You try to go with it. But then you react along the way. If Tony or Rodney see something on the field that they want to talk about, it’s not part of something that we originally had in that segment, well, we’re going to talk about something different, we’re going to react to it, and I think you realize that in the end it’s three guys who are very happy to be there, very excited to talk about this moment, and want to share what they know about football with the world.
Coach Dungy, what can each team take advantage of against each team?
TONY DUNGY: I don’t know if you could call them weaknesses. I think both of these teams are really well-rounded, but I would look for the New England Patriots to play fast paced on offense, to spread them out and to throw the ball inside to their running backs and tight ends. I think they have great players there to work on the linebackers and safeties of Philadelphia. Then on the other side of the coin, I think Philadelphia has to try to work on the offensive line of the Patriots. They’ve got to roll their defensive line, and then keep creating pass rushing situations, one-on-ones, and hope that they can break down the protection for Tom Brady. To me, those will be the two key elements in the game.
Due to his inexperience, can Nick Foles still handle the pressure on this stage?
TONY DUNGY: Well, that will be the key, and I think that’s what everyone wants to watch. Is this going to be the Nick Foles that we saw in a couple of end of the regular season games or the Nick Foles that we saw in the two playoff games? I think he has a lot of confidence. I think the fact that he has played some now and has a rhythm with his receivers is going to help, and I think he’s going to play very, very well.