Behind the scenes with FOX’s NFL crew: When the best arranged plans go awry

By Richie Zyontz
The main producer of FOX NFL

Editor’s Note: Richie Zyontz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and has been a lead producer for the past 20 seasons. He has over 40 years of league experience and has made six Super Bowls. Throughout the 2022 NFL season, he’ll provide an inside look as FOX’s new No. 1 NFL team makes its journey towards Super Bowl LVII.

At a mid-October FOX NFL team dinner, we went around the table to gather opinions on potential participants in the NFC Championship game, which is still months away. Between forks of pasta and meatballs, the vote of 15 people was almost unanimous. Our collective choice is San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles. Perhaps it was wishful thinking.

After that, the Eagles went undefeated and the 49ers just got the motivation to run again Christian McCaffrey. The prospect of a crash in late January is a good idea. And yesterday, the long-awaited match took place in the supposed City of the Brotherhood.

But something funny happened on the way to what we hoped would become an instant classic. The game has some classic qualities, but for all the wrong reasons.

Insanity comes in many forms almost from the beginning.

We’ve seen game-changing injuries, a broken sideline, an instant replay, claims that a ball was thrown into the overhead camera line, a scuffle. on the bench and enough penalty flags to last a lifetime. I’m exhausted just writing about it. But Sunday, I have to produce, and it’s a pretty big challenge.

Challenging or not challenging?

The instant replay system places a television broadcast in the middle of the process. Our video determines whether a coach should object to certain calls on the field. Time is of the essence — once the ball has been captured for the next play, it is too late.

“They deserve to be in the Super Bowl”

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen talk about the Eagles’ convincing win over the Niners in the NFC Championship.

We faced a difficult situation from the very beginning of the game.

Philadelphia receiver Devonta Smith seems to have made a spectacular catch in the distance. Field-level cinematographer Don Cornelli was perfectly positioned (as always) to deliver a great shot. Our thoughts in the truck immediately turned to whether Smith was in range and whether he would keep the ball.

So with only one replay time available as Philadelphia was rushing through the script, we showed Don’s camera view, which seemed to indicate a completed catch. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan couldn’t challenge play based on that angle. Then, the Eagles caught the ball quickly, extinguishing the possibility of being reconsidered.

During the ensuing ad break, we spotted a shot from reverse cameraman Keith DeSantis (another brilliant executive who captured the classic shot of the Giants David Tiree in Super Bowl XLII). This definitely shows that the ball wasn’t caught – it hit the ground. As my grandmother said, “oy vey.”

Needless to say, I’m kicking myself today. That’s what manufacturers do. We strive for perfection and are constantly disappointed. Considering the rush, as well as what our eyes initially saw, I’m not sure we’d be able to replay it in time. But that was just the beginning of a strange day.

Cinderella or pumpkin?

San Francisco midfielder Brock Purdy is the Cinderella of the knockout round going into the championship match.

After injuries to the 49ers’ top two QBs of the season, Purdy took over and helped his team to seven straight wins. What a plotline, as this newly-washed kid takes to the field against the ferocious and defensive Philly mob. And then he got hurt! And then his backup is injured! And then an injured Purdy had to come back even though he couldn’t pitch.

Needless to say, the broadcast was prepared with lots of graphics and pre-recorded stories about Purdy’s huge growth. Sorry.

But his trauma and the story of the aftermath made the reporter Erin Andrews Busy side of San Francisco. And she was brilliant, tracking Purdy’s every movement and facial expression.

Sideline reporters do more than make little appearances on your TV screen. They continuously feed information to the truck transformed into images.

While getting actual injury information from teams can be a challenge, the photos become even more valuable. And value is the perfect adjective for Erin on Sunday in Philly!

Drop the gloves

Another crazy moment worth mentioning: a scuffle on the bench.

Quite appropriately, it happened in Philadelphia – home to the Broad Street bullies, nicknamed the Flyers hockey team that terrorized the NHL in the 1970s.

However, this time the violence came from the away team. This is nearing the end of a long and frustrating game for San Francisco as the future Hall of Famer Trent Williams on an Eagles player as if he were a rag doll.

Anger flares up!

A fight broke out, resulting in two eliminations, near the end of the Niners-Eagles clash.

Williams was easygoing during our meeting of the week, describing his preparation and excitement for the upcoming game. But he lost it, and both benches were empty to join the fray.

For us in the truck, that meant widening the camera on the pitch to capture the surreal view of the players pouring out onto the pitch. The trend is tight, showing only the main fighters. But that takes away from the full view of the event.

My favorite image is the Eagles quarterback Jalen hurtsHis work was done for the day, wearing a boot coat, quietly watching from afar the frenzy unfolding.

What’s next? A trip to Arizona, where I will have the good fortune of hosting my Saturday Super Bowl. There are many storylines. chief Coach Andy Reid faces the team he led for 14 years. The Kelce Brothers; Jason of Philadelphia and travis of Kansas City on the fringes of opposition. Is two weeks enough for? Patrick Mahomes To heal a sprained ankle? And does it even matter?

We’re just hoping for a great game — and maybe a little less crazy.

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