“Seeing him catch balls from Tom Brady would be beautiful, but he’s going to have to change if this is going to work.” – Tony Dungy on Antonio Brown and the Patriots
“You have to be willing to sacrifice stats, you have to be willing to sacrifice money, your own individual wants and needs. I don’t think Antonio Brown is capable of that because he’s always been a ‘me’ guy.” – Rodney Harrison on playing for the Patriots
“Dak Prescott wasn’t good – he was fabulous.” – Mike Tirico
“Multiple players got their agents on the phone after today’s loss and said, ‘Get us out of here. We want to be traded.’” – Mike Florio on the Dolphins
STAMFORD, Conn. – Sept. 8, 2019 – Mike Tirico hosted the Week 1 edition of Football Night in America tonight from NBC Sports’ International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn., in advance of the Sunday Night Football matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Tirico was joined on the set by analysts Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, and Chris Simms, as well as NFL Insider Mike Florio.
Liam McHugh co-hosted Football Night in America on-site from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. He was joined by the SNF team of Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya.
Football Night featured two new sets: a large field set in Stamford that allowed Dungy, Harrison and Simms to demonstrate football plays and an outdoor set hosted by McHugh that captured the excitement outside Gillette Stadium.
McHugh interviewed head coaches Mike Tomlin (Steelers) and Bill Belichick (Patriots), as well as newly drafted Boston Celtics center Tacko Fall, who measures 7-7. McHugh is 5-10.
FNIA also included highlights, analysis, and news from around the league.
Following are highlights from Football Night in America on NBC:
McHugh on tonight’s matchup: “Two teams synonymous with winning, a couple of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks continuing to fight Father Time, and one picture-perfect evening to kick off Sunday Night Football.”
ON ANTONIO BROWN & PATRIOTS
Dungy: “I coached 13 years as a head coach. Every year, my first message to the team was, ‘We want to win Super Bowls. Yes, we want to be talented, but we’ve got to be role models.’ These kids in our country look up to NFL players and coaches, and I really think this sent the wrong message. I know coaches want to win, but I’m disappointed in [Patriots owner] Robert Kraft. I think at some point you say, just as an organization, ‘We are not going to do this.’” Watch video here.
Harrison on Antonio Brown: “When I heard about it, it didn’t surprise me. I didn’t agree with it because, as a Patriot, you have to sacrifice — you have to sacrifice finances, you have to sacrifice your stats, you have to sacrifice a lot of individual things. And that’s the one thing that Antonio Brown has shown me, that he’s not willing to sacrifice anything for anybody else besides himself.”
Michaels: “When Antonio Brown was going to be released or traded by Pittsburgh, the chosen destination – or one of them – was New England. His camp reached out to the Patriots, but there was no way the Steelers were going to trade him to New England. So, here he is, in his chosen destination you might say by way of ‘connecting flight.’ Kraft also told me that when he broke the news to Tom Brady yesterday, Brady initially said, ‘I’m 100% in.’ Two minutes later, Tom came back and said to Kraft, ‘I’m 1000% in.’ Then he came back two minutes later and said, ‘I’m 1000000% in.’ Finally, I just talked to Drew Rosenhaus, who made the deal, who is Brown’s agent, and Drew said that Brady told Brown, ‘Come move in with me until you get settled with New England,’ How happy is Tom?”
Tirico: “That’s the Airbnb request that anybody would take in a heartbeat.”
McHugh: “Just a few days ago, Julian Edelman was saying it was unbelievable to have Josh Gordon back. That seems kind of cute at this point, doesn’t it?”
Collinsworth: “If you can’t respect the Patriots organization and Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, I don’t know where it could possibly work out for you.”
Harrison: “The cool thing about working for Coach Belichick is, when you come in as a free agent, he gives you a clean slate. He doesn’t hold [your past] against you. However, you have to be willing to sacrifice. You have to be willing to sacrifice stats, you have to be willing to sacrifice money, your own individual wants and needs. I don’t think [Antonio] Brown is capable of that because he’s always been a ‘me’ guy. I’m not a big believer he’s going to come in and fit in the ‘Patriot Way.’” Watch video here.
Dungy: “Rodney, coaching against you guys all those years, what I saw was teamwork, unity, and sacrifice. Antonio Brown has not demonstrated any of that the last two years. Seeing him catch balls from Tom Brady would be beautiful, but he’s going to have to change if this is going to work.”
Simms: “[Oakland Raiders head coach Jon] Gruden is a guy who placates to his superstars. He builds their ego up even further. In New England, it’s the exact opposite. With Bill Belichick, you walk through the door and you say, ‘Wow, they’ve been winning here for a long time without me.’ And then he yells at Tom Brady in the first team meeting, and you start to go, ‘There’s no such thing as stars here on this football team.’”
Florio on Antonio Brown timeline: “He’s going to sign his contract on Monday. He’ll practice with the team on Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday, he’s expected to have a crash course in the New England offense with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels leading the way, and whether or not Antonio Brown is ready to go in Week 2 is going to be up to Antonio Brown. How quickly can he learn the offense? How quickly can he get acclimated? If he can do it, he’ll be on the field.”
BILL BELICHICK TO LIAM MCHUGH
On this season: “It’s always exciting to get started. We had a good training camp. Looking forward to tonight.”
On challenges the Steelers pose: “They’re a good team in all three phases of the game. [I’m] sure we’ll need our best effort.”
Tafoya: “I was struck by how all the players had identical characterizations of the team’s vibe coming into this season. Some of the descriptions I got — and I’m quoting here — we’re really excited the focus is on football, not a lot of me or drama, and we eliminated some drama. It’s more of a college-like atmosphere than last year in terms of the closeness of the team. Also, the team has a little collective chip on its shoulder with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown gone, players know the team is being underestimated. Ben Roethlisberger told me, ‘We’re excited to be underdogs, everyone counting us out or thinking where is the offense going to come from? I think some of the guys feel challenged, and I think that’s an okay place to be.’”
MIKE TOMLIN TO LIAM MCHUGH
On Steelers identity: “I think it will be discovered as we walk this journey, and plays are made, and guys define their roles, and division of labor within the group. I think that’s the journey for all of us, for all 32 of us [teams] getting started this weekend.”
On Antonio Brown with the Patriots: “I knew he wouldn’t be playing in this game. I really don’t have a professional reaction, to be honest with you, for that reason.”
On tonight’s deciding factor: “The team that is able to do the fundamental things well — block, tackle, try to remain penalty-free, the turnover game is always big — the fundamental things really take center stage in the early portions of the season.”
Tirico: “[Dak Prescott] wasn’t good – he was fabulous.”
Harrison on Jason Witten: “He might be a little older and a little slower, but he’s still heading to the Hall of Fame, so you have to defend him.”
Dungy: “I thought [L.A. Rams head coach] Sean McVay did a great job of staying patient, getting the ball to Todd Gurley, and staying with him in the second half. This has got to excite everyone in the Rams organization because this is what they were waiting for, to see the Todd Gurley that we had seen last year come back.”
Harrison: “I’ve got to give a lot of props to the Tennessee Titans. A couple of my former guys, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and head coach Mike Vrabel, came up with an excellent game plan, forced three turnovers … and scored on defense.”
Tirico: “They looked bad in the preseason. They looked terrific against Cleveland.”
Simms on Baker Mayfield: “It was a sloppy day by Baker Mayfield. The first thing to talk about is the offensive line play that went wrong for the Cleveland offense. They could not pass protect.”
Florio on Dolphins’ blowout loss: “It’s sparked consternation in the locker room. There’s been concern outside the organization that the Dolphins are tanking, and now it’s starting to trickle inside the organization. Multiple players got their agents on the phone after today’s loss and said, ‘Get us out of here. We want to be traded. We don’t want to be part of this effort to tank for [Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa] or whoever the Dolphins would take this year.’ I reached out to the Dolphins, and they said they haven’t heard from any agents or players or received any requests, but the night is still young.”
Dungy on Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: “Everything was about taking care of the running game. They [Miami Dolphins] loaded up the box, and [Ravens QB] Lamar Jackson made them pay constantly.”
Tirico on Lamar Jackson: “He had the maximum passer rating. He only had three incompletions; five touchdown passes after throwing just six all of last season. The question all off-season was, ‘Could he be a quarterback who could throw it?’ This was the answer.”
Florio on Carson Wentz: “I talked to Carson Wentz after the game, and he gushed about DeSean Jackson. It was that 51-yard touchdown pass that sparked the team. Wentz said, ‘That was the moment the things turned around.’ Wentz explained that having DeSean Jackson in the offense stretches the field, and opens up everything. This makes an already potent offense even better moving forward.”
Dungy on Kyler Murray: “This is what I love. He struggled in the first half. We’re all sitting there saying, ‘Oh, well, this is not college. Don’t worry about the Heisman Trophy.’ But he hung in and he got them going in the fourth quarter.”
–FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA–