Behind the Scenes with FOX NFL: What’s Different About the Playoffs?

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Richie Zionz
FOX NFL Senior Producer

Editor’s note: Richie Zionz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and a senior producer for the past 20 seasons. He has more than 40 years of experience in the league and has produced six Super Bowls. Throughout the 2022 NFL season, he will provide an inside look as FOX’s new #1 NFL team heads to Super Bowl LVII.

One small step for the schedule, one giant leap for NFL teams and their broadcast networks. The playoffs are here and the real fun begins with the Wild Card matchup between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings.

Many aspects of preparation for production crews remain the same. There are lists to read, videos to watch, articles to read, coaches and players to meet. As usual.

So what really changes when writing a postseason game?

Is there a significant difference between the way the playoffs are televised and the regular season?

Short answer: kind of. Often there are more cameras, resulting in additional viewing angles. Visually, if the producer and director do their job well, it should show. Most importantly, we no longer need to outline the NFC playoff picture. Only undefeated playoff teams are wanted! The land has been identified.

Another fix is ​​related to comments. The game dominates. Regular season highlights take a back seat to documenting the action on the field. Don’t get me wrong – chemistry in the broadcast booth is still important. But the back and forth should have been more focused and focused on the game with unnecessary jokes. The main principle should be “less is more”.

Here’s the mystery, and it became a reality after listening to Giants head coach Brian Daboll in our video interview. His message to his players this week was “you have to be” – his logic being that he can’t radically change players just because they’re in the playoffs. The most important thing for Daboll was to keep his players focused and in control of their emotions.

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen during Sunday’s broadcast of the Giants-Vikings game.

I think this sentiment applies to our approach as well. Broadcast teams build rhythm and personality during the 18-week regular season. Why change now? Everyone understands the scope of postseason coverage

With this in mind, our production meeting started with this sweet memory. The last thing Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen think is that they suddenly need a different strategy. They’ve been great all season, playing good games and bad games with equal focus and energy.

This was Greg’s first playoff TV appearance. His natural enthusiasm leaps across the screen and his ability to explain and explain the game convincingly was eye-opening. He was a very good player; Three-time Pro Bowler with more than 200 total games played, including the Super Bowl. But his television career is still in its infancy.

So the same warnings apply not only to Greg, but to the entire team: be patient, don’t talk too much, let the pictures tell the story, let the audience enjoy the game.

If there is one aspect of the game of football where a broadcast team can stumble, it would be recognizing and following the rules immediately. Trust me, I’ve been there. It was the order of every network boss to know the rules. That’s easier said than done, especially as the game gets faster and more complex.

At each summer networking workshop, the NFL’s head officiating would spend an hour going over the rules in front of a room full of announcers, producers and directors. It was basically a dry presentation with a short film more worthy of a hostage video than a group of viewers.

Things changed in 2001 when Mike Pereira became the king of referees. His visit to our annual meeting became an event. More adept than his predecessors in the fine art of negotiating the rules, Mike brought a dry topic to life. These skills led to a decision that changed the way sports were presented on television. Our boss, David Hill, was so impressed with Pereira’s annual appearances that he offered him an on-air job in 2010. Advertisers were no longer free from controversial situations. We had an expert — and the idea was quickly copied by all of the NFL’s broadcast partners. In addition to the regular on-screen score and clock, the addition of a rules expert is the most significant innovation on FOX Sports TV.

But there is only one Pereira.

For the past six years, Mike has traveled with the team to every game on national television. Mike is stationed in the front corner of our broadcast booth, within sight and earshot of Greg and Kevin, along with his trusty sidekick, former NFL linebacker Roger Root. This revolutionary thing is the part close to the ear. Thanks to the clever work of our audio staff, Pereira can speak directly into the headset. Sometimes it’s to confirm what they said about a game or call, sometimes it’s to make a suggestion.

Mike Pereira and Roger Root watched Sunday’s Giants-Vikings game.

If it is considered important, Kevin can invite it to be discussed as if we were in a trilateral position.

Mike is honest and straightforward. He does not shy away from criticizing match officials. Nor is he shy about disagreeing with his broadcasting partners. On several occasions yesterday, Pereira and Olsen differed on the appeals and appeals of the fines.

Disagreement is good – it makes for a good TV show.

Minnesota is one of the loudest places in the league and once again Vikings fans nearly blew the roof off. But I was proud of Kevin and Greg for not trying to fight the noise. Announcers are paid to speak, but often the most effective parts of the show are not commentary at all.

I found myself praising them throughout the game for doing nothing and saying nothing.

It sounds strange, but it’s not. Silence is often golden.

On Monday night, our team will be listening to our old friends Joe and Troy call the Dallas-Tampa game. The winner plays the 49ers next Sunday, and we’ll be there to cover it.

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