We’ve got a long ways to go until August, when the Patriots will play their first preseason game and debut what is almost certain to be a new broadcast team.
It will be a topic of interest until the official announcement is made. Boston Globe media writer Chad Finn has said that long-time analyst Gino Cappelletti has almost certainly done his last game in the booth. He’s also said that play-by-play man Gil Santos would like to do another season.
The pair has done 28 seasons together, 21 of those consecutively. However, as Finn noted in a December 23rd column, the time has come for changes to be made in the radio booth.
Finn’s column was met with one of two reactions – agreement, or anger. The suggestion that these two broadcasting legends, who have called so many great (and some not-so-great) moments in franchise history, would no longer be on the air, is not an easy one to take. The genuine affection between the two of them is palpable, and almost familial.
It is certainly more noticeable with Cappelletti, as the Patriots AFL legend struggles to keep up and get his thoughts on the game across. Santos has attempted to cover for him, and you could even hear it in pregame talks with Bill Belichick in recent years, that the coach too was making an effort to make things easier for Cappelletti.
As for Santos, he’s still got the great voice, even after 35 seasons of calling Patriots games. No one is going to dispute that. His call of the missed kick by Billy Cundiff to clinch the AFC Championship for the Patriots last month was classic Santos. He still paints a great picture and has the strong voice. However, he sometimes struggles with the action on the field, such as whether a ball is caught or dropped, and which player made the play. I don’t know the situation in the booth – would he benefit from a strong spotter, to assist him with some of these things? I’d like to find out.
Bringing Scott Zolak into the broadcasts this season as the sideline reporter was a very good move. His enthusiasm and ability to see the field as a former player gives him some good insight into what’s happening, and he’s able to convey that. Bringing him into the booth is a no-brainer. I would very much like to see what a Santos/Zolak pairing in the booth sounds like, perhaps with some more help for Santos as well. (Maybe he already has it, and still struggles, which would be very depressing.)
But how long could that pairing go? It seems like Santos might have one season left. Then what? The rumor over the last few years was always Gary Tanguay as Santos’ successor, some have even suggested that the carrot of that role is why he didn’t kick up a bigger fuss when he was replaced by Andy Gresh alongside Zolak on the 98.5 mid-day show.
I’ve heard Tanguay do Celtics games from time to time, while his voice is strong and prototypical for a sports announcer, honestly, I don’t want him doing Patriots games. Tanguay in the role may not be a foregone conclusion, however. This season momentum seemed to be picking up for John Rooke, ( @jrooke0722 ) who currently does the PA work at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots and Revolution and is a veteran play-by-play announcer and radio broadcaster.
Some have asked about Sean McDonough. While the former Red Sox voice has the pedigree and name recognition to be a strong candidate, he’s currently very busy with ESPN, being the voice of the Monday Night Baseball telecasts, and doing a ton of college football and basketball as well. I’m not sure what the logistics could be with bringing him in, but it seems a longshot at best.
With Zolak going to the booth, it would seem that doing that would take him off of the pregame show. Who should replace him there, alongside Tanguay and Gresh and the rest of the cast? I think 98.5 has the perfect candidate in Mike Flynn, who played his college ball at Maine, and had a strong 11-year run with the Baltimore Ravens, finishing up his career in the training camp of the Patriots in 2008. Flynn is very good analyst, oftentimes a voice of reason. He’d be the best fit for that role.
Could Flynn also be used in the sideline reporter role that Zolak had this season? It would depend on whether the Patriots Radio Network wants to keep that position. They may feel that it was just created for Zolak to get him involved with Santos and Cappelletti this season and sort of ease the transition. If they keep the role, I’d like to see Flynn give it a shot.
If you want a real longshot candidate for the play-by-play role in the future, you could do worse than Flynn’s usual partner on 98.5, Ryan Johnston, @RJVoice who has done some fill-in work on the Boston Bruins radio broadcasts and has very good chemistry with Flynn.
So what we might see for next season is this:
Play-by-play – Gil Santos
Booth Analyst – Scott Zolak
Sideline reporter/analyst – Mike Flynn
Pregame: Gary Tanguay, Andy Gresh, Mike Flynn.
Of course, I’d love an entirely new pregame show, but as Jonathan Kraft apparently loves to have his franchise torn apart on its own flagship station’s airwaves, that’s probably not going to happen.
Depending on how Santos does this season, could he do more? Perhaps Zolak lifts him up a bit and he can get another couple years in? That’s hard to say. I wouldn’t mind it, given the likely alternatives at this point. As far as I’m concerned, Santos can have the job as long as he can keep doing it. Unfortunately, that day is likely to come sooner, rather than later.
Change isn’t always easy, but sometimes it just has to happen.