Thinking About The Patriots Radio Situation

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.

  • J.R.

    This will be short and to the point: Keep Gary Tanguay as far away from the play-by-play position as possible. It's bad enough to be subjected to him for the pre- and post-game stuff.

  • Paulo

    I agree with J.R. On Tanguay. Also like your choice of Flynn to replace Zolack on the field. My favorite weekly during the season was the one with Zolak, Chatham and Flynn.

  • NorwoodZip

    It’ll never happen but they ought to dump Gresh on the pregame and bring in Flynn and Chatham.

    • George Cain

      Not a Tanguay fan. Even last night discussing the Bill Simmons article on Danny Ainge he rebutts with Brandon Bass was a great move. He’s one of many guys in the industry who keeps getting ahead and you wonder who is making these decisions? I sit back and listen and I see all the obvious mistakes he makes because he doesn’t have a complete knowledge of sports. He’s so limited. He’s a headlines guy. I think of Tanguay and I think “He’s GONE!” That’s all he is a catch phrase.

  • Classless

    I, too, have heard Tanguay on those random games where he replaces Gorman when he's sick. He's really bad.

    Is Dave O'Brien a possibility?

  • latetodinner

    Several thoughts.

    1) I still think Dave O'Brien is the best football play by play guy in the country. I see no reason why the Patriots can't throw enough money at him letting him do both Sox and Pats games. I would much prefer him to either Tanguay or John Rooke.

    2) Speaking of Rooke…god no. Its bad enough he is the in stadium voice of the Pats. He is so immature for someone in his mid 40's I can't take him seriously. Hated him when he had his show of the old WSKO (heck I could not take him seriously when he filled in on calling all sports back on wpro-am).

    3) Its clear none of us like Tanguay. I am not sure 98.5 is getting the message. His exposure of CSSNE continues as well. My fear if he ever were to get the play by play gig is that he would say not just stupid things but insulting things. For example I could easily see him making the "chink in the armor" comment about J. Lin and then wondering what is so bad about it.

    4) Zo to the booth in place of Cappeletti seems like a good move. He seems to have grown up some since his days in Providence. He can still be a bit of a 'yahoo/frat boy" when not talking football but he has gotten better.

    5) Adding Mike Flynn to the pre and post shows would be fine. I don't have any real feelings about Ryan Johnson. I would like to think there is someone better than him available but who knows until he gets the gig and either succeeds or fails.

  • Clint Tyree

    Tanguay: No Thanks
    Santos for another year: Yes (and hopefully more)
    Zolak in place of Gil: A very hard to say, with much respect to Gino's years of service, Yes
    Gresh doing play by play, or anything during the game: Just shoot me…now

  • Siggy

    What about Dale? That would be a nice landing place for him. Is he still under contract at Big O Radio?

  • Mark

    Zo…NO!
    Isn’t anyone else sick of him butchering what seems every other word he utters?

    I can hear it now:

    “The Patriots just took the FELD in the second half”
    “This quarter seems like it took an OURRRR to complete”

    Add his crap voice to his Pom Pom King Kong Big Man on Campus routine, and you get BAD radio!

  • Mark C

    I’ve been on the Flynn bandwagon for some time. He’s outstanding on the weekends at 98.5. He actually should have a spot in the regular weekday rotation. My preference would be a 3 man booth with Gil and Zo with a place made for Gino on the pregame show.

    NO, NO, NO, NO to Tanquay. He’s just a voice. Let him do voiceovers somewhere. I agree with George Cain and really wonder how a guy like this keeps getting work? He’s vapid, vacant, just an empty suit. He adds nothing but hilarity, foolishness and nonsense( and that’s on his best day)

    I’d like to see Dave O’ Brien, Sean McDonough and even Ryan Johnston eventually replacing Gil. I don’t know enough about Rooke and I say another solid NO, NO, NO to Dale Arnold. I’ve had enough of his condescending, name dropping shtick. Leave him in WEEI hell.

  • Markb

    No matter how bad you get, if you last long enough, fans will love you. Johnny Most was disgracefully bad for years, and people loved Johnny. Gil Santos is nowhere near the bottom of the barrel like Johnny Most was, with his ranting about fouls not called while totally ignoring the game action, but he does stink up the place now and then, and he’s been doing it for years. There is absolutely no excuse for a radio play by play man calling long passes and touchdowns completions, and then saying ‘Ahhh… no, they’re calling it an incompletion!” That’s a mortal sin of radio announcing, and I’ve heard Santos do it multiple times. You can’t take a touchdown or a 40 yard pass completion away from fans because you got over-anxious. The sooner Santos is replaced by a careful and competent pro, the better.

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