Sunday Night Football announcer Mike Tirico on calling Eagles games, eating pancakes with Harry Callas

Mike Tirico has a lot of history with the Eagles.

The NBC play-by-play announcer who will announce the Birds’ monster game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night football, has called 20 Eagles games over the course of his career. This dates back to when he was working at ESPN, where he often found himself at places like Chickie’s & Pete’s (which was featured in Sunday night football earlier this season) along with former teammates Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden.

“I’ve enjoyed covering those Eagles games over the years,” Tirico told The Inquirer. “Being a kid who grew up in New York, knowing the passion for sports in Philly and experiencing it first hand. … It’s been a lot of fun for me to be a part of the Philly scene for the last 20 years.”

Tirico, Chris Collinsworth and the entire NBC staff will be in Dallas to call Sunday’s game, but the trip to Texas brings him oddly close to another Philly connection. Tirico is a Syracuse graduate, and his roommate for two years was Todd Callas, the radio voice of the Houston Astros and son of legendary Phillies announcer Harry Callas.

During their time as college broadcasters, Tirico and Callas called a Syracuse-Temple football game at Veterans Stadium in October 1986 (which Tirico pointed out Syracuse won on a Tim Wessling field goal as time expired). Tirico spent the night at Callas’ house the night before the game and ended up at the breakfast table the next morning.

“Harry Callas was sitting across the table and we were all eating pancakes that Todd’s mom made, and Harry said to me, ‘Mike, would you pass the pancake syrup, please?'” It was like one of the great breakfast moments of my life “, Tirico recalls. “That voice that I heard on NFL movies, and that voice that I heard while listening to WCAU, a Clear Channel station, when I was living in the Northeast, loving baseball and the radio as a kid, that voice asked me for the pancake syrup in his own house, which was the damn coolest thing ever.”

In a phone call earlier this week, Tirico talked about expanding flex schedules and an idea to improve officiating in the NFL after last week’s wild ending Sunday night football game.

Tirico likes the flex schedule expansion, but not its impact on Eagles fans

With only three games left after Eagles-Cowboys, it’s likely the NFL won’t be using a flex schedule at all this season on Sunday night footballoutside of Week 18. If that happens, it would be the first time the league has kept NBC’s schedule intact since 1997.

Tirico said he’s a fan of the NFL’s decision to expand flex scheduling this season to Monday Night Football, something he wishes the league could do during his 10 seasons calling the ESPN package. But that doesn’t mean he was entirely happy with the league’s decision to move the Eagles’ Week 15 game against the Seattle Seahawks from Sunday afternoon to Monday night.

“I feel bad for Philly fans going to Seattle. That’s tough,” Tirico said, noting he’s seen an increase in fans traveling to road games. “If you’re a Philly fan and you’ve never been to Seattle when you’re making these plans, now that gets thrown out because now you’re talking about taking two days off work to make it happen.”

“I’ll tell you who loves that flexibility — Kansas City,” Tirico added. “They went from a Monday night game against New England to early Sunday afternoon. That gave Kansas City another 42 hours at home.”

Instead of moving pre-scheduled games, Tirico will take a note from European soccer leagues such as the Premier League, where the full schedule is not set before the start of the season. Tirico’s proposal would be to start the season with the first eight weeks scheduled, then announce the rest in five-week increments.

“We did it for Week 18 and it worked great,” Tirico said. “Given the way the league changes from year to year, more than ever a cool team can become hot. Or one of those gold standards, like the Patriots, could fall off the map of relevance very quickly.”

» READ MORE: Eagles fans who planned to travel to Seattle angry after Seahawks game moved to ‘Monday Night Football’

After a botched call last week, Tirico wants challenges from the coaches for penalties

As is the case every season, there has been plenty of criticism of officiating in the NFL. Tirico dealt with that firsthand last week when the officials missed what appeared to most viewers to be two pass interference calls late in the Green Bay Packers’ win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

To their credit, the NBC crew — including Collinsworth and rules analyst Terry McAuley — didn’t shy away and did a great job explaining and focusing on what the refs missed.

“There’s no way it wasn’t a Marquez Valdez-Scantling interference on the deep ball thrown by Mahomes in the fourth quarter,” Tirico said. “That was very blatant and very clear.”

Tirico said the officials had made some “obvious mistakes” in big moments this season, but defended them overall as being the only group on the field expected to be perfect. To help the officials, Tirico proposed an NFL rule change that would allow coaches to challenge a penalty when a foul is committed.

“Andy Reid should be able to argue that. Have one challenge per game and you’ll be able to clear it,” Tirico said. “An opportunity, a judgment call, look at it, and if you’re wrong, you lose a timeout or you lose 10 yards. We can invent anything. But I’d like to arm coaches with one of these, just to add some clarity to these late game situations.

The NFL has fun with allowing calls or non-calls to be challenged. After a widely mocked pass interference call that was overturned during the 2019 NFC Championship Game, the league allowed the fouls to be reviewed the following season. But the NFL has set a high standard for overturning bad or missed calls that have frustrated coaches, players and spectators.

Of the 101 pass interference calls or non-calls reviewed during the 2019 season, only 24 were overturned, according to ESPN, and the NFL hasn’t tried anything like that since.

More Eagles-Cowboys media notes

  1. Dallas has its own version of Meryl Reese in Brad Sham, the Cowboys’ radio voice who has called the games since 1976. Sham missed the team’s Thursday night win against the Seattle Seahawks last week because of a health scare that landed him in the hospital, but told Sports Illustrated he’s back home and resting in hopes of calling the Eagles-Cowboys game on Sunday.

  2. Sunday’s Eagles-Cowboys game is the first regular-season game between the two NFC rivals where each team has a .750 or better winning percentage at least 10 games into its schedule, according to NBC. But there were other important games, like their Week 17 game in 2008 that decided the final NFC wild card spot or their Week 16 game in 1988 with the NFC East title on the line. There’s also the 1980 NFC Championship Game, which the Eagles won to send them to their first Super Bowl.

  1. While the Cowboys are “America’s Team,” the Eagles may have been a bigger TV draw this season. Outside of the league’s Thanksgiving games, the NFL’s five most-watched games this season feature the Eagles. Last week’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers drew more than 27 million viewers, making it the most-watched Week 13 game of 2015, according to Sports Media Watch.

  2. Another reason not to count the Eagles out? Head coach Nick Siriani is 3-0 Sunday night football since being hired in 2021, NBC’s longest active NFL winning streak. The Eagles won their last two games Sunday night against the Cowboys

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