When Fred Gaudelli, the producer of NBC's Sunday Night Football, learned that he and his crew also would be responsible for producing the second-half package of Thursday Night Football on NBC and NFL Network this year, he realized the math didn't add up.
"I know I already work more than 110 hours per week," Gaudelli said. "That's just to get ready for one game. They aren't going to invent more hours in a week. So the question became: Can we figure out a way to be as prepared for doing two games a week for eight straight weeks?"
Gaudelli will get some answers starting this week when NBC takes the handoff from CBS in handling the second half of the NFL's Thursday night package. Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Heather Cox will be on the call Thursday for the Atlanta-Tampa Bay game, which will air exclusively on NFL Network. Coverage begins with TNF GameDay at 6 p.m. ET. Bob Costas, along with Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, will be on site to host "Football Night in Tampa" at 7:30 p.m. ET.
NFL Network also will have NBC's coverage for the Cleveland-Baltimore game on Thursday, Nov. 10. The first Thursday game of the package to air on NBC will be New Orleans-Carolina on Nov. 17. It also will be simulcast on NFL Network.
This week started the whirlwind for Gaudelli. After returning home from Sunday's night game in Dallas, he said he spent Monday working on Thursday's game. Tuesday is being dedicated to Sunday's game, he said. Wednesday, Gaudelli has an early-morning flight to Tampa Bay with production meetings on tap with both teams. Thursday will be around-the-clock in counting down to kickoff.
Friday, Gaudelli and his crew will remain in Tampa Bay during the day to watch film and break down Sunday night's Denver-Oakland game. They will have interviews over the phone with Broncos coaches and players. Then they will fly cross-country to Oakland during the evening. Saturday, they will attend Raiders practice and meet with Oakland's players and coaches. Sunday, they will air the game on NBC.
The drill begins again next Monday. Rinse and repeat.
"It's going to be really intense," Gaudelli said. "As you can see, there aren't a lot of free moments."
Then again, it is not like he has any days at the beach during the season. Gaudelli, along with Michaels and Collinsworth, are meticulous, if not obsessive, in preparing for a telecast. He said the intense study results in discovering nuances of both teams that often elevates the call of a game.
When asked if viewers actually would notice if NBC was a tick or two off in a two-game week, Gaudelli's reply speaks to his crew's approach.
"Collectively and individually, all of our expectations surpass the audience's expectations," Gaudelli said. "You never want to be a lesser version of yourself. People come to Sunday Night Football with the expectation that they are going to see the game presented differently than anywhere else. We want to fulfill those expectations two nights per week."
As for the telecasts, Gaudelli said NBC's Thursday night version will sound and look different than Sunday night. There will be new graphics, and the opening theme of "Weekend Go," performed by Grammy-award winning Pentatonix, will set the tone for the Thursday night games.
"We want to have the feeling of Thursday night kicking off the weekend," Gaudelli said. "We're going to look ahead to the big games on Sunday. What are the big stories? We're going to try to make it fun."
All told, the Thursday night package means Gaudelli and his NBC crew will produce 28 games this year. While it is a daunting challenge, Gaudelli knows what the new Thursday night package means to NBC.
"It is a huge deal," Gaudelli said. "These games mean we have a shot at being the No. 1 network at the end of the year. They bring a lot of shine to the company. We know how badly (NBC) wanted these games. We want to make sure the network gets a good return on its investment."
NBC-produced Thursday Night Football game schedule:
Date Game Network
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