DEPTH OF FIELD: Phil Simms today.
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CBS Sports analyst and former quarterback great PHIL SIMMS previews the upcoming NFL season.

Over the course of a 40-minute conversation with Phil Simms, he employs the phrase in all honesty approximately 16 times. Yet after each usage, he manages to issue the sort of unvarnished commentary rarely heard from jocks-turned-pundits not named Charles Barkley.

Simms derides the import to which fans and his ­media cohorts assign every single offseason roster maneuver. (“A team drafts a quarterback in the fifth round and there’s already an all-pro quarterback on the roster, and they’re like, ‘Oh, there could be some competition at the position!’ Overreacting doesn’t even get close to describing it.”) He questions the conventional wisdom that automatically anoints the Pittsburgh Steelers a ­Super Bowl contender every season. (“Are they really going to be able to stay in that group of teams that we expect to win every week?”) He openly scoffs at the rules designed to protect his next-generation quarterback brethren. (“Every good pass rusher is going to have two sacks taken away from him because he hit the quarterback in the wrong spot as he sacked him.”)

Now You Know:

Despite the probability of a chilly Super Bowl XLVIII, teams average the same number of points in warm and cold weather, according to Freakonomics co-author Stephen J. Dubner.

That candor and thoughtfulness have served him well as the A-team analyst on CBS Sports’ NFL broadcasts and as a panelist/pundit on Showtime’s Inside the NFL and CBS Sports Network’s NFL Monday QB. In an era when, “He really put a lick on him” qualifies as analysis, Simms wields his rhetorical knife with far more precision,­ eschewing fallback analysis that assigns prominent roles to heart and moxie and grit. It’s no coincidence that his Inside the NFL sparring with Cris Collinsworth — another analyst who tends not to candy-coat his opinions — has evolved into the football-media equivalent of Siskel vs. Ebert.

“I get to disagree with Cris Collinsworth. What more can you ask for in life?” Simms deadpans, deflecting a question about the nature of their professional relationship. “People think we don’t like each other. We never worry about it.”

A record-holder as a quarterback (for his 22-for-25, three-touchdown performance in Super Bowl XXI with the New York Giants) and an institution as a broadcaster, Simms doesn’t overinflate his role in the grand scheme of things. While he believes his job is “important — or at least I think it is,” he’s also quick to acknowledge the potential for folly. “I’ll say, ‘Oh, this is gonna be the surprise team of the year,’ and then they win four games,” he shrugs. So while he’s loath to issue a Super Bowl prediction before the season even begins — some pressing and begging ultimately prompt him to forecast a ­Denver Broncos/Seattle Seahawks matchup — Simms has no shortage of sharp opinions about the season ahead.