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“That’s all anyone ever wants is just objective standards that apply to everyone who’s applying so that the opportunities are equal.” – Maria Taylor on hiring NFL head coaches

“You need someone with integrity. You need people that are going to have the respect of the staff and players and bring that diversity of the locker room together.” – Tony Dungy on NFL head coaches

“The most important thing though is caring. Caring about your players. They’ll only care once they know how much you care, and it’s not just what they do on the field, it’s more importantly who they are as people.” – Drew Brees on head coaching qualities

STAMFORD, Conn. – October 17, 2021 – NBC Sports’ presentation of Week 6 of the 2021 NFL season began tonight from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa., with Football Night in America leading into coverage of Seahawks-Steelers on Sunday Night Football on NBC and Peacock.

Maria Taylor hosted FNIA from NBC Sports Group’s Studio 1 in Stamford, Conn. She was joined by Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy, Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees, and former NFL quarterback Chris Simms.

Two-time Super Bowl winner Rodney Harrison joined co-host Jac Collinsworth at the site of the game. NFL Insider Mike Florio provided reports from his home studio.

For the first time ever, Football Night in America and Sunday Night Football are streaming on Peacock Premium every week this season. Viewers can sign up here. Peacock Premium is included at no additional cost for Comcast’s eligible Xfinity X1 and Flex customers and Cox Contour customers.

Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst), Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter) and Terry McAulay (rules analyst) are calling tonight’s game. Al Michaels has the night off.

NBC Sports’ new post-game show Peacock Sunday Night Football Final streams tonight exclusively on Peacock following Sunday Night Football.


Following are highlights from tonight’s edition of Football Night in America on NBC and Peacock:


Florio: “There’s one area of confusion that has lingered since this all started. A lot of people believe it began because of the leak of one email, an email from Jon Gruden to former Washington president Bruce Allen about NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, that that’s what started all of this. The truth is, the NFL had already flagged emails from Jon Gruden, gathered them and was in the process of sending them to the Raiders at the time this first leaked. There are many who wonder that if it had never leaked, would anything have ever been done about it…The league insists that it has not leaked anything, but the truth here is only a small handful of people have had access to these emails, 650,000 of them generated through the Washington Football Team investigation. The league won’t say whether it’s investigating but, again, not many have (access). The league also says they won’t be releasing any of these emails. Many say they should. Until they are, there’s a chance that some of the leaks we’ve already seen could happen again.”

Taylor on the NFL emails: “Obviously transparency is key, sunlight is the best disinfectant, which is why it’s imperative to continue to see other emails from that investigation. Let’s go back to the Gruden email. It’s really not the email itself, it’s just the beginning, it’s a cancer cell. Basically, if that cell is able to fester, then it could be insidious and take over things like hiring practices – that same mindset can infest hiring practices or whether or not minorities are allowed to have leadership positions, or women for that matter. So that kind of moves the ball forward into the Raiders opening up their hiring process for a new head coach.”

Dungy: “What you described is exactly right, (it’s) the process. It just seems to me that what the NFL looks at -- these owners -- many times they’re looking for the media celebrity, the big name, the dominant personality. The two big stories we’ve had in coaching have been Urban Meyer and Jon Gruden this year, and they’re results of that and that’s not the best way to do it. What you need in the head coaching position is leadership. You need someone with integrity. You need people that are going to have the respect of the staff and players and bring that diversity of the locker room together.”

Brees: “You need someone who can build the right culture. From a veteran player’s perspective, the way I look at – what do I want in our leader, in our head coach? They have to be a great communicator. Someone that has the ability to communicate the vision and create the path by which you are going to achieve that. The other thing is coordination. Just like with a company coordinating the departments, on an NFL team, it’s the offense, the defense, the special teams. How are we bringing them all together? How are they complementing one another? How are they all working together? And the most important thing though is caring. Caring about your players. They’ll only care once they know how much you care, and it’s not just what they do on the field, it’s more importantly who they are as people. And I know plenty of minority assistant coaches who fit that bill and would make great head coaches.”

Dungy: “No doubt about it. There are guys like Joe Woods in Cleveland. I know those Cleveland players, I’ve talked to the team, I know how they feel about him. Byron Leftwich in Tampa…I live in Tampa and I hear Tom Brady talking all the time about how special this guy is -- but he’s not a big name. These are the guys we have to get opportunities for.”

Taylor: “And speaking of those minority candidates, I spoke to a young Black assistant in the NFL and he hopes to one day be actually out there with an opportunity to interview for head coaching jobs, but he said he feels like the goal posts are always moving. At the beginning, you’re being told that you have to be able to call plays, and then you have the offensive coordinator at Kansas City, Eric Bieniemy, and the report back is that he’s not a good interviewer. And his (point) is, ok, well maybe people are uncomfortable in the room with him, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad interviewer. And his question was, ‘Are we just being tolerated as minority candidates or are we being empowered?’ That’s something that the NFL has to take seriously, and that was a big concern…The (tip) of the iceberg is the email, but obviously everything deeper is the culture, the things that we’re talking about here.”

Dungy: “I think we have to have a game plan of how we’re going to do this and look for the best candidates. We’ve got a perfect example tonight with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I worked in that organization a long time. Dan Rooney, the late owner, hired three coaches in 50 years. They all went to Super Bowls, they all won, but he had a formula. He wanted tough, young, aggressive defensive coaches. So, he hired Chuck Noll when he was in his 30s, he hired Bill Cowher when he was in his 30s. The last time he looked for a head coach, he had a lot of offensive coaches on his staff that were great coaches, but he said I’m going to stick with my formula. I’m going to look for the best young coach and picked out an unknown guy named Mike Tomlin. I think that worked out pretty well.”

Taylor: “That’s all anyone ever wants is just objective standards that apply to everyone who’s applying so that the opportunities are equal and that’s what we hope we have moving forward.”


Dungy on the Steelers offense: “For Pittsburgh, that 39-year old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs help. He needs a running game. Last week, they had a dominant running game. Will that show up again tonight?”

Harrison on Steelers rookie RB Najee Harris: “Just watching him play, he is so motivated because he plays so hard…If you’re an offensive lineman, how do you not get pumped up when this kid is fighting and clawing trying to get every inch and every yard? I love this kid.”

Harrison on the Steelers defense: “Their mindset has to be they have to win the game. They can no longer count on Big Ben and this offense to pull out games.”

Simms on Roethlisberger’s struggles: “Know who you are…So far this year, when Big Ben has been in the pocket trying to buy time like old Big Ben and pumps the ball everywhere, it leads to disastrous things.”

Brees on the Steelers offense: “The Steelers offense wants to throw the ball down the seams, up the field, and that’s something that Big Ben can still do.”


Brees on Seahawks QB Geno Smith: “You don’t think Geno Smith has been waiting for this opportunity? He’s been biding his time, playing behind some really good starters, learning a lot, but here’s a guy who still prepared himself as a starter and he knows this offense. He’s ready to take advantage of this opportunity tonight.”

Harrison on Seahawks QB Geno Smith: “I’m not worried about Geno Smith. He’s been in this system almost three years. He’s a veteran player…He’s looking for this opportunity. I think he’ll be fine.”

Dungy on the defense’s inability to generate turnovers and big plays: “They aren’t getting any of those. That’s what they’ve got to do, find some playmakers. I don’t know where, but that’s what they’ve got to do.”

Brees on the defense: “They just don’t do anything really well…They’re going to have to be able to stop this Steelers run game that has started to kick up, and I don’t think they match up very well outside. They play a lot of one-on-one coverage and there’s just too many weapons on that Steelers side of the ball.”

Harrison on Seahawks S Jamal Adams: “He was frustrated because he wanted to be more involved in the defensive game plan…What you have to do with Jamal Adams is get him moving forward. Put him on the line of scrimmage where he can have one-on-one opportunities against running backs, against tight ends. This is where he’s at his very best, and he told me that he’ll be a lot more involved tonight.”

Dungy on Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner’s work with HBCU football programs: “I asked Bobby why HBCUs because he’s not an HBCU grad. He said, ‘I just love the history and I think some of these young men need an opportunity.’”


Taylor on the Raiders: “Tumultuous week, but the Raiders coming out strong.”

Brees on win vs. Broncos: “They really came together this week as a team. Made plays on both sides of the ball, going on the road, great win in the division.”


Simms: “Mistakes were the theme for Dallas early on. They moved the ball up and down the field on the New England Patriots. In fact, Coach (Dungy) and I were saying, ‘I’ve never seen a team dominate like this and they’re losing by seven.’”

Dungy on Cowboys QB Dak Prescott: “He didn’t get discouraged, he just kept coming back and making plays…Dak Prescott just played outstanding today in a big situation.”

Brees on the Cowboys defense: “I’ve been really impressed with this Dallas defense and the way that they’ve responded this year. Lightyears change from what they were last year, and how about Trevon Diggs? This guy’s unbelievable. If he’s close to the ball, he’s coming down with it.”

Simms on CB Trevon Diggs (who had an INT-TD): “I’ve never seen anything like this…It seems like it’s every week. He has unbelievable ball skills.”


Harrison on the Ravens’ defense vs. the Chargers: “They were outstanding today in stopping one of the hottest quarterbacks in the National Football League. They did a great job of coming up, disguising, dropping guys in coverage. It looked like Justin Herbert was confused. He didn’t know what was going on.”

Brees on the Ravens’ rushing attack: “Obviously, this is a plug-and-play running back offense because you’ve got Lamar Jackson. He accounts for at least one or two defenders every play.”

Dungy on the Ravens’ defense: “Great pass rush, pressure from all over the place, and then this tight coverage…They did the best job on Justin Herbert I’ve seen all year.”


Simms: “There’s weapons galore on the (offensive) side of the ball, but the defense was really impressive today. They harassed Baker Mayfield…They’re for real on both sides of the ball.”

Dungy: “Is anybody playing better than Kyler Murray right now? I don’t think so.”


Simms: “The hottest combination we’ve seen in the NFL this year – Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp.”


Simms: “I think everyone keeps expecting them to fall off, ‘They’re the Bengals. They’re not going to keep winning, right?’ No, they’re here to stay. They’re too good on the offensive side of the ball and they’ve got talent on the defensive side of the ball. So, we’d better get used to talking about them.”

Brees on believing in the Bengals: “I absolutely do. I think Joe Burrow and this cast of weapons on offense will continue to build chemistry and only get better.”

Simms on QB Joe Burrow and WR Ja’Marr Chase: “This is the best big-play combo we’ve seen in football so far this year. I feel like I’m talking about these two every week.”

Brees: “This could have been a letdown game for the Bengals of the past, but not this year.”


Simms: “He wasn’t perfect today, but we did see that (QB Patrick) Mahomes magic once again today for Kansas City.”

Brees on the Chiefs offense and Mahomes’ turnovers: “You have to acknowledge that it’s a problem, and it’s gotten you beat three times this year. The turnovers and the sloppy play. Call it a difference in the way defenses are playing these guys, but they have to acknowledge these are the things that will get them beat.”


Brees: “This is when they went to the next level…Aaron Jones and this run game. Their ability to create these explosive plays has been a big difference maker for them.”


Simms on the Colts’ 31-3 win vs. the Texans: “You’re seeing this Colts offense – I know they’re 2-4, but I think they’re a dangerous 2-4 football team going forward.”

Simms on the Colts’ big-play offense with the return of WR T.Y. Hilton: “They need him back, they do. This is a part of the offense they missed over the first five weeks. Hopefully T.Y. can provide that for them.”


Florio on the Jaguars’ win and final drive under QB Trevor Lawrence: “Let’s set the stage. It was 20-20, there were five seconds left, it’s fourth-and-eight from the Miami 44, and the Jaguars were planning to throw it to the endzone. Trevor Lawrence told me he didn’t want to do that. So, Miami calls a timeout – gives the Jaguars a chance to change their mind, and on that play, you had the receivers covered about six yards off the ball. There was a defensive back in the middle that Trevor Lawrence had to manipulate with his eyes before the play because he didn’t have time to do it during the play. It worked, they got the first down, kicked the field goal, and finally got a win.”


Simms: “Tua (Tagovailoa) played really well today. He energized this offense. It’s been stagnant so far this year.”