National Football League
Behind the Scenes with FOX's NFL crew: Super Bowl LVII provides epic finish
National Football League

Behind the Scenes with FOX's NFL crew: Super Bowl LVII provides epic finish

Updated Feb. 14, 2023 3:50 p.m. ET

By Richie Zyontz
FOX NFL Lead Producer

Editor's Note: Richie Zyontz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and the lead producer for the last 20 seasons. He has more than 40 years of experience covering the league and has produced six Super Bowls. Throughout the 2022 NFL season, he provided an inside look as FOX's new No. 1 NFL team made its journey toward Super Bowl LVII. Here is his review of the big game.

Breathe. Relax. Decompress.

That could be the mantra for everyone at FOX Sports who worked Super Bowl LVII in Arizona. So much time and effort from so many people.  


Logistics, travel, security, operations, marketing, business affairs, public relations, sales, a massive pre-game production — all leading up to the kickoff of an epic matchup between the Chiefs and Eagles.

Then, when all that difficult preparation was done, it was our turn as the game production and technical crew to cover the game for 114 million viewers.

And what a special game it was … it just took forever to arrive.

Kevin Burkhardt, left, and Greg Olsen were calling their first Super Bowl together. (Photo courtesy of Richie Zyontz)

Sunday was a long day. We left our hotel at 8:30 a.m., a full eight hours prior to kickoff. That would be three hours earlier than for any other game. 

Director Rich Russo had a 10 a.m. camera meeting, a refresher course after a very thorough meeting Thursday. That morning gathering set the tone for the day, as the guys all showed up in Rich Russo Hawaiian shirts. That move was the brainchild of Mike Dranes (Drano), our group jokester and fashion consultant. 

Director Rich Russo, seated, was featured on the Hawaiian shirts worn by his crew Sunday morning. (Photo courtesy of Richie Zyontz)

Sunday’s meeting featured an embarrassed Russo getting a standing ovation from his crew upon entering the room. That gesture indicates love and respect. That’s why I’ve featured our crew all year in this column: They are great people and it’s an honor to work with all of them.

While Russo was busy throughout the morning, I wasn’t. Too much time on Super Bowl Sunday only increases the anxiety level. Overthinking is not healthy. But for a Super Bowl, it’s a requirement.

The football game becomes secondary. It’s all the ancillary concerns that demand our focus. We are handed a list of obligations that must make their way into the telecast. Many of these are from the league.  

We must show the pilots who performed the flyover, the new Hall of Fame inductees, the kid who brings the tee out for the second half kick and three international watch parties from Germany, Brazil and Ghana. With our reliable associate producer Rich Gross offering less than gentle reminders during the game, everything made air in a comfortable manner. 

The game broadcast took more than four hours, with a 30-minute halftime show, mostly staged by the NFL. The whole day is tricky because the timings must be precise.  

On-field ceremonies, team introductions, three songs culminating with Chris Stapleton's national anthem and the coin toss, all went off without a hitch.

Gross essentially produced these segments, cueing both lead broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt and the stadium public-address announcer as we moved from one activity to another. It was a difficult task handled very well.

Then there’s the celebrity list — or what some consider a celebrity list. Don’t get me wrong, there were some A-listers there, such as Adele, LeBron James, Jay-Z and Sir Paul McCartney. But now the list includes what is referred to as "influencers," and they are listed as such on the three-page list we were handed. I had never heard of a single one.

Our camera people are given seat locations for the more prominent names, and we edit together a short video package. Our bosses alerted us to where the big boss, Rupert Murdoch, was seated. He just happened to be alongside Elon Musk. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for those conversations.

On to the game.

After a very disappointing NFC Championship Game, we were all geared up for an exciting Super Bowl. And, boy, did it deliver.

There were so many key moments, but none more so than Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes re-injuring his sprained right ankle late in the second quarter. His ankle seemed to get twisted, and he was in obvious pain. Kansas City fans held their breath, and so did we. The best football player on the planet limped off the field, and there was immediate question about whether he would start the second half.

Needless to say, we followed Mahomes' every movement and grimace, with reporter Erin Andrews staying on top of the story. Injury information is always hard to come by. With Kansas City, it’s made more difficult because coach Andy Reid will not speak with the sideline reporter at halftime unless his team is winning.  

So, with the Chiefs losing at the half, we were unable to inquire about the condition of the two-time NFL MVP. Not good. 

The field conditions became another topic, as we saw players constantly slipping, and many of the Eagles changing shoes on the bench. Reporter Tom Rinaldi had done some research ahead of time on the playing surface and provided an excellent report. In hindsight, I think I was a bit late getting to this storyline and underplayed it during the broadcast.

Speaking of Rinaldi, he was the innocent victim of the night’s only glitch. While doing a report early in the third quarter, his microphone suddenly cut out, and the broadcast picture seemed to take a hit. In the truck, we heard what sounded like a strong vibration outside, followed by a steady and disturbing noise.

The air conditioning in our transmission truck had exploded. A transmission truck is the least glamorous and most crucial element to any broadcast. The post-event investigation revealed the broken AC unit did not impact Tom’s report — but the timing was eerie.

The production truck is the heart of the broadcast — but also the site of a brief scare Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Richie Zyontz)

This was the game we hoped we would get. Lots of scoring, the superstar quarterbacks playing up to their billing, big plays, great drama and a close, compelling contest going right down to the wire.  

Our camera crew was outstanding, providing some amazing close-ups that captured every emotion on display.

During the national anthem, veteran cameraman Mario Zecca zoomed in on choked-up Philadelphia coach Nick Sirianni, tears streaming down his face. Sirianni had told us during our production meeting that for inspiration he listens to Whitney Houston’s anthem from Super Bowl XXV. That small tidbit helped lead to an indelible image.

Late in the game, the officiating became a topic of controversy. Eagles cornerback James Bradberry was called for defensive holding, extending the Chiefs' game-winning drive and allowing them to drain the clock down to just eight seconds.

Debate over a late holding call

James Bradberry's controversial holding call on JuJu Smith-Schuster proved to a tough call in the final minutes.

The pictures seemed to support the call. Analyst Greg Olsen disagreed, and he and rules expert Mike Pereira sparred a bit. Pereira is hardly an officiating apologist. He is extremely honest. In this case, he thought it was a proper call.  

After the game, even Bradberry agreed with the call. However, the differing opinions made for an interesting exchange in the booth.

Whatever nerves Burkhardt and Olsen might have been battling in their first Super Bowl were invisible to me in the truck. They maintained a perfect tone throughout, staying ahead of the action and finding plenty of opportunities to let the pictures tell the story.

Wrapping up Super Bowl LVII

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen break down the Chiefs' 38-35 victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.

You can tell yourself all week that it’s just a football game, but it’s not. Your insides are howling while your outside remains calm.

I’m so proud of our entire crew. We started the season getting acquainted, but by the end, we were rock-solid tight. One picture captures this feeling.  

On Thursday, we were racing from Eagles practice back to their hotel for meetings. With time of the essence and stomachs growling, our three-car caravan pulled into a Chick-fil-A for lunch. It was a blast, and the lasting image for me is that of a happy crew.

The team bonded during a quick stop for a fast-food lunch during a hectic week. (Photo courtesy of Richie Zyontz)

Now we wait two years until our next Super Bowl in New Orleans in 2025. That’s plenty of time to decompress.

After the confetti fell, the team can begin thinking ahead to next season. (Photo courtesy of Richie Zyontz)

ARCHIVES: Look back at the season-long journey for the FOX NFL Crew:


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