Sunday NFL Countdown’s duo of producers Matthew Garrett (middle) and Chad Minutillo (left) run the program from the control room. (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Sunday NFL Countdown’s duo of producers Matthew Garrett (middle) and Chad Minutillo (left) run the program from the control room. (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

HOUSTON – ESPN producers Matthew Garrett and Chad Minutillo, who began overseeing Sunday NFL Countdown in 2016, were charged with re-imagining the company’s signature NFL program with a completely new cast of analysts this season.

Garrett and Minutillo introduced a different approach to presenting features and added a variety of new elements to the show, including creative segments designed to be more fun. They also encouraged the analysts to be storytellers who give viewers a peek behind the NFL curtain.

The co-producers spoke to Front Row ahead of Sunday’s three-hour Super Bowl LI edition of Postseason NFL Countdown (11 a.m.- 2 p.m. ET, ESPN) – the final show of the season.

Our mission statement when we started was to ‘give viewers access to something they can’t buy tickets to.’ Every week, the show became more unpredictable, and viewers never knew what might come next. . .
– Producer Chad Minutillo on Sunday NFL Countdown’s goal

What are you most proud of with Sunday NFL Countdown this season?
Minutillo: The innovation and progression since the beginning of the season – the show has gotten better every week. Our mission statement when we started was to “give viewers access to something they can’t buy tickets to.” Every week, the show became more unpredictable, and viewers never knew what might come next – whether it was the contract-incentive game show “Straight Cash Homie,” NFL Dodgeball training, or an edition of “Sunday School” to teach the viewer an intricacy of the league. We are constantly trying to keep the show impulsive.

What should viewers expect from the Super Bowl LI show?
Garrett: New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and former Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan will join our usual Countdown team. Having Odell and Rex on the show allows for another unique opportunity to take our viewers behind the curtain of today’s NFL, such as Rex telling our viewers how he game-plans for [New England Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick, or Odell’s take on [Atlanta Falcons receiver] Julio Jones. Combining their perspectives on the game with Randy’s first-hand knowledge of preparing and playing in a Super Bowl with [Patriots quarterback] Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and our stable of Super Bowl champions – [ESPN NFL analysts] Trent Dilfer, Charles Woodson and Steve Young – I expect our viewers to be incredibly entertained and informed throughout the three-hour show.

Their dedication to serving our fans through creative storylines and the amount of time and energy they put in is incomparable. Many don’t know their names or faces, but they are the engine that drives Sunday NFL Countdown every week
– Producer Matthew Garrett on his Sunday Countdown colleagues

Just for good measure, we are sending [analyst] Matt Hasselbeck up for a flight with the Thunderbirds who will be performing the flyover [of NRG Stadium] on Sunday night. We will also honor Chris Berman as he hosts Sunday NFL Countdown – the show that he built – for the final time.

What should fans know about the team that puts on Sunday NFL Countdown each week?
Garrett: While it is our on-air team that viewers welcome into their homes every Sunday, the work behind the scenes by our entire staff has been inspiring leading into the Super Bowl LI show, just as it has been all season. Their dedication to serving our fans through creative storylines and the amount of time and energy they put in is incomparable. Many don’t know their names or faces, but they are the engine that drives Sunday NFL Countdown every week.

Countdown producers fine tune compelling SB LI stories

A unique aspect of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown is the quality of its storytelling features. In the gallery above and the text below, Front Row presents highlights of some of the associate producers and their features for Sunday’s Postseason program.

In “Matt Bryant’s Tragedy and Triumph,” Luke Williams works with reporter Michelle Beisner Buck’s interview with Super Bowl-winning coach and ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden. In 2008, when Gruden coached Bryant with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he told the kicker’s teammates about the passing of Bryant’s infant son. The day after his son’s funeral, Bryant kicked three field goals for the Bucs. Sunday in Houston, Bryant, 41, kicks for the Atlanta Falcons against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.

In “A Conversation with Matt Ryan,” Jenna Contreras is editing Countdown analyst Matt Hasselbeck’s interview with the Falcons quarterback. The fellow Boston College alums discuss, among other things, their college experience in Boston, watching Tom Brady lead the Patriots to success and whether Ryan will get a tattoo if the Falcons win the Super Bowl. Hasselbeck led the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl 11 years ago.

In “Super Bowl LI Game Balls,” Domonique Goodridge helps tell the story of the small factory in Ada, Ohio, where all the footballs used in all 51 Super Bowls are made by hand.

NO COMMENTS