November 20, 2004
BY: Christopher Price
No one has called more Patriots’ games than Gil Santos. His smooth voice and easy delivery have been front-and-center for over 400 games to millions of Patriots fans.
Santos started as the play-by-play man for the Boston Patriots at Fenway Park in 1966, and served as the voice of the team for the next 14 seasons (1966-1979). He returned to the booth in 1991 and has broadcast every Patriots game since then, now working with Gino Cappelletti on the WBCN Patriots Rock Radio Network.
Along the way, he’s seen both ends of the spectrum: he was the play-by-play man for the 2-14 team of Dick MacPherson, the 1992 team that managed to draw just over 19,000 fans one cold December day to one of the worst stadiums in the history of the NFL. He has also been the voice of the team that has won two of the last three Super Bowl titles, and has created the gold standard for the rest of the NFL to follow.
He finds himself constantly amazed as to just how far the franchise has come since the days of Hugh Millen and Zeke Mowatt.
“I have done a lot of bad teams,” said Santos, who’s in his 28th year doing play-by-play for New England. “And I am amazed at the turnaround that started since Bob Kraft bought the team, a turnaround that started with Bledsoe and Parcells. And Belichick and Brady have continued it with just a terrific roster of talent.
“Doing this team is so much easier than calling a bad team,” he added. “This job is a snap.”
Because there has been so much up-and-down with the franchise over the years, he’s rarely surprised at anything any more. But New England’s recent 40-22 win over St. Louis �-- a game where the Patriots had Randall Gay and Earthwind Moreland starting at cornerback against the potent Rams’ passing attack �-- really opened his eyes to the potential of this year’s team.
“Those two were going against one of the premier passing offenses in the NFL, and they had them so buffaloed when they tried to pass,” recalled Santos. “I mean, St. Louis got a late garbage-time touchdown to make it respectable. But that game really surprised me.”
Santos loves Corey Dillon, who has the chance to provide the Patriots with their first consistent running attack since Curtis Martin fled via free agency after the 1997 season. Dillon has racked up 900 yards in eight games, including five games of at least 100 yards.
“Corey Dillon is just a terrific football player,” Santos said. “When he gets past the line of scrimmage, he just starts punishing the linebackers and defensive backs. He’s just added such a great dimension to this team, and has given them such a varied offense, so much so that no one can ever precisely know what’s coming. When Brady sticks that ball in his stomach on the play action, he gets defenses to react.”
Dillon aside, Santos does see comparisons between this year’s team and the teams that won Super Bowl XXXVI and XXXVIII, especially when it comes to intelligence and perseverance.
“They do exactly what Bill Belichick tells them to do,” Santos said of this year’s Patriots. “They’re always in position to make great plays. They’re very stingy in the red zone, and very adept at making the crucial play at the crucial point in the game. They are very similar in that respect.
“It’s still a team that’s similar to last year in that they are able to play effectively through injuries,” he added. “And they are still being coached by great coaches. With Bill and Romeo and Charlie, along with Eric Mangini �-- who will be a star in the NFL coaching ranks �-- they are all a part of it.”
Ultimately, Santos believes Belichick has tapped into a winning formula.
“The Patriots have great players in Brady, Law, Seymour and Dillon,” he said. “But after that, they have more very, very good players than anyone else. This is the reason they win.”
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