Nat Coombs- The Interview!

We all know and love Nat Coombs. Face of Channel 5’s NFL coverage, sparring partner of Mike Carlson (with words not fists) and all round NFL fanatic.

Well to help us kick off the new site, Nat has agreed to give us an interview about what got him into the game, his all time favourite game, the possibility of a London Franchise, and what he’s up to nowadays.

Hi Nat. Why not start off by telling us how got into NFL, who your team are, and why?

Like a lot of people in my generation I grew up as a kid watching the coverage on Channel 4. I’ve always been a huge sports fan, and as a kid developed a fascination with the US, so it was a logical fit. I’m a Dolphins fan. The team from that era – Marino, Marx Brothers – was so exciting to watch, and being a West Ham fan I quite liked the cavalier style/never win the big one approach of Miami.

What draws you to NFL compared to your other love, football?

That’s a good question. The pace of the two games are very different of course, and I think it’s fair to say that NFL is far more complex, from a tactical perspective. As such, moving from a fan to becoming a broadcaster, and therefore studying both sports in much more detail, has opened up a whole new aspect and enjoyment for each respectively. I don’t prefer one or the other, to be honest and I love baseball and cricket too although there’s less NFL throughout the year, which gives it a slightly special edge.

What do you think of the Dolphin’s season so far?

Strange, promising and paradoxically disappointing in equal measure. I thought it was a mistake to bench Henne – much as I love Chad Pennington – and feel that because certain QB’s fly from day 1, there is an unrealistic expectation applied to how quickly someone will be the real deal. I guess in a situation like Miami, where a playoff berth is a chance – as opposed to say Detroit – then it’s a harder decision, and Henne obviously has had some bad games but overall I think he’s been good. There has been some odd coaching calls on 3rd down – passing more than any other team on 3rd and short apparently – but we’re still in with a chance of the playoffs which is par for the course really.

What about the NFL season as a whole?

Strange and brilliant. So many upsets, hardly any dogs, bizarre teams in the running (Tampa, KC, St L) and mega teams imploding (Dallas, Vikes). I really can’t call it any which way at this stage. Feel about 10 teams are at roughly the same level, although I have a sneaky feeling the Patriots may come good when it matters. I backed GB at the start of the year, and despite some terrible injuries, they’re shaping up well.

Who’s your favourite ever NFL player and why?

Hard to pick one. Marino for sure is up there. Loved Sweetness. Am a Favre fan, no doubt. Admire Ray Lewis as a player immensely. Prime too. So many! Coaching wise Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, Mike Martz.

And what’s your favourite game you’ve ever seen?

Probably the 51-45 Jets/Dolphins game from the 1980’s. Despite the Dolphins losing, it was an amazing performance from O’Brien and Marino. Proper guns blazing football. O Brien was an interesting player who never really fulfilled his potential.

What do you think of the idea of a London franchise?

I love the idea but it’s not without its complications. An expansion franchise is probably going to be poor for 2/3 years and it’s a concern that the level of interest would sustain back to back losing seasons. I don’t buy this “we’ve already got a team, so why would we support London” argument. Just talk to people in LA. So many of them aren’t from LA and so have 2 teams, in NBA, MLB etc. And when LA gets a new franchise, which it’s bound too, it’ll be packed.

Now we all know you from the channel 5 NFL coverage, but be honest, Is Mike Carlson the most knowledgeable pundit you’ve ever worked with? If not, who is?

The great thing about Carlson is that he’s entertaining and informative. That’s a hard mix to deliver. What I loved about our time at FIVE was that we were able to riff and go off topic, but I still think we delivered smart, savvy football discussion. He’s a great broadcaster and a really intelligent analyst, but when we have a beer, we’re as likely to talk movies, books or comedy as we are Sports.

And whereabouts can we find you doing your NFL thing nowadays?

Am doing less NFL than before as I’m busy doing lots of football (soccer) for ESPN now including a weekly chat show called Talk Of The Terrace (Mondays, 6.30PM ESPN) but still keeping my hand in with NFL, mainly for the BBC (Radio Five Live Xtra) which I’m really enjoying. I hope to stay involved for years to come with the NFL, but the nature of the business I’m in means that sometimes that’s not always possible.

And finally, give us your Superbowl pick!

Pariots/Packers – Pats to win.

Nat, thanks so much for that!

Nat Coombs is a broadcaster and writer who works for ESPN & the BBC, his website can be found at and he is well worth a follow on twitter- @NatCoombs.

Jamie Cutteridge

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