We all should have a sense of humor like former Bears quarterback Jim Miller’s.
Most Bears fans remember the hit he took in the divisional playoff against the Eagles after the 2001 regular season. On the return of an interception he threw, Miller took a cheap shot from then-Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas that separated Miller’s throwing shoulder – and basically sunk the Bears.
After winning 13 games, with Miller leading much of the way, the Bears lost 33-19. The painful memory for fans was a painful reality for Miller, who underwent several surgeries on the shoulder and took years to recover. He hasn’t seen Douglas since, but he has an open invitation for him.
“There is an offer for a cage match whenever he accepts,” Miller joked.
For the last 15 years, Miller has put his sense of humor and football knowledge to work in broadcasting. On Saturday, he’ll join TV play-by-play voice Adam Amin for the Bears’ preseason opener against the Dolphins at Soldier Field (noon, Fox-32, 780-AM, 105.9-FM).
Miller, 50, has been the Bears’ preseason TV analyst since 2012. In the regular season, he appears on the Bears’ pre- and postgame shows on Fox-32 and co-hosts the weekly “Bears All Access” on The Score. He also co-hosts “Movin’ the Chains” daily on SiriusXM NFL Radio with Pat Kirwan.
His second career began innocently. The week before the 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit – about a half-hour south of Miller’s home near Auburn Hills – then-WXYT program director Dan Zampillo invited Miller to Radio Row to go on the air. Zampillo had worked at The Score and was familiar with Miller’s candor.
Steve Cohen, who then was the head of SiriusXM NFL Radio programming, listened to Miller and liked what he heard. Cohen asked if Miller had considered taking up talking as a career. Miller hadn’t. Undeterred, Cohen invited Miller to the SiriusXM studios in New York to give it a try.
“So me, Jerry Rice and [Daryl] ‘Moose’ Johnston all tried out for Sirius that year,” Miller said. “I went there dressed up in a suit thinking it was some big job interview. [Cohen] said, ‘We’re just gonna throw you on the air, see if you can survive for four hours.’ “
Cohen hired all three, but Rice and Johnston didn’t last long. Miller didn’t just last – he thrived. Later that year, he became the radio analyst for Michigan State, his alma mater, which led to work for the Big Ten Network.
He held the MSU job through 2012 before choosing to concentrate on the NFL.
“My bread and butter, my true love, is NFL football,” Miller said. “So I wanted to downsize the college stuff and really focus on the NFL because there’s so much going on. It’s year-round. You gotta stay up to date with everything.”
True to form, Miller has been on Sirius XM’s tour of training camps. This week, he and Kirwan visited the Washington Football Team, Ravens, Buccaneers and Jaguars. Next week, they’ll visit the Raiders and Seahawks before Miller pays the Bears another visit.
Whether it’s a Bears game or NFL Radio, Miller prefers talking hard-core football to educate his audience.
“When I watch some of the pregame stuff, it’s a lot of fluff,” he said. “I just think fans are beyond that now. They’re thirsting for that type of knowledge. They wanna know about the gaps, the numbering system for calling offensive plays.
“We always do a playbook session every spring with the listeners [on SiriusXM]. They call in or email us, ‘Hey, could you teach us about this?’ Every year has gotten better and better; fans are more educated. And Pat and I are trying to give them that fix they’re looking for.”
Miller is preparing to give Bears fans their fix. He and Amin joined general manager Ryan Pace on Wednesday night to get his thoughts on the players suiting up. Miller said he’ll be especially prepared to talk about rookie quarterback Justin Fields to give viewers a deep analysis.
Miller will work with Amin for the first time since August 2019 after last preseason was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic. Miller enjoyed the casual nature of the broadcasts and came away very impressed with Amin, who also calls Bulls games and does MLB and NFL games for Fox.
“Adam’s a true pro,” Miller said. “I’m amazed at what those guys can do when they call games. They are like the first superhuman computers. It really amazes me the amount of information that Adam or anybody calling a game is able to retain.”
When Miller isn’t talking about football, there’s a good chance he’s playing it with his three boys. Manny, 14, is trying out for his high school’s junior-varsity team. KJ, 7, and Asa, 4, play flag football.
“They now do 4-year-old flag-football leagues,” Miller said. “He’s starting earlier than I did. I didn’t start playing football till 9, and that was Pop Warner.”
After 17 surgeries related to football – including two hip replacements, one of which had to be redone – Miller is thrilled to be able to share with his kids what he shares with his audience.
“I feel terrific now,” he said. “I’m able to throw with my sons. That’s really what it’s about. I wanna be able to function with my kids and enjoy the things that I enjoyed as a kid and teach them how to do it.”