NFL National Announcers Final Grades

It's been another year with too few quality announcing teams and too much Deion Sanders. During the pre-season, I wrote an article titled "Whatchutalkin'about Willis", which was your pre-season guide to the tenuous relationship between fan and national announcer.

Now, first let me say that while it was another solid year for Myron Cope and Co., I don't count local announcing teams. No, these are just reviews for the big boys - the guys that the networks seem to think qualify as professional television announcers.

Below are my original pre-season rankings.

PRE-SEASON RANKINGS

 "Top 5 Play-By-Play National NFL Football Announcers" 

1 . Al Michaels

2. Dick Enberg

3. Joe Buck

4. Mike Patrick

5. Greg Gumbel  

"Top 5 Color Analysts"

1 . Phil Simms

2. John Madden

3. Dan Fouts

4. Troy Aikman

5. Solomon Wilcots

So, what happened this year? Well, the Play-By-Play side gets a new #1 while there was a big shakeup in the Color Analysts.

 POST-SEASON RANKINGS

Top 5 Play-By-Play Announcers

5. Mike Patrick – Patrick had a relatively solid year, although he was helped greatly by a plethora of barnburners. It hurts, though, to have Joe "I can't shut up" Theismann working beside him. This year even Paul "I was a punter so I just offer colorful remarks" Maguire couldn't quite escape the dark shadow of Theismann's perceived (lack of) intellect. The thing I like about Patrick is that, while the game may be between Jacksonville and Arizona, he'll call it like it's a playoff contest. That's really fun to listen too because he makes every game entertaining to watch. But, that same energy doesn't need to translate a simple 4-yard out into a career-defining catch. You get my drift?

4. Gus Johnson – He may be a better college basketball announcer, but the guy calls a good game. He's young and he usually has to work with Brent Jones, and that's no easy feat. It's like watching a Keanu Reeves movie. You just hope he doesn't open his mouth too often. But, I'm happy to say that Johnson more than made up for Jones' static approach and had a good season. He's a guy that should be considered the #5 play-by-play guy for CBS sports coverage behind old vets Dick Enberg, Verne Lundquist, top NFL man Greg Gumble, and Jim "I only show up for the Final Four and Tiger Woods" Nantz. He's young; he's talented; so let's get him some more coverage.

3. Dick Enberg – The grand finale of Enberg's solid season was the best playoff game of the year. No one can doubt the man called a fabulous Pittsburgh-Tennessee game. But, he also had to deal with the pony-loaf of professional announcing: Dan Dierdorf. When Enberg opened his mouth on that Saturday, I listened. From his first words, I was pulled into that game. He has the uncanny ability to make an exciting game heart-stopping. He's aging gracefully and may not have the spotting abilities he had as a younger guy, but he's a pro; he's better than Gumble (who didn't even make this list); and he should be the #1 guy at CBS for NFL Football. The petition continues.

2. Al Michaels – He's been #1 in my heart for a long time, but he's finally been dethroned this year. Why, you ask? John Madden. Madden's incoherent babble often had Michaels losing his train of thought and his nerve this season. And I'm sorry, but when Michaels repeated his "Do you believe in Miracles?" line in the Super Bowl this year, it sealed the cake. He's suffering from a lack of continuity in the booth and a lack of exciting games. Here's hoping he gets some better games next year.

And the new #1 is:

1. Joe Buck – His humor and sarcasm are a fresh approach to the game, with the way he pokes so much fun at the seriousness of the NFL itself and the juvenile antics of the FOX Studio group. He also is the perfect cog to Cris Collinsworth and Troy Aikmen's insight. His work in the playoffs was remarkable. I've come to the conclusion that with all the baseball he's called, the change of pace of an NFL game was right up his alley.

The Top 5 Color Analysts

5. Paul Maguire – He had me looking forward to Sunday Night Football. Regardless of Theismann, Maguire earned his keep and continues to be the most comical of all the analysts. I do still wish for the old days of Simms, Maguire, and Enberg. Oh those were the good ole days. He may hide behind his humor at times, but that's fine by me because I'd rather him keep things light in the booth when Theismann brings the heavy cheese. He'd be ranked higher without Joe.

4. John Madden – I'm hoping this year's problems will be fixed next year. I'm hoping that his sudden decline is because of the new surroundings. I'll say this though, with all the problems he had mixing up players and the gradual movement towards remedial sentences, I still missed the tubby guy and his "Turducken" on Thanksgiving Day.

3. Cris Collinsworth – He went from the "Mute Group" to a ranking. I didn't like him on NBC when he worked with Marv Albert and I hated him when he worked in the FOX Studio. But, Troy Aikmen's intelligence in the three-man FOX booth forces Collinsworth to think out many of his statements. He can no longer afford to come across as a bitter ex-Cincinnati Bengal who thinks he knows it all. Aikmen makes Collinsworth work harder to be better. It's a good start. I hope he doesn't do a Joe Theismann and revert back to the dark side.

2. Troy Aikmen – Beyond what I've already said about this guy, he'll only get better. And should FOX lose the NFL in the next network bidding war, Aikmen will be the hottest item since Jennifer Garner on "Alias" after the Super Bowl. Great episode. Great outfit. Great analyst.

1. Phil Simms – The best of a group that is becoming increasingly weaker. This list pretty much represents the only ones I can seriously listen to anymore. Simms' gap has thinned this past year due to his bland banter with Gumble, but he's still the most intelligent analyst. He's also the best one to listen to when your team is losing. He'll give props to anyone, but not everyone a la Beasley Reece.

The Mute Group:

  1. Beasley Reece

  2. Sterling Sharpe

  3. Randy Cross

  4. Deion Sanders

  5. Jimmy Johnson

Notes

  • I disliked Sean Salisbury pretty much the whole year. He forgets how much he sucked on the football field.

  • Don't let his appearance on ABC's Super Bowl Pre-Game fool you, Michael Strahan is better on the field than in a chair.

  • Bill Parcells will be sorely missed on NFL Gameday. He broke the game down better than anyone in that studio.

  • Why is Lynn Swann not in a booth?

  • Why is Merril Hoge not in a booth?

  • Why is Randy Cross in a booth?

  • Boomer Esaison and Dan Marino together does not work. Two quarterbacks in one studio show are too many. How about some diversity? How about someone who actually tackled for players for a living? Deion doesn't count.

--The Steel Apple

 

 


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