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2009 NFL Broadcasting Guide

NFL broadcasters are, by and large, a conservative lot. Studio analysts often stay in the same gig for a number of years. Same goes with the top broadcast teams outside of the occasional roster tweak or two for a just-retired player or a recently unemployed big-name coach.

But this offseason produced some seismic shifts in the NFL broadcast marketplace. And you can blame one very famous septuagenarian for that.

When John Madden surprised NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol last April with his decision to retire from broadcasting at 73, it set off a domino effect amongst a number of networks. NBC announced that Cris Collinsworth would replace Madden on its Sunday Night Football broadcast, and followed that move by hiring former Colts coach Tony Dungy and veteran NFL player Rodney Harrison for its Football Night in America studio show. With Collinsworth no longer available as an analyst for The NFL Network's eight-game broadcast package, the league-owned entity hired Matt Millen to replace him. ESPN also made a bold move with its signature NFL property: After three uneven years as an analyst-cum-raconteur on Monday Night Football, Tony Kornheiser was jettisoned for Jon Gruden, the telegenic former Tampa Bay coach.

(Read Richard Deitsch's Q&A with Gruden here.)

"When you get somebody with the magnitude of John Madden retiring, that does set off some shock waves," said CBS Sports and News president Sean McManus. "There are a generation of football fans who grew up with John in their living room, and as great as some of the analysts are today, there will never be another John Madden. From an emotional, business and creative standpoint, it was one of those world-changing events that happens only once. But as we all know -- and as John would be the first to say -- what really is important in the end is the game."

True enough, but we're here to provide a breakdown of the good-hair folks who bring you the league you love. Below, SI.com offers an NFL broadcasting guide to the season.

Pregame

The NFL Today --James Brown (host) Bill Cowher (analyst), Boomer Esiason (analyst), Dan Marino (analyst), Shannon Sharpe (analyst), Charley Casserly (information), Sam Ryan (reporter) and Lesley Visser (reporter).

Broadcast Teams

1. Jim Nantz (play-by-play) and Phil Simms (analyst) 2. Greg Gumbel (play-by-play) and Dan Dierdorf (analyst) 3. Dick Enberg (play-by-play) and Dan Fouts (analyst) 4. Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) and Solomon Wilcots (analyst) 5. Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Rich Gannon (analyst) 6. Gus Johnson (play-by-play and Steve Tasker (analyst) 7. Don Criqui (play-by-play) and Randy Cross (analyst) 8. Bill Macatee (play-by-play) and Steve Beuerlein (analyst) What's New

The perennially underrated Dan Fouts, who played the straight man for Dennis Miller during their tenure on ABC's Monday Night Football, is given a more prominent role at CBS after 11 years with ABC as an NFL and college analyst. Fouts is that rare former star player with experience as a play-by-play broadcaster. (Two years ago, he called Pac-10 games.) His addition should help Dick Enberg, who remains elegant with his language but has understandably lost a step as a game-caller from his halcyon days.

The improving Solomon Wilcots will work with Kevin Harlan after partnering with Eagle last year. Randy Cross, who previously worked with Enberg, was demoted to a lower team. CBS is broadcasting the Super Bowl this season, so be prepared for an avalanche of publicity for Jim Nantz and Phil Simms come January.

What's Old

CBS preaches stability and understated coverage. What's old is usually new. The network employs no sideline reporters and keeps its focus on the nuts and bolts of the game. You won't see Christian Slater in its booth. Jackie Slater is a possibility.

What We'd Change

The ridiculous amount of laughter on the set of The NFL Today. Shannon Sharpe is occasionally funny, but given the levels of laughter emanating from pals Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason and Dan Marino, you'd think we're watching a Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner.

Best Games

Patriots at Jets (Sept. 20, 1 p.m.) Steelers at Bears (Sept. 20, 4:15 p.m.), Ravens at Patriots (Oct. 4, 1 p.m.), Jets at Saints (Oct. 4, 4:05 p.m.), Patriots at Broncos (Oct. 11, 4:15 p.m.), Titans at Patriots (Oct. 18, 4:15 p.m.), Ravens at Vikings (Oct. 18, 1 p.m.), Texans at Colts (Nov. 8, 1 p.m.), Jets at Patriots (Nov. 22, 4:15 p.m.), Titans at Colts (Dec. 6, 1 p.m.), Chargers at Cowboys (Dec. 13. 4:15 p.m.), Ravens at Steelers (Dec. 27, 1 p.m.)

Trash-Talking The Opponents

"I think it is really a given that when they were doing the NFL together there has never been a better team than Pat Summerall and John Madden on NFL football. I think that is an unquestioned fact. And I like to think now that they are no longer together that the two guys that we have in the booth, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, really are carrying on that tradition of being the best in the NFL booth ... I'm proud to have Jim and Phil up in the booth also carrying on the great tradition that John and Pat set so amazingly well when they were with CBS all those years. -- McManus

Obligatory Brett Favre comment

"I think the Vikings would have had just as good a record with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback as with Brett Favre. I think a lot of people underplay Jackson's ability ... He played very well down the end of the season last year ... You bring in a Brett Favre to the Jets because you're looking to win the playoff game. But when you look at the regular season, if the Jets would have kept Chad Pennington, I believe they would have won 10 games." -- Simms

Sunday Pregame

Sunday NFL Countdown --Chris Berman (co-host), Cris Carter (co-host), Mike Ditka (co-host) Tom Jackson (co-host), Keyshawn Johnson (co-host), Chris Mortensen (information/reporter), Adam Schefter (information/reporter), Bob Holtzman (reporter), Rachel Nichols (reporter), Wendi Nix (reporter), Sal Paolantonio (reporter), Michael Smith (reporter) and Ed Werder (reporter).

Monday Pregame

Monday Night Countdown -- Berman, Carter, Trent Dilfer, Ditka, Jackson, Johnson, Matt Millen, Mortensen, Stuart Scott (host), Steve Young (analyst), Suzy Kolber (reporter), Schefter and Michele Tafoya (reporter).

Broadcast

Monday Night Football -- Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Ron Jaworski (analyst) Jon Gruden (analyst)

What's New

The in-game focus on MNF has switched from a football-cum-entertainment-based broadcast to a heavy emphasis on X's and O's with the hire of Gruden. The former NFL coach has a chance to be very good, based on his preparation and personality. But Gruden is only 46 and it's hard to believe he'll stay out of the game for long.

"We are going to get back to basics, delivering hardcore X and O's football, which is what the fans want," said MNF executive producer Jay Rothman. "We have two dynamic football guys in Jaws and Jon Gruden to help deliver that." Matt Millen's Lions tenure was a disaster, but he was a terrific broadcaster at Fox and CBS prior to taking executive job. The hard-working Adam Schefter becomes one of the network's 7,200 NFL reporters. If his Twitter frequency is a predicator of future success, he'll be the greatest information guy since Thomas Paine.

What's Old

With its cross-platform strategy and more staffers than most NFL teams, ESPN will continue to send waves of on-air people at the viewers. The core of its pregame show (Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson and Steve Young) remains the same. Chris Mortensen is at his best on Sunday mornings and Sal Paolantonio and Ed Werder have a long track record of solid reporting.

What's We'd Change

Tom Jackson's role. The network desperately wants to make Keyshawn Johnson the breakout star of the show. It's a mistake. Johnson isn't nearly the water-cooler provocateur ESPN thinks he is, and he takes air time away from Jackson, who regularly says thoughtful and thought-provoking things. You can't fake sincerity, and Jackson has it. We'd like to see him in the center chair on Sunday NFL Countdown, and we wish ESPN would also push him more externally. Trent Dilfer should get more prominence on ESPN's signature football shows. He'll be the best thing about Monday Night Countdown, which occasionally runs out of time for all its voices. .

Best Games

All games start at 8:30 p.m. ET. Colts at Dolphins (Sept. 21), Packers at Vikings (Oct. 5), Falcons at Saints (Nov. 2), Steelers at Broncos (Dec, 9), Ravens at Packers (Dec. 7), Vikings at Bears (Dec, 28).

Trash-Talking The Opponents

"I think we have the most comprehensive studio shows, and what I think are the best studio shows." -- Stephanie Druley, senior coordinating producer for NFL studio shows.

Obligatory Brett Favre comment

"Well, I think anytime you have a veteran quarterback with 10, 12, 14 years of history in the same offense, where he has been to two Super Bowls and multiple MVPs, Pro Bowls, I think it only helps. He will be a better leader, teammate and coach on the field because of that. Those are all huge winning edges in huge games." -- Gruden.

Pregame

Fox NFL Sunday -- Curt Menefee (host), Terry Bradshaw (co-host), Howie Long (analyst), Jimmy Johnson (analyst), Michael Strahan (analyst), Jay Glazer (reporter) and Frank Caliendo (comedian).

Broadcast Teams

1. Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst) and Pam Oliver (sideline) 2. Kenny Albert (play-by-play), Daryl Johnston (analyst), Tony Siragusa (sideline) 3. Dick Stockton (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analyst) and Laura Okmin (sideline) 4. Thom Brennaman (play-by-play), Brian Billick (analyst) and Charissa Thompson (sideline) 5. Chris Myers (play-by-play) and Trent Green (analyst) 6. Ron Pitts (play-by-play), John Lynch (analyst) and Rob Desir (sideline) 7. Sam Rosen (play-by-play), Tim Ryan (analyst), Nischelle Turner (sideline)

What's New

The network brass is high on Charles Davis, who shined two years ago during the BCS coverage. He makes his NFL-analyst debut alongside the veteran Dick Stockton. Fox Sports president Ed Goren said one of his goals was to get Brian Billick a consistent team, so the Super Bowl-winning coach moves to a two-man booth alongside Thom Brennaman. Brian Baldinger, J.C. Pearson and Tony Boselli were dumped and Jillian (Barberie) Reynolds is on maternity leave. John Lynch and Trent Green were added to the roster.

"On the game coverage we had been stable for many years, and I think it was just time to freshen our lineup up," said Goren. "We are lame duck with the BCS this year and Charles has done a wonderful job for us, so we were looking to try to bring him over. Trent Green also became available and we felt he was worth a shot."

Fox made a couple of major off-camera moves: Rich Russo became the lead director of Fox's No. 1 team, replacing Artie Kempner.The longtime team of producer Bob Stenner and director Sandy Grossman was also split up.

What's Old

The trio of Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson has owned the ratings for years. Jay Glazer is the NFL's premier scoop machine on Sundays, and best of all, he revels in the dynamic that pits him against ESPN's army of information people. Curt Menefee isn't as smooth as James Brown, but he's improved as a traffic cop and allows the talent around him to shine. Frank Caliendo has outlasted his early critics to become a tenured member. Pam Oliver quietly does a professional job year after year. Charissa Thompson is hard to take seriously as a reporter, especially after her performance in the ABC reality show, Shaq Vs.

What We'd Change

Fox isn't afraid to go outside-the-box, even when the idea is ridiculous (such as Ryan Seacrest working the red carpet at the Super Bowl). Given the increasing hunger for Fantasy Football, Fox should follow ESPN's lead and give some airtime to a Fantasy expert before kickoff. That would be far more valuable information than Reynolds's decade of nonsense as a pretend meteorologist.

Best Games

Saints at Eagles (Sept. 20, 1 p.m.), Falcons at Patriots (Sept. 27, 1 p.m.), Vikings at Steelers (Oct. 25, 1 p.m.), Falcons at Cowboys (Oct. 25, 4:15 p.m.). Vikings at Packers (Nov, 1, p.m.), Giants at Eagles (Nov, 1, 4:15 p.m.), Cowboys at Packers (Nov. 15, 4:15 p.m.), Bears at Vikings (Nov. 29, 1 p.m.), Cowboys at Giants (Dec. 6, 4:15 p.m.), Packers at Steelers (Dec. 20, 1 p.m.), Eagles at Cowboys (Jan. 3, 1 p.m.), Giants at Vikings (Jan. 3, 1 p.m.), Packers at Cardinals (Jan. 3, 4:15 p.m.)

Trash-Talking The Opponents

"I just look at Scoreboard. Our pregame show is the No. 1 pregame show in its time slot for 15 straight years. That is unprecedented in sports and there are only a handful of television shows that have been No. 1 for any length of time ... We dominate, and not just our pregame show. Other networks competing against The OT (Fox's postgame show) would be happy to have half our ratings, it is so dominating. When I look at the lineup, and I hate to sound like an NFL coach before the season, but this is as strong a team across the board as we have had in quite a while." -- Goren

Obligatory Brett Favre comment

"I believe there is something to be said for going through an offseason with teammates because every guy can depend on the guy that is next to them. That's why you go off to training camp, that's why you spend the offseasons together, and I think that pays dividends when you get into the season. That would be my concern: Four weeks ago, Brett said he was not sure if he was physical capable of getting through an NFL season." -- Aikman

Pregame

Sunday Night Football -- Bob Costas (host), Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann (co-hosts), Tony Dungy (analyst), Rodney Harrison (analyst), Peter King (reporter), Tiki Barber (site reporter).

Broadcast

Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Andrea Kremer (Sideline reporter)

What's New

Plenty, but none bigger than Collinsworth replacing Madden as the network's No. 1 analyst. "I know it's my job to take on the burden of being the guy who follows John Madden," Collinsworth recently told SI.com. "Nobody in their right mind would volunteer for this job. It's not a good professional position to be in. Yet it is my job. Dick Ebersol asked me to do it, and I honestly thought about telling him that it was a career trap. You don't want to be the guy that follows John Madden, but I am."

The most tinkered pregame show in history gets tweaked yet again. Bob Costas will broadcast from the game site each week and engage Al Michaels and Collinsworth in a conversation at the start of the broadcast. It's a smart move in theory, though the Fox Sports brass can tell you about the difficulties of an onsite, pre-game telecast. They ended that experiment after one production-nightmarish year.

The blunt Rodney Harrison has star potential as a studio analyst, given his no-holds barred opinions as a player. Dungy is well-connected in league circles and obviously respected. But does he have the personality to call people out when needed? And can he be objective about his protégé, Michael Vick?

"I think you can be objective and I think you can do your job," Dungy said. "I hope my job isn't just to be critical, but there are times as a coach you have to point out mistakes that your players make and you point that out and you move on. I think I'll do the same thing in the booth. I am working with Michael Vick but I talk to a lot of guys, including a lot of my former players with the Buccaneers and the Colts, and many of those guys are still in the league. I don't think it is anything unusual, and I don't think it will impact my job."

What's Old

Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann are back for the highlight portion of the studio show, which fans might never catch if the CBS and Fox games end late. (NBC can't contractually air NFL highlights until 7:15 at the earliest). Peter King and Andrea Kremer remain solid performers, but take my word on Mr. MMQB with a dollop of caveat emptor: I work with the guy and like him personally.

What We'd Change

Tiki Barber's role. It's remarkable how little NBC Sports is showcasing him these days, especially given that only two years ago NBC Universal President and CEO declared upon his hire in Feb. 2007: "Tiki Barber is one of those rare personalities who appeals to virtually every audience imaginable." Barber's role hasn't been clearly defined. We'd like to see him in the studio to spar with Harrison.

Best Games

All games begin at 8:15 p.m. ET: Bears at Packers (Sept 13), Giants at Cowboys (Sept. 20), Cardinals at Giants (Oct. 25), Patriots at Colts (Nov. 15), Eagles at Bears (Nov. 22), Steelers at Ravens (Nov. 29), Eagles at Giants (Dec. 13).

Trash-Talking The Opponents

"This trio of talent is unsurpassed probably in the history of television. In Bob you have the best host/anchor in the sports world of his generation. In Al, you have unquestionably the best play-by-play guy of his generation. And Cris, in the 12 years the Emmy's have given an Emmy for studio analyst, he's won 9 out of the 12 times. Two of the last three years he's won the award for the best game analyst. We have a treasure trove of talent to bring to this show every Sunday night." -- Ebersol on Costas, Collinsworth and Michaels.

Obligatory Brett Favre comment

"It's like an old poker show: The Vikings are all-in with Brett Favre because if this does not work out, you have to think there will be some issues in the locker room because there is some obvious loyalties to Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. It will be interesting to see how that plays out as well." -- Collinsworth

Pregame

NFL GameDay Morning -- Stacey Dales (co-host), Spero Dedes (co-host), Marshall Faulk (analyst), Steve Mariucci (analyst), Deion Sanders (analyst) and Warren Sapp (analyst). Jason LaCanfora (reporter)

Postgame

NFL GameDay Highlights -- Rich Eisen (host), Michael Irvin (analyst), Sanders

Thursday Night Football -- Bob Papa (play-by-play) and Matt Millen (analyst)

What's New

Will Millen's disastrous tenure with the Lions (the franchise went 31-97 from 2001-08) undercut his credibility? He will have to win over a new generation of viewers -- especially in Detroit -- who know him only as a bumbling executive. "I don't look back," Millen said. "What's done you can't do anything about. It's already gone. All you can do is deal with what is in front of you. It's about starting over, and I'm OK starting over. I like starting on something different."

Former Washington Post reporter Jason LaCanfora takes over Schefter's role as the network insider after Schefter moved to ESPN. The Sunday pregame show has been extended to four hours and added former ESPN reporter Stacey Dales, who will have to prove to viewers that she's fluid in NFL nomenclature. Rich Eisen has done a terrific job interacting with fans on Twitter; it's helped change my opinion of him.

What's Old

Marshall Faulk really does a terrific job. He's equally versed on players on both sides of the ball, which is a rarity for a running back-turned broadcaster. Alas, we can't say the same about Deion Sanders, who is more flash than substance. Bob Papa has established himself as a national-level broadcaster and was a notable improvement over Bryant Gumbel. Eisen occasionally unnerves with his overabundance on cleverness, but he moves his shows along professionally.

What'd We Change

I'm on the record about Michael Irvin. How many chances should an underwhelming and unprepared broadcaster get, especially with so many retired players itching for a national gig? NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger says Irvin is a different broadcaster today. We'll see. "Michael Irvin is a proven national broadcaster," Weinberger said. "He's been working hard behind the scenes and he is a different broadcaster than he was at ESPN. Nothing is about second or third chances. We're not as concerned as maybe other people might think. He is working hard on his life, his family and we are thrilled to have him part of family."

Best Games

All games start at 8:20 p.m. ET. Giants at Broncos (Nov. 26), Cowboys at Saints (Dec. 19), Chargers at Titans (Dec. 25)

Trash-Talking The Opponents

"We do it every day in July. We do it every day in November. We don't even call it offseason or in-season. The guys and girls here are working at such a high level ... No one here is knocking any other network because the people who do it there are the best of the best. But I know that our roster is so deep." --Weinberger

Obligatory Brett Favre comment

"I was there when he was a baby, his first four years [in Green Bay]. I am watching him throw today in practice, and he looks to me like he's making all the same kind of throws. It looks like his arm is sharp, fresh and healthy. I don't know if he's feeling any pain or not, but he looks sharp. It's interesting to be able to jump right off the bus and jump right in the huddle and run this offense. It's all familiar to him." -- Mariucci, to the Minneapolis-Star Tribune.

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