NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya demonstrating how the crowd noise in Seattle would affect the 49ers
' offensive communication. Via Guyism
SI.com has teamed with partner site FanSided.com to provide weekly commentary on the NFL announcing crews each week. What follows is SI.com's power ranking of the Top Five -- each television outlet's top announcing team -- then analysis by FanSided writers on each of the other crews who called games last week (in no particular order). Feel free to use the comments section below to tell us about the announcing in the game or games you watched.
1. (Last week: 1) Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, NBC, 49ers at Seahawks
Luckily for the guys in the booth, we don't hold gimmicky sideline reports against them. Setting up Michele Tafoya behind the center of a row of cardboard cutout offensive linemen, and having her yell inaudibly toward a microphone on a stand where a tight end would be, was an awfully cumbersome way of demonstrating how Seattle's crowd noise would impair the 49ers' offensive communication. What's worse, it drew Al and Cris into a little early-game happy talk, compounding the foolishness.
Later, when the officials suspended play after seeing lightning, I feared that NBC would trot out Tafoya dressed as a dark cloud or something. Instead, Michaels and Collinsworth engaged in a brief, on-point speculation on whether the delay might help San Francisco by dousing the fans' deafening enthusiasm. The announcers added context by recounting the 49ers' rejuvenation following the long pause in last season's Super Bowl. In terms of entertainment value, this wasn't quite Rick Dempsey rain delay virtuosity, but it kept us in the game.
Both before and after the delay, though, Michaels was uncharacteristically a beat behind on some significant plays, as if he weren't seeing them unfold in real time. His wordy description of Colin Kaepernick's first interception was especially bloated. He didn't need to mention that the football had been deflected high in the air -- we could see for ourselves -- and the description was especially pointless coming only after the ball had landed in a Seahawk's arms. Collinsworth was a little off when it came to the 49ers quarterback, too, neglecting to comment on several errant throws when receivers were open. This threw off the balance of his analysis, since he'd noted early on that Kaepernick had beaten Green Bay last week "with his arm, not his legs."
The analyst did have his moments, though. Collinsworth was all over the first-quarter San Francisco punt block, noticing that the Seattle blockers had eased up after hearing a whistle, presumably blown by a fan in the stands. He also knew of Clif Avril's strip-sack acumen when the new Seahawk knocked the ball from Kaepernick's hand. And when Seattle's Sidney Rice drew a taunting flag for spinning the ball on the turf following a reception, Collinsworth showed he had done his homework, telling us the receiver had done the same thing several times last week and hadn't been penalized. Someone's paying attention.
2. (Last week: not ranked, no game) Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock, NFL Network, Jets at Patriots
The Patriots led by three points with 3:31 left, and faced third down and five yards to go. The Jets had just one timeout left, so a New England first down would have gone a long way toward icing the game. "Now, if No. 11 is in that huddle, which he is, do you think you might want to double him here?" said Mayock, referring to slippery receiver Julian Edelman. "They're probably going to bring him in motion now," the analyst continued, drawing it up on the telestrator. And, on cue, there was Edeman going in motion, as if Mayock were the offensive coordinator. Edelman caught a pass across the middle, gained 10 yards and a first down. The game was all but over.
Sometimes his syntax is awkward, and he doesn't have Tony Bennett pipes, but Mayock nonetheless is worth listening to because, well, he has something to say. He has a whole lot to say, actually, in a no-frills store-brand way that's nonetheless flavorful. When a Tom Brady pass fell incomplete between Edelman and rookie receiver Aaron Dodson, who'd run similar routes, Mayock quipped, "Not knowing anything, I'm gonna blame Dodson." That is to say, he was assuming the inexperienced guy was the one who'd erred, not the veteran wideout or Pro Bowl quarterback. Smart assumption.
Mayock has a way of expressing a thought without even having to say it. But he's also prone to say too much. When New York corralled Edelman short of the stick on a third down, for instance, there was no need to tell us, "That's a win for the Jets defense." Save your breath, Mike, for those many occasions when you've got true insight to offer.
This Thursday night booth team, which did not have a game in Week 1, might have debuted at the top of the rankings if only Nessler had held up his end. He didn't make any huge errors in his play-by-play, but the nitpicks add up: a bad name pronunciation, a player identified by the wrong first name, defensive penalties mixed up with offensive ones, a runner said to have reached midfield when he was tackled at the 45, a field goal confused for an extra point. Nothing earth-shattering, but after a while the thumb inches ever closer to the mute button.
3. (Last week: 3) Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, CBS, Broncos at Giants
Impressive performance by this duo, not so much with what they said but with what they didn't say. Sure, they mentioned the Manning vs. Manning storyline sporadically throughout the telecast -- how could they not focus on the two players who handle the ball more than any others? -- but they didn't bludgeon us with a heavy-handed onslaught of cute family stories. They allowed the brother angle to fit within the unfolding narrative of the game.
There was at least one instance when Nantz referred to Eli Manning as "Peyton." It was an understandable mistake, given that both Mannings were throwing the football to guys in Denver uniforms. (Rim shot, please.) That's not to suggest that the younger brother was anything other than the Giants' best hope. When Nantz observed, midway through the third quarter of a 17-9 game, that New York had but 19 rushing yards, Simms jumped in. "Well, now is not the time to start working on your run game," he said. "I think it's pretty evident they're going to have a hard time with it. Work on that during practice. Win this game? Eli Manning's got to do it throwing."
That didn't happen, of course, but briefly it looked like there was a chance. Within a few minutes of Simms' comment, Manning's passing had done most of the work on a drive that pulled New York within a point. The score came only after a pass interference call in the end zone against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie that Simms took issue with. Vocally. "That's a bad call," he said. "It's a really bad call." He was right. He also would have loved seeing that during his playing days.
4. (Last week: 2) Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden, ESPN, Steelers at Bengals
Jon Gruden sure name-dropped the Cincinnati offensive coordinator a lot during the Monday night telecast. It was understandable, though. The guy who runs the Bengals' attack is Jay Gruden. He's the little brother of the praise-heaping analyst.
Brotherly love took a backseat, however, to the adoration Gruden showed for a pair of Steelers. "Nobody has committed themselves to the mastery of techniques like Ike Taylor," Gruden gushed the first time the camera found the Pittsburgh cornerback. That was just the beginning. All night long, Taylor was the man, regardless of whether he was making a good play or getting beat by a receiver. Again and again, Gruden polished up his "I Like Ike" button and cast an unwavering vote.
It was almost as if Taylor were the defensive backfield equivalent of the Steelers' offensive leader. "Ben Roethlisberger plays quarterback unlike anyone else," Gruden burbled early in the game. "Risk and reward." Later, after Big Ben had eluded a blitzer, Gruden told us that corralling Roethlisberger is "like sacking an oak tree." Thankfully, on the two occasions when Bengals did bring down the hefty quarterback, Gruden refrained from yelling "Timber!"
5. (Last week: 4) Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, FOX, Redskins at Packers
What was supposed to be an NFC glamour game turned out to be a stinker, unless you're a Cheesehead who relishes being on the breezy side of a blowout. It was pretty much just the Wisconsin faithful and suffering Washingtonians who were left to watch to the bitter end, as the network shifted most of the country to another game midway through the third quarter.
Before he disappeared, though, Aikman offered up a couple of thoughts that, while seemingly contradictory on the surface, put Sunday afternoon's game in perspective. First, with the Redskins trailing by 31-7, the ex-quarterback opined that Robert Griffin III, who had been mediocre at best in last week's game and was looking much the same to this point against Green Bay, should remain in the game to try to establish a rhythm. Fair enough, although if the young quarterback had reinjured his balky knee in garbage time, Troy would be taking heat. (Not as much as coach Mike Shanahan would, though.)
Then, after RGIII finally got the Washington offense moving, Aikman smartly didn't get too caught up in it. "This is all irrelevant, in my opinion," he said. "Because if the game ends and they say, 'Hey, you know, we played really great there in the second half' or 'really well in the fourth quarter,' I mean, there's a reason for that. You have to do it early in the game. You can't wait 'til you're down 30 points. So this is pretty hollow yardage, in my opinion."
How the other announcing crews performed
• Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick, FOX
Chicago 31, Minnesota 30
Best moment: All was not bad for the broadcast. Brennaman does a solid job on the play-by-play and unlike many announcers, generally gets the players' names right and delivers a professional broadcast. Billick gives good insight from a former coach's point of view. He's far enough removed from his coaching days, so he can criticize without fear of offending. Sideline reporter Laura Okmin's biggest contribution was nearly getting run over by a vehicle on the sidelines before Peanut Tillman saved her.
Where they fell short: It's almost not fair to grade this team because of the numerous technical difficulties that Fox experienced during the game. At first, it started with some missing graphics and an inability to telestrate replays. Brennaman repeatedly apologized for the glitches and became more of a distraction than the problems themselves.
Then, late in the first half, the picture cut out. Rather than shifting to a radio-style broadcast, we got more Brennaman apologies. I didn't need him to tell me that there were technical difficulties -- I could see the missing picture on my television, which was converted into little more than a 65-inch transistor radio.
To make matters worse, with about two minutes left in the half, Fox lost its signal completely. Instead of patching in some type of play-by-play over a phone line, it went to the studio show in L.A. I certainly didn't want Curt Menefee telling me about the Cleveland Browns game while the Vikings were driving for their lone offensive touchdown of the day.
If I had to give them a grade: D
Wait, I think Thom Brennaman just apologized again! -- Mike Burzawa at Bear Goggles On.
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• Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston, FOX
Atlanta 31, St. Louis 24
Best moment: "It's one thing to be aggressive on special teams, it's another to be dumb" -- Kenny Albert on the St. Louis Rams' punt return penalties.
Where they fell short: Johnston suggesting that the Rams are more likely to have a holding penalty called on their offensive line because of their "reputation" from last season. There are essentially six new starters on offense this season; seven if you count Joe Barksdale replacing Rodger Saffold.
If I had to give them a grade: A-
The announcers pronounced players' names correctly and were relatively even in their coverage of both teams throughout the game. They corresponded well with Tony Siragusa on the field, and seamlessly transitioned between talking points while commentating throughout the game. Somewhat tame with their emotions, but they kept the broadcast engaging and on-topic, even when the Rams were trailing by three touchdowns to start the second half. -- Nathan Kearns at Ramblin' Fan
• Dick Stockton and Ronde Barber, FOX
Buffalo 24, Carolina 23
Best moment: The two had a good flow and did a nice job of calling the final drive when EJ Manuel took the Bills 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Stockton captured the emotion and intensity of the drive while Barber pitched in with helpful commentary.
Where they fell short: I didn't have much of a problem with either, but if I'm going to nitpick it would be on Barber's bias towards defensive players. After a pretty clear hold by the defender on a pass to Greg Olsen, I believe he referred to it as a "ticky-tack call," which isn't surprising considering that he was a defensive back when the NFL allowed a lot more leeway with hands on receivers.
If I had to give them a grade: B
Stockton is a pro's pro, but Barber doesn't give off the vibe that he's 100 percent comfortable in the booth yet. His commentary was puzzling at times, although it didn't take away much from the game. There weren't any major gaffes or mistakes. -- Brandon Becker at Cat Crave.
• Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts, CBS
Miami 24, Indianapolis 20
Best moment: Fouts saying that the Dolphins hadn't gone to Brian Hartline since the first half. The next play was a first down pickup to Brian Hartline.
Where they fell short: Fouts failed to recognize players' names on both sides of the field.
If I had to give them a grade: B-
Fouts is normally a solid analyst, but on this Sunday, he slid back quite a bit. Failing several times to recognize a player's name on a replay and mispronouncing a few others. There was no question that Eagle's play-by-play saved this duo's grade. He was quick to point out flags on the field as well as plays that should be challenged, but his partner Fouts simply seemed to be along for the ride.
Overall the telecast didn't add a whole lot to the game itself, and as a viewer I found myself on several occasions Googling to find information that I found pertinent. While they seemed fair to both sides, the fact that Fouts sounded detached brought this duo down. -- Brian Miller at Phin Phanatic.
• Chris Myers and Tim Ryan, FOX
Kansas City 17, Dallas 16
Best moment: The final call of the game was pretty awesome. Ryan disapproved of the Cowboys' play-call, a short pass when they had to throw a Hail Mary. Myers said that if Dallas doesn't spike the ball, the game is over. Ryan responded with, "this game is over."
"Kansas City is 2-0, equaling their win total for all of last year," Myers noted as the clock ran out.
Pretty cool moment.
Where they fell short: Ryan repeatedly called Chiefs DT Dontari Poe "Dontario Poe." It isn't like this guy was an undrafted free agent. He was a first-round draft pick. Flubbing a name once or twice could be understood but Ryan did it about four times in a row and then did it again later. Do these broadcasts have producers?
If I had to give them a grade: B
Overall, I really like the Myers-Ryan combo. Myers can make a catch in the first quarter sound like it just won the Super Bowl. While some would say that's annoying, he does a good job of making plays seem important and big even if he goes a little overboard at times. Ryan is a nice complement to Myers, though I will say their voices almost sound alike, thus making it hard to tell who is saying what if you're not paying close attention. -- Andrew Kulha at Arrowhead Addict.
• Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf, CBS
San Diego 33 , Philadelphia 30
Best moment: It could also be the worst, but Dierdorf said that Antonio Gates had "Hands are like cotton candy." Soft hands are always great, but I think cotton candy might be a bit too soft.
Where they fell short: Dierdorf saying "I like Chip Kelly's offense because it says 'my 11 guys versus your 11 guys'" Well, that's what we call football, Dan.
If I had to give them a grade: B
Overall, it wasn't a terrible game called by these two guys. I'm not usually a fan of Dierdorf, to be honest. Sometimes it seems as though the game has passed him by. He attempted to break down Kelly's offense and struggled, but I honestly don't expect many commentators to be able to easily explain it.
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I thought this pair did well by not putting all the attention on Kelly and his offense. They did a great job of giving credit and hyping the Chargers' offense as well, even though the narrative all week in the world of the NFL was Chip Kelly and Co. Not Dierdorf and Gumbel's best game, but certainly not their worst. -- Adam MacDonald at Inside the Iggles.
• Marv Albert and Rich Gannon, CBS
Baltimore 14, Cleveland 6
Best moment: Marv does a great job calling just about any sporting event. No one particular moment stands out as being better than the rest.
Where they fell short: For Gannon, it was when he had to be corrected by Albert about the strategy of when to use a challenge in a particular situation. It should have been the other way around and it was not a difficult situation to analyze. As for the pair, their worst moment was their discussion of the Ravens' mascot. It was silly to begin with and they digressed into dumber territory.
If I had to give them a grade: B
Albert could make the phone book sound interesting if he wanted to do it. He is better suited to call a basketball game, but does a good job with football and brings a lot to the broadcast. Gannon ranges from being rather benign to getting in the way and being flat wrong in his analysis.
It seems like Albert's talents would be better suited if they were paired with a better broadcast partner. Gannon is average at best, annoying at worst. He does not say anything particularly insightful and his analysis is mediocre. To his credit, there was only one instance of him pronouncing the word "athlete" as "ath-uh-lete," so that was kind of a win. -- Pete Smith at Dawg Pound Daily.
• Solomon Wilcots and Kevin Harlan, CBS
Houston 30, Tennessee 24 (OT)
Best moment: During the game-tying drive and an Andre Johnson injury, Wilcots pointed out that Johnson had caught the football and established possession. Texans coach Gary Kubiak challenged the call and it was reversed.
Where they fell short: Wilcots explaining NFL rules issues.
If I had to give them a grade: C
Harlan sounded beyond bored during a 60-yard run by Ben Tate. Then he freaked out after some short plays. He didn't sound like he wanted to announce the game for at least the first half. Maybe he didn't expect much from Tennessee?
Wilcots confused a lot of fans with his rules explanations of a safety and illegal touching. He and Harlan have a decent chemistry, but nothing special. About middle-of-the-road for announcers, maybe a tad below-average. -- Joshua Huffman at Titan Sized.
• Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch, FOX
New Orleans 16, Tampa Bay 14
Best moment: The duo did an excellent job of taking a look back at the leg injury that Saints coach Sean Payton suffered in a sideline collision nearly two years ago, the last time he was in Tampa. They also had an interesting story about how he believed the wind was too strong to throw the ball deep, but it was simply because he was sitting near a fan after injuring his leg.
Where they fell short: They didn't have many negative moments, so digging out Doug Martin's "Muscle Hamster" nickname might have to go down as their worst by default.
If I had to give them a grade: A
These commentators may be the best that FOX has to offer. Burkhardt is a very natural speaker without a massive range of highs and lows. He delivers the information that the average viewer needs while watching the game. He also has great chemistry with Lynch, who provides lots of little details that only a former player would notice. The two banter back and forth well, and Burkhardt never seems lost in Lynch's insights. The only negative is Lynch's occasional use of football cliches. -- Leo Howell at The Pewter Plank.
• Sam Rosen and Heath Evans, FOX
Arizona 25, Detroit 21
Best moment: Rosen's best quality is his ability to fill the air without being overly wordy.
Where they fell short: It would seem that as a former player, Evans would have a firm grasp of all the rules, but that wasn't evident on a play when Lions return man Micheal Spurlock nearly brought the ball out of the end zone before taking a knee. Before the commercial break, Evans made it sound like Spurlock was ever so close to making a huge mistake that would have given the Cardinals two points on a safety. After the break, he was much more understated about what had transpired because the ball would have had to actually leave the end zone rather than Spurlock's toes merely touch the inside edge of the goal line. Evans certainly came across like someone had explained the rule to him during the break.
If I had to give them a grade: B-
Rosen doesn't have one of those legendary voices that fans hear and instantly think "big game," but that isn't what FOX asks him to bring and he doesn't come across as condescending or arrogant like some play-by-play men do. Evans isn't a dynamic analyst, but he offers a solid perspective as a former player. He has been critical of the Lions in the past, but didn't seem to bring any bias into his work on Sunday. The duo came across as easy to listen to and they let the game, not themselves, become the focus. -- Zac Snyder at SideLion Report.
• Spero Dedes, Steve Beuerlein and Steve Tasker, CBS
Oakland 19 Jacksonville 9
Best moment: Charles Woodson's Superman tackle on Maurice Jones-Drew, which the CBS announcers sold perfectly.
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Where they fell short: It doesn't get much worse than Orlando's CBS affiliate apologizing for showing the game during the telecast.
If I had to give them a grade: A
With most CBS affiliates carrying the Manning Bowl, the three man crew of Dedes, Beuerlein and Tasker did a bang-up job considering that they were saddled with the task of calling a clash between two teams that were considered the worst in the NFL heading into the season.
In a game that was all Raiders from the opening possession with very little offensive execution, the trio got excited whenever Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden burst through to make big plays. They gave some good breakdown analysis of Pryor and his potential as an NFL quarterback. Often small market broadcasters are better than the lead analysts, and this team showed that in talking just enough about the right things without distracting from the game with the sound of their own voices. They had big shoes to fill for Raider Nation after Marv Albert and Oakland legend Rich Gannon called the season opener in Indianapolis, but I would definitely enjoy hearing this team again during Oakland broadcasts. -- Chase Ruttig at Just Blog Baby.