Dan Dierdorf has worked as an NFL broadcaster since 1984. (Rick Scuteri/AP)
Dan Dierdorf said he nearly didn't work as an NFL broadcaster this year.
"The reality is, from a physical standpoint, it's too much for me, especially the travel," Dierdorf told SI.com from his home in St. Louis. "I have two artificial knees, two artificial hips, nerve damage in my legs, and it's a struggle for me to walk. That's the reality of it. Ask anyone who has seen me go through a press box."
On Wednesday CBS announced that Dierdorf, the NFL's longest tenured announcer, will retire from broadcasting at the end of the 2013 season. He has worked as an NFL broadcaster since 1984, a journey that started as a color analyst for KMOX’s Radio coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals and NFL games for CBS Radio Network. Dierdorf had a brief stint with CBS Sports from 1985 to '87 before joining ABC’s Monday Night Football for 12 years. He returned to CBS Sports in 1999 and currently serves on the No. 2 team with play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel after a long tenure with Dick Enberg.
The 64-year-old Dierdorf said his health and attitude are good but his body is breaking down regarding travel. He said he has been dropping hints for the past year to his friends and colleagues that this would be his last season in the booth and he called CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus last Wednesday to make it official. He will continue to work this season for CBS and will get at least one playoff assignment. Dierdorf praised his on-air partner Gumbel, his producer Mark Wolff and director Bob Fishman, citing them as family. "It was pretty obvious I caught Sean off-guard," Dierdorf said. "I don't know why he thought I was calling, but he didn't think I was calling to tell him that. If another network called me and offered me some spectacular job, I just can't do it. It's not realistic. And in some ways it makes it easier. It makes it easier to leave knowing I can't do it physically."
Like most broadcasters who worked for such a long tenure -- Peter King profiled him for SI in 1991 -- Dierdorf had his supporters and detractors. He has been a skilled analyst on line play, but also one prone to talk incessantly during a broadcast. "I am well aware of being criticized in the sense that I have grown kids and they tell me they see this on Twitter or that," Dierdorf said. "I am relatively unfazed by that. I don't go on message boards and I don't have a Twitter account. I understand how it works. Very few people take the time to go on there to say how much they like someone. It's generally a negative but I also know it is like the old saying -- familiarity breeds contempt.... I will tell you the truth: Fifteen or 20 years ago it would have bothered me. Like anyone else, whenever you saw something critical, it hurt your feelings a little bit. But when you have been doing it as long as I have and been on the firing range as long as I have, I have reached a point where I am pretty much unfazed by it."
Dierdorf said that the advent of high definition television was the biggest broadcasting change in his professional lifetime. "I would tell you from doing my job that it is more difficult now than anytime since I have been doing that and for one reason only --30 years ago the amount of time we had between plays was like forever," Dierdorf said. "The play clock was 45 seconds and it did not even start until the guys were part-way back to the huddle. You could do two and three relays and you had a long time in between plays to communicate whatever it is you wanted to get across to the viewer. Now, the accelerated play clock, hurry-up offenses, the tempo, you have a lot of quarterbacks that snap the ball with 15 or 20 seconds left on the play clock, and what that means is everything from the analyst perspective has been compressed. Where maybe you used to have 30 or 35 seconds to make a cohesive point, now you might have 10 or 12 seconds. It doesn't sound like much to a casual viewer, but trust me, it is."
Dierdorf was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996 following a 13-year playing career as a standout offensive lineman with the St. Louis Cardinals (he was also a two-time All-Big Ten tackle at the University of Michigan). In 2008, he received the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.
“For 43 NFL seasons Dan Dierdorf has been a consummate professional both on the field and in the broadcast booth,” said McManus. “Very few people in any profession can boast a Hall of Fame playing career and Hall of Fame broadcasting career."
Dierdorf said he will stay involved in the game in some capacity, including possibly working in his hometown in St. Louis. He also wants to work a Michigan game in the radio booth with his college teammate, Jim Brandstatter, the longtime analyst for Michigan football. "I can't just stare at the walls," Dierdorf said. "I'm too young for that."