By Richard Deitsch
August 23, 2009

Two weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune reminded Cris Collinsworth what NFL fans will be thinking for the next five months:

Can Cris Collinsworth fill Madden's shoes in Sunday Night Football booth?

"Do I know the comparisons are coming?" Collinsworth said. "Do I know that people are going to say that he's no John Madden. I get all that. I'm 50 years old. I understand exactly where I am and I'm willing take on the challenge. I may never be as good as John Madden, but it doesn't mean I can't do a good job in my own right, and that's all I am trying to do."

NBC executives had always planned to replace Madden with Collinsworth, who co-hosted the network's Football Night in America studio show for the past three years; the timetable got moved up dramatically when Madden announced in April that he was leaving NBC's broadcast booth. The move stunned most of Madden's colleagues, especially Collinsworth, who enjoyed the work-life balance his studio job had afforded him.

"The untold story of this is that I didn't want this job," Collinsworth said during a recent interview with "I have one kid in college and a son who is a high school senior who plays football every Friday night. I also have another son who is playing freshman football and a daughter who plays soccer. Doing the studio show meant I went to New York on Saturday night [from his home in Northern Kentucky] and typically came home on Monday morning. Now I leave home every Thursday night, and to see everything I want to see involving my family is incredibly hard.

"I know it's my job to take on the burden of being the guy who follows John Madden. 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. [NBC Sports head] 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."

Collinsworth and announcer Al Michaels blended well during the network's Hall of Fame game broadcast on Aug. 9. The duo makes its regular-season debut on Sept. 10 (Titans at Steelers) for a Thursday night broadcast. Three days later, Sunday Night Football debuts with the Bears at Packers.

One major difference between Collinsworth and Madden is that Collinsworth will editorialize in the booth far more than his predecessor. "I offend people," Collinsworth said. "I know that. There are a lot of people who don't like a football analyst on the games doing that. They just want a straight calling of the game and there are a lot of places that they can hear that. But that's not what I do. ... Even though I fully acknowledge that sometimes what I say is wrong -- and I try to be the first to admit when I am wrong -- you are going to know what I think at the end of the broadcast. If that ends up working out, great. If that ends up not working out, I will get to see a lot of my kids' games."

Madden told recently that he's not coming back, but if Brett Favre has taught us anything, the NFL is a never-say-never league. What if Madden changes his mind and returns to the booth?

"I would give him a hug, and say thank you very much," Collinsworth said. "Then I'd call Bob Costas [the host of Football Night in America] and tell him the band is back together again."

• "Speaking of suspect QBs, my David Garrard feature will be up later at If he played as well as he dresses, he'd be an All-Pro." -- Fox NFL columnist Alex Marvez, Aug. 22, 6:29 a.m.

• "Signed my mom up for Twitter. She has only missed 10 home University of Michigan football games in 40 yrs. One was for my daughter's birth." -- Newsday sports writer Barbara Barker, Aug. 21, 9:38 p.m.

• "You can buy a bottle of Jack Daniels in a CVS in Indianapolis...This is the heartland." -- Philadelphia Daily News columnist Rich Hoffman,, Aug. 20, 11:39 a.m.

• The Animal Planet network isn't on the radar of most sports fans, but it's currently airing a mesmerizing reality show-cum-documentary. The hour-long Jockeysoffers unique access into the lives of top jocks such as Garret Gomez, Aaron Gryder, Corey Nakatani, Chantal Sutherland, Mike Smith, Alex Solis and Joe Talamo. This season's seven-episode storyline -- it's the second year of the show -- focuses on landing a horse for the Kentucky Derby.

• Two weeks ago, Warren Moon stopped by the Sports Illustrated offices and made two prescient predictions: Michael Vick would soon sign with an NFL team, and Favre's retirement would not last long. As he pitches his new autobiography, Never Give Up on Your Dream: My Journey, with Don Yaeger, Moon has gotten considerable airtime on a number of platforms. Bright, thoughtful and a Hall of Famer, Moon has the qualities that would seemingly fit for a network gig. He has done regional television in the Pacific Northwest, and currently works on Seahawks broadcasts as well as national radio for Westwood One. But don't expect to see him on network television.

"I have been in contact with all the major networks either directly or indirectly," Moon said. "I really have no huge desire to work for the networks. Sure, it's more money and more exposure, but I enjoy following one team that allows me to get to know them. I'm also gone from home much less."

• The Colin Cowherd-Michelle Beadle-led SportsNation, which debuted July 6 on ESPN2, has outperformed (by 19 percent) the previous melange of shows (including College Football Live and re-airings of the World Series of Poker) that aired on the network in the same time slot last year. (ESPN provided numbers through last Wednesday, which included the first 35 shows). The show's user-generated content via polls and other social media outlets offer a smart tie-in for

• Another week, another celebrated college basketball coach (John Calipari) touched by scandal, and still silence from prominent ESPN analysts Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps and Bob Knight. As we offered last week, viewers need to hear from the network's most featured voices when it comes to stories (sordid or otherwise) involving the sport's most prominent coaches. On a related note, ESPN's networks are airing 13 Kentucky men's basketball games this season, though CBS has what will likely be the most media-saturated regular-season game: Louisville at Kentucky on Jan. 2 (3:30 p.m. ET)

• Here's the start of an e-mail I received last week from the Worldwide Leader in press releases: "After one month on the air, the new studio show SportsNation has attracted a ravenous following of fans based on its interactive format that encourages social media ..." We're a big fan of adjectives, though ravenous seems a tad, well, ravenous when it comes to SportsNation's raw numbers. The show has averaged a 0.20 rating through its first 35 telecasts (including re-airs) with an average household rating of 184,000 people. Without the re-airs, the average number of viewers jumps to 214,000. As a comparison, the Aug. 10 airing of Jim Rome is Burning pulled in 808,000 viewers.

"The credibility issue is still huge with the Minnesota Vikings. When Brad Childress said, 'Hey, I closed this book,' you think, What book is that? The book on credibility, ethics, integrity? You threw that out the window. ... The reason that it resonates with me is I was a member of the Denver Broncos team where Mike Shanahan for four years told us that Dale Carter, who was playing with the Kansas City Chiefs, could not be a member of the Broncos because he didn't have the integrity, he didn't have the character to play for us. He didn't have that integrity or character for four straight years until he became a free agent and we made him the highest-paid player on our roster. When that happened, we all looked at Mike Shanahan differently. ... Brad Childress has not been honest with that team. I promise you guys look at him differently now than they did before the whole Brett Favre saga went down in Minnesota." -- ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, on NFL Live.

• "The next time ESPN spokespersons indignantly describe/defend Erin Andrews as a serious broadcast journalist, they should first ask her if she has any check-out-the-hot-babe magazine photo spreads coming." -- Phil Mushnick, New York Post sports media critic, Aug. 21, following photos that appeared of Andrews in the latest issue of GQ Magazine.

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