The Wise Guy’s Definitive NFL Broadcaster Power Rankings: The Bottomdwellers
As The Football Girl’s resident “media analyst,” it can be somewhat daunting to throw your hat in the ring and join the parade of internet voices commenting on the broadcasters who create the soundtrack of our NFL experience. Particularly when full-time media watchdogs like Deadspin, Awful Announcing, and SI.com’s Richard Dietsch all do it so well (and at the drop of a hat). Here at TFG we strive to be different and not redundant of the voluminous NFL content you can find all over the Interwebs, so it is a challenge to add a unique voice.
Thus, overall the last few weeks I set out on a great journey: to compose the definitive rankings of all NFL broadcasters on the major national networks (FOX, CBS, ESPN, NBC, and the NFL Network). Who am I to judge? Well, I watch a lot of TV (A lot.) And I read a lot of blogs written by other people who watch a lot of TV. So as far as I’m concerned, that qualifies me as an expert. (Note: for a piece written by a real expert, with actual reporting, I highly recommend checking out Dietsch’s 2013 NFL announcer preview, recently published on TheMMQB.com.)
These rankings will be rolled out in two parts. Tomorrow, I’ll be counting down to my #1 favorite broadcaster. But today, I’ll be counting UP to my least favorite broadcaster, which is frankly way more fun. Also, I’ll be borrowing a bit from the Bill Simmons/Grantland format, by at times grouping certain broadcasters (i.e., broadcasting teams, similar styles) for space-purposes and ease of analysis. I am certain that most of you will vehemently disagree with my rankings in one place or another, so please let me know in the comments section where you think I am off.
Before I get into the rankings, a few preliminary notes:
– I have counted 177 total broadcasters from the five national networks: NBC (15), CBS (26), FOX (34), ESPN (45), and NFL Network (57). Broadcasters have been grouped into the following categories: Studio Analyst (69), Host (25), Reporter (23), Play-by-Play (18), Color Commentator (16), Sideline Reporter (11), Fantasy Analyst (9), Comedy (3), Rules Analyst (2), and Injury Analyst (1). Seriously, 69 Studio Analysts? That right there shows just how omnipresent the NFL has become in our daily lives.
– In the interest of space, this list is limited to pure NFL commentators. Therefore, general sports commentators have been excluded. So sorry Skip Bayless fans (or haters), he’s not in here.
– 26 of these 177 broadcasters are women. They disproportionately fall in either the Sideline/General Reporter (18) or Host (6) categories. There are only two female broadcasters who would qualify as analysts, both of whom will be discussed.
– There is a large swath of broadcasters who I do not hold a strong opinion on, due either to my lack of knowledge or because I’m just neutral. These broadcasters tend to be reporters, hosts, or one of the many NFL Network broadcasters that I’ve never had a chance to take in (since I have a day job). They fill the #62-#133 slots and will be listed in alphabetical order by Network at the end of the day 2 piece (got to keep you guessing, right?) If there is someone within this group that you have a particular strong opinion on, please let me know in the comments section.
Without further ado, let’s begin my count up to infamy, beginning with the #134 slot.
134. Akbar Gbaja-Biamila (Fantasy Analyst, NFLN)
135. Dave Dameshek (Fantasy Analyst, NFLN)
136. Michael Fabiano (Fantasy Analyst, NFLN)
137. Adam Rank (Fantasy Analyst, NFLN)
138. Jason Smith (Fantasy Analyst, NFLN)
139. Matt Smith (Fantasy Analyst, NFLN)
140. Nathan Zegura (Fantasy Analyst, CBS)
I have nothing against these people but, c’mon, the networks couldn’t find one woman in the entire U.S. who could make it on TV as a fantasy analyst? Hmm…let me think where we could find someone like that.
141. Tim Hasselbeck (Studio Analyst, ESPN)
This guy has been riding off his wife and brother’s coat tails for way long, and brings absolutely nothing to the table as an analyst. Did he even play in the NFL? The only nice thing I can say about Tim Hasselbeck is a female friend of mine (a former BC alum) once dumped a beer on a guy’s head at Dewey Beach because the guy said he hated the Hasselbeck. So you got some supporters out there, Tim.
142. Randy Moss (Host, NFLN)
No, not that Randy Moss, though it took it me a second to figure this out. I’m putting him on my list just for confusing for me.
143. Mel Kiper, Jr. (Draft Analyst, ESPN)
Ok, now I finally get to some legitimate criticism. Mel Kiper has been selling snake oil as a draft analyst for years, as a fast-talking encyclopedia of knowledge. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that his successor (Todd McShay) has more substance and less schmaltz. This fine line between charisma and buffoonery will be a common theme in this list, but Kiper clearly crosses it. He simply does not possess the credibility that his act requires.
144. Bill Parcells (Studio Analyst, ESPN)
At the complete opposite end of the personality spectrum is Bill Parcells, who I think has been in a coma for the last three years. It’s time to retire, Bill (for good this time).
145. Mike Florio (Studio Analyst, NBC)
I’m sorry, Mike Florio is not an “analyst.” He’s a brilliant entrepreneur and does content aggregation better than anyone in sports. But you can’t trot someone out to give you a “lawyers take” on second hand news and call them a football analyst.
146. Merrill Hoge (Studio Analyst, ESPN)
I generally have no problem with Hoge, but the stink on him going after a young Tim Tebow a couple years back–claiming that Tebow is “phony as a three dollar bill”–just hasn’t worn off for me. Hoge was trying to make a name for himself, and it completely backfired.
147. Phil Simms (Play-by-Play, CBS)
148. Jim Nantz (Color Commentator, CBS)
I’m guessing this placement might stoke some controversy, so let me explain. It’s not that Simms and Nantz are objectively bad; they are just by far the least deserving of the #1 slot that CBS bestows upon them than any other #1 crew. Nantz is a professional, but his understated demeanor is a much better fit for golf. He doesn’t naturally give you appropriate energy for the big moments. It always seems forced, particularly when he tries to tie a bow on a championship moment with one his trademark cheesy puns.
As for Simms, I really enjoy his dynamic with Cris Collinsworth on Inside the NFL. Simms loves to stick his neck out and make bold proclamations. But he’s also one of the analysts most likely to get things wrong–like when he declared that Eli Manning was not an elite quarterback or that Andrew Luck didn’t have the arm strength to make “big time NFL throws.” There’s a certain “old school” nature about Phil Simms that doesn’t really fit today’s game. Both of them, really.
149. Howie Long (Studio Analyst, FOX)
150. Terry Bradshaw (Studio Analyst, FOX)
151. Jimmy Johnson (Studio Analyst, FOX)
HAHAHAHAHAHA! Did you just hear that joke? Oh man, it was hilarious! HAHAHAHAHAHA!
(Please Curt, make it stop. Can we get to Jay Glazer for some actual news?)
152. Deion Sanders (Studio Analyst, NFLN)
153. Michael Irvin (Studio Analyst, NFLN)
154. Marshall Faulk (Studio Analyst, NFLN)
155. Steve Mariucci (Studio Analyst, NFLN)
Just like the FOX group, this crew suffers from a severe case of “too much whooping it up” syndrome, and it’s even lighter on the analysis than Howie, Jimmy and Terry. I have never once watched an NFL Network game and thought, man I can’t wait to hear what Deion, Michael, Marshall, and Mooch have to say in postgame. And have you seen one of their postgame interviews with the player of the game? They’re basically glorified cheerleaders for the league.
Also, it really is a shame that Irvin and Sanders are on the same studio crew. Both are charismatic personalities who often have actual insights, but they would be much better utilized as “the character” within an otherwise serious team (like how Irvin was used at ESPN). Here, the inmates are running the asylum. As for Mooch, it’s hard to believe he was an actual NFL coach. There are only two other former coaches who give off less credibility (see below).
156. Thom Brennaman (Play-by-Play, FOX)
157. Sam Rosen (Play-by-Play, FOX)
You may not know this, but Thom Brennaman is terrible. He gets tons of things wrong, never corrects himself, gets on a moral high horse whenever a player acts out, and constantly tries to interject himself as an analyst when he just doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. I can’t believe he’s lasted this long.
Sam Rosen is perfectly fine on substance, but he has by far the worst announcer voice on TV, high pitched and nasally. Listening to a Sam Rosen broadcast is the football equivalent to having three hours of phone sex with Janet from Friends.
158. Hines Ward (Studio Analyst, NBC)
159. Ladanian Tomlinson (Studio Analyst, NFLN)
160. Brian Urlacher (Studio Analyst, FOX)
161. Ray Lewis (Studio Analyst, ESPN)
These former player analysts are all destined to go the way of Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Jerome Bettis, and countless others who somehow achieved NFL greatness without once having an original thought. Ward was already a huge flop on NBC. LT seems like a great guy, but he can’t even break past the daytime slots on NFL Network. And Urlacher, by most accounts, is being completely overshadowed by his more articulate co-analysts (Randy Moss, Scott Fujita, and Ronde Barber) on Fox Football Daily.
As for Ray Lewis, his placement is 100% speculative, since he will make his broadcasting debut with the ESPN MNF field crew (Scott, Young, and Dilfer) on the first Monday Night game of the season. Perhaps we will see a side of Lewis we have never seen before–thoughtful, articulate, measured. Then again, this is the same Ray Lewis who, during the NFL Network’s “America’s Game” program chronicling last years’ Ravens Super Bowl victory, claimed the Superdome Blackout was part of a conspiracy. I quote:
“You cannot tell me somebody wasn’t sitting there and when they say, ‘The Ravens are [are] about to blow them out. Man, we better do something.’”
This is the kind of stuff usually reserved for that insane homeless man that calls into your local sportstalk radio station on a daily basis, just so he can be the object of ridicule, not ESPN’s supposed big offseason talent acquisition.
162. Dennis Green
You would think that a former NFL coach who experienced some early success but was later run out of the league following an epic Monday Night Football meltdown, which gave us the timeless NFL memes, “crown their ass” and “they are who we were thought they were,” would be somewhat sheepish about a seemingly promising career that ended in embarrassment.
But you would be wrong. Because that same coach, following his termination, actually attempted to trademark the aforementioned catch phrases, selling whatever shred of dignity he had left for, apparently, the promise of royalties on the next Coors Light commercial.
It’s one thing to be a caricature of a former coach. It’s another thing to literally own it.
163. Ron Jaworski (Studio Analyst, ESPN)
Poor Jaws. He’s had a distinguished career as a player and analyst, and made it to the mountaintop at ESPN in 2007, when he replaced Joe Theisman to join a three-man Monday Night Football crew with Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser. But when the Tony Kornheiser experiment came to its inevitable conclusion, Jon Gruden stepped in, meaning there was someone who could do what Jaws did, only better. After a couple years of awkwardly alternating color commentary on plays, ESPN made the only logical move possible and sent Jaws back down to the minors.
Nowadays, Jaws is a shell of his former self. For example, ESPN gave him a platform of rating all 32 NFL starting quarterbacks this offseason, but he used it to make outlandish statements like “Colin Kaepernick could be one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks ever.” (Mind you, Kaepernick was Jaws’ 11th best rated quarterback for 2013). As this deadspin articleillustrates, Jaws continues to be a company man, but his heart just isn’t in it anymore with a future relegated to SportsCenter filler time. If anyone ever needed a change of scenery, it’s him.
165. Gerald Austin (Rules Analyst, ESPN)
Speaking of Monday Night Football, ESPN decided to piggyback off the one-man Instant Replay Analyst craze started by FOX’s Mike Pereira, and hire their own official, Gerald (Gerry) Austin. Except, I swear to God, Austin is wrong at least 50% of the time. Plus, he speaks in this slow Southern drawl that just does not inspire confidence that Austin has any idea what he’s talking about. Which completely fits.
166. Boomer Esiason (Studio Analyst, CBS)
167. Dan Marino (Studio Analyst, CBS)
These two guys are perfectly good analysts (particularly Boomer), but man do they come off like jerks. And jerks who hate each other. Just check out this video below. Just like Irvin and Sanders, one of them really needs to leave to restore some balance to the show (my vote is for Marino).
168. Hank Goldberg (Studio Analyst, ESPN)
How is Hank Goldberg still earning a paycheck? I saw him listed as an NFL Analyst on ESPN’s website and literally did this. Is he still picking games against the spread? On TV? I tried the Hank Goldberg method one year. I lost $5,000, broke up with my girlfriend, and started chain smoking Marlboro reds (actually, it was a pretty good year).
169. Mike Ditka (Studio Analyst, ESPN)
170. Bob Costas (Host, NBC)
171. Al Michaels (Host, NBC)
You might notice that we’re getting close to the bottom of my list, and it is here that I have placed two bona fide legends. I think a lot of people are with me on Costas–as his “very special Bob Costas halftime essays” have gotten increasingly preachy and political–but Michaels I’m sure comes as a shock to most.
I really feel strongly about this, though. Michaels is one of the all-time greats, but he’s living off his reputation and in my opinion constantly phones in his broadcasts, particularly during the game’s defining moments (the Saints-Packers NFL Kickoff game from 2011 is my best example). Plus, Michaels is the king (the King!) of a play-by-play guy thinking he’s a color analyst. This can work well when the color analyst is someone like John Madden (who could always use some help), but it’s completely counter-productive when sitting next to you is Cris Collinsworth, the most critical thinking analyst on TV. Pay attention on Thursday just how often Michaels challenges Collinsworth on a particular rule or strategic point he’s making. While they go on debating, all of a sudden three plays have elapsed without Michaels calling them. That’s not a play-by-play man’s job.
172. Warren Sapp (Studio Analyst, NFLN)
Ok, there are jerks, and there are JERKS–like those who are arrested for domestic battery and wrongly accuse Jeremy Shockey as being the “snitch” in the bountygate scandal. The fact that Warren Sapp continues to be employed by the NFL Network in the face of these acts is unconscionable.
173. Donovan McNabb (Studio Analyst, NFLN)
Ah, the Walter White of NFL broadcasters. He began his career with such promise, an ahead-of-his-time talent who could win games with both his arms and his feet. But that promise was never fulfilled, and McNabb endured such torment from unrelenting Philadelphia fans (they’re clearly Skyler in this metaphor) and was so unceremoniously pushed out of the league (Gray Matter), that he finally just, well, broke bad. The result is resentment-filled commentary, as TheFootballGirl chronicled earlier this year.
174. Herm Edwards (Studio Analyst, ESPN)
Herm Edwards is worst kind of studio analyst, one who peddles high octane “coach speak” with a special obliviousness that suggests Edwards actually believes he is saying something meaningful. He is a symbol for everything that is wrong with ESPN’s modern programming model, which has diluted its once respected brand (SportsCenter) by seeking to milk every last ad dollar by running the program the entire day. When you do that, you gotta fill time. And no one fills time like Herm Edwards, a man who can talk endlessly, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
175. Frank Caliendo (“Comedy,” ESPN)
There was a time when I liked, well appreciated, Frank Caliendo. The man is clearly a talented impressionist, with quite a broad repertoire of characters. But like ventriloquists, jugglers, and prop comedians (except Gallagher), impressionists can get old really fast. Caliendo has been doing his NFL pregame bits, first for Fox and now with ESPN in a lesser role, since 2000. That’s a long time to keep trotting out the same characters and tired comedy bits. I can’t believe Caliendo is still getting paid to do it.
It was particularly egregious when Caliendo held that prime right-before-kickoff spot on FOX, as a way of transitioning to the panelists picks. I can’t think of a bigger pregame buzzkill than having to listen to Caliendo trot out his 15th Donald Trump impression, with a couple obvious jabs at Terry Bradshaw, and then make his (always stupid) picks. Thankfully, FOX finally replaced Caliendo with Rob Riggle last year, but the scars that all those failed comedy routines have left on me have never fully healed.
176. Dick Stockton (Play-by-Play, FOX)
Dick Stockton has one of the all-time great play-by-play voices, and I can still remember his crooning during my early youth in the 80s. But that was over 25 years ago and Stockton, at this point, is bordering on senile. He is 71 years old, and lost it several years ago. Stockton consistently flubs calling even the most basic action on the field–from the players involved in a particular play, to turnovers, to penalties, to down and distance, to..…well, I could go one. And it completely ruins the game watching experience, because you can’t help but focus on all the things Stockton is getting wrong rather than paying attention to the actual game.
There’s only one person I hate listening to more than Stockton, and that’s….
177. Tony Siragusa (Sideline Reporter, FOX)
This is a bit personal for me, so I’m going to try to control myself. I’m a Bears fan, and during the Lovie Smith tenure (2004-2012) the Bears were usually good, but not great, and hence often occupied the #2 slot in the FOX Sunday line-up. In 2003, FOX brought “the Goose” into that #2 crew (with Moose Johnston and Kenny Albert), after a solid career as a nose tackle for the Colts and Ravens, which included the 2001 Super Bowl championship. This means that, for a decade, I have had to sit through an average of three broadcasts a year in which Tony Siragusa verbally defecates over my TV.
From the moment he started at FOX, “the Goose” has made an absolute mockery of sideline reporting and color commentary. Here’s an article from 2003 titled “Fox’s Goose is Over Cooked” that chronicles the incompetence combined with over-jockularity that is the Tony Siragusa experience. Yet, somehow, FOX executives believed that Tony Siragusa was a smashing success—steadily increasingly his profile and turning him into a pseudo-third commentator by giving him carte blanch to interject into the Albert-Johnston broadcast at any time he feels. Here’s a re-enactment of what I mean:
Albert: “Thomas Jones runs up the middle for no gain.”
Johnston: “The Packers are daring Kyle Orton to throw right now; you can see right here that they’re packing nine guys in the box. The Bears are going to have to take some shots down the feel if they want to move the ball.”
Siragusa: “Yeah guys, I’m down here on the field, and these Packers lineman are hitting really hard. They really want it.”
And so on and so on. The worst of it is, there appears is no end in sight, as FOX continues to look for dumber and dumber vehicles for the Goose to display his unique “talents.” Just last year, FOX unveiled “the Goose cam” during the preseason, which gave us some the most visually unappealing “selfies” known to man. (Fortunately, the ridicule was so pronounced that Fox scrapped the idea.”)
In all seriousness, the reason I have placed Siragusa in the #178 broadcast is that the Goose, more than any other broadcaster, ruins that sacred three-hour time slot in which you could be a watching a great football game. With a bad Studio Analyst, you can always just change the station to find another NFL talking-heads program. But you have no choice to watch that game and, with the Goose, it’s usually a going to be a good game. And just when the action is going good, the Goose comes in as that annoying blowhard “friend” who invited himself over, interjects at the worst-possible moment, and simply won’t shut up when you’re trying to watch.
The Announcer Power Rankings continue tomorrow.