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PFW's 16th annual Griddy Awards
PFW's 16th annual Griddy Awards
Best behind the mike: Award-worthy talkers recognized for broadcast brilliance
By Barry Jackson
Feb. 18, 2008
This was a year in which Bryant Gumbel managed to call 49ers RB Frank Gore ?Al? and Cowboys QB Tony Romo ?Rick? on consecutive weeks; most of the country couldn?t even watch one of the most-ballyhoed NFC regular-season games of the year (Packers-Cowboys, which was broadcast on NFL Network); and ratings for prime-time games sank to a new low.
But in between all of this, several announcers managed to distinguish themselves.
Presenting our 16th annual Griddy Awards:
1. Al Michaels | NBC
Despite all the accolades tossed his way, Michaels has never rested on his success or become lazy on play-by-play. He?s still diligent, identifying all the pertinent information immediately after plays, questions debatable strategy more than most play-by-players, and knows every relevant rule. Nothing seems to get past Michaels, especially on time-management issues. And he often says what fans are thinking, including wondering aloud why refs had to measure for a first down at the 30-yard line, on a series that began with a touchback.
2. Joe Buck | Fox
Jim Nantz | CBS (tie)
Like Michaels, the lead guys at CBS and Fox are conscientious about identifying defenders on plays and exceptional at pointing out mistakes in clock management. While Buck is more likely to deliver a snappy one-liner, Nantz is more likely to weave in personal anecdotes about players. And Nantz was justified in his scathing criticism of Pittsburgh FS Anthony Smith for guaranteeing a win against the Patriots.
4. Mike Tirico | ESPN
Could easily qualify as No. 2 on this list, but he?s the victim of circumstance ? specifically, being required to preside over a circus in which guests and Tony Kornheiser often sidetrack the broadcasts. A consummate pro, Tirico offers big-picture perspective as well as any play-by-play man in the business.
Notable: Nobody does a better job identifying last-second substitutions and third and fourth receivers than CBS? Kevin Harlan. ? In his first year on the No. 2 team, Fox?s Kenny Albert was too inconsistent identifying defenders on plays. ? CBS? Greg Gumbel and Ian Eagle and Fox?s Dick Stockton delivered typically professional work. ? CBS? Dick Enberg remains atop his game as a storyteller, though errors are more frequent. ? Bryant Gumbel on NFL Network? Time to end that lab experiment.
1. Cris Collinsworth | NFL Network
Although he works only a partial schedule, Collinsworth narrowly claims the top spot ? for not allowing himself to be dragged down by his booth partner, Bryant Gumbel, but also for providing the highest quotient of insight per comment. Besides offering scathing criticism of players when justified, Collinsworth says less that?s obvious to the average viewer than anybody in the business ? whether it?s pointing out things he?s noticed on tape (?Lofa Tatupu moves toward the ball faster than the other [Seattle] linebackers?) or subtleties of the game. Such as: ?Top corners play the left side because that?s the visual side for a corner ? that?s why Marcus Trufant changed sides.? Or noting that having Terrell Owens or Randy Moss on your team ?means the safety in goal-line spots must stay close to him on the line and isn?t in position to help on the run.? And Collinsworth mixes in humor, cracking that Matt Hasselbeck was ?futzing around with that wrist before the game. Is that a medical term??
2. Phil Simms | CBS
John Madden | NBC (tie)
Both routinely point out nuances the average fan wouldn?t necessarily think of, although we wish Madden was more concise. Simms noted how teams should run more crossing routes because defenses must worry about bumping into other defensive players, or even the referees. Madden ?doesn?t take statistics at face value but probes for contributing circumstances. When Michaels noted that Jacksonville?s Rashean Mathis had only one interception this season, Madden correctly noted that cornerbacks typically are challenged less the year after they make the Pro Bowl.
4. Troy Aikman | Fox
Consistently makes worthy points, and nobody does a better job in explaining who?s to blame ? the quarterback or receiver ? when passing plays go awry. He finishes No. 4 ? and narrowly ? only because Simms and Madden bring a bit more personality to the broadcast. Aikman has validated his position as the network?s sole No. 1 analyst in his three years without Cris Collinsworth alongside. But he was slightly more entertaining when he could interact with Collinsworth.
Notable: CBS? Dan Dierdorf and Randy Cross, ESPN?s Ron Jaworski and Fox?s Brian Baldinger finish just behind the top four. ? Fox?s Daryl Johnston improved by loosening up and more often questioning play selection. ? Fox?s Tony Boselli, sharp and alert, was the top new face. ? Fox?s Tim Ryan can be quite insightful with X?s and O?s, but he had me reaching for the remote when he said, ?It is what it is? to explain a Brian Griese interception. Ugh.
1. Bob Costas and Keith Olbermann | NBC
Olbermann?s witty narration of highlights ? and Costas? eloquence ? helped elevate ?Football Night in America? to a level far above its first season. And Costas? flawless work on HBO?s ?Inside the NFL? also is factored in here.
2. James Brown | CBS
Chris Berman | ESPN (tie)
One of the most likable personalities on sports television, Brown?s enthusiasm permeates the set and has dramatically boosted the quality of CBS? pregame show since his arrival in 2006. Excellent as a traffic cop, too. Berman might rank higher if he still hosted ?NFL PrimeTime,? which lost its prized Sunday-evening slot after NBC took over Sunday-night rights in 2006. None of the NFL hosts has a greater knowledge of the game?s history.
4. Curt Menefee | Fox
In his first year as full-time host, Menefee generally validated his promotion, although he stumbled with verbiage at times.
Notable: Collinsworth, Costas? co-host on ?Inside the NFL,? belongs in the top three, but we can?t give you every award, Cris. ? NFL Network?s Rich Eisen, who can be witty at times, remains a bit too slow and meandering in his delivery. He needs to cut out the ?uhs.?
1. Jimmy Johnson | Fox
Candid, concise and consistently sharp. Doesn?t get sidetracked by the silliness as much as Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long.
2. Cris Collinsworth | NBC
Doesn?t get as much time to offer opinions in his new role as the traffic cop in NBC?s ?Players Room,? but when he does, his comments always pack a punch.
3. Tom Jackson | ESPN
Shannon Sharpe | CBS (tie)
Jackson remains the voice of reason ? and more willing to criticize than he?s given credit for. Sharpe, with his clever analogies, adds levity and life to a pregame show that badly missed him when he skipped two weeks with a sinus infection.
Notable: HBO?s Cris Carter easily could have challenged for a spot in the top three. He correctly predicted, in Week Two, that the Patriots could go unbeaten but was premature in saying the game has passed Joe Gibbs by. ? CBS? Bill Cowher and NBC?s Tiki Barber met expectations as rookies, although Cowher could return to coaching in 2009. ? NBC?s Jerome Bettis improved dramatically by becoming much bolder in his comments, and ESPN?s Keyshawn Johnson raised his performance after a slow start. ? Long, when serious, delivered typically cogent analysis, but too often he seemed concerned with teasing Bradshaw. ? ESPN?s Emmitt Smith was consistently inadequate and shouldn?t be invited back.
1. Andrea Kremer | NBC
Pam Oliver | Fox (tie)
Oliver received her share of aggravation this season when Donovan McNabb claimed she misquoted him. But Oliver, as usual, made a greater effort to relay sideline conversations between players than any of her peers. Kremer?s the best reporter in the sideline role since Armen Keteyian moved from CBS Sports to CBS News.
3. Suzi Kolber | ESPN
Michelle Tafoya | ESPN (tie)
Competent pros, but let?s be frank: There?s simply no need for two sideline reporters on the same telecast, especially when they?re mostly relaying anecdotal material that could be served up by Kornheiser or Tirico.
I love PFW...but I'm not sold on Barry Jackson...He covers the NFL much better than he judges broadcasters. (any list with a good word about Cris Collinsworth is very suspect)