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Your viewers guide to NFL TV

tom jones' two cents

FOX (Fox NFL Sunday): At times, it feels as if the analysts — Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson — are the strongest and deepest group on television. So why did the show continue to go downhill last season? Because of the constant and annoying need to be funny. Making matters worse, they aren't funny. Too many inside jokes, too much talking over one another, too much cackling, too little time spent talking about football has made this show, at moments, unwatchable. And, only a couple of years ago, this was the best pregame show on TV. Knock off the high jinks, get back to football and you might, again, have a chance to be the best pregame on TV. Otherwise, they need to seriously consider overhauling the cast. Fox's top pair of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are among the best in the business. After that, there's a big drop, and Fox must have thought so, too, because it has shaken up its roster. Ron Pitts is out. Ronde Barber, the former Buc, is in. He will be paired with veteran Dick Stockton. Former Buc John Lynch, who was paired with Stockton, joins newcomer Kevin Burkhardt. Kenny Albert and Sam Rosen are strong play-by-play announcers, while Brian Billick and Lynch are solid analysts. But I'm not a fan of analysts Moose (Daryl Johnston) and Goose (Tony Siragusa) or play-by-play guy Chris Myers. Barber had a shaky preseason calling Bucs games. He remains a project. Fox, by the way, has the Super Bowl this season.
NBC (Football Night in America): Technically, it's a pregame show, but it benefits from being a highlight show, too, showing clips from games played earlier in the day. Still, with hosts Bob Costas and Dan Patrick and analysts Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison and Hines Ward, plus reporting by Peter King, FNiA is the top NFL pregame show. If you love the NFL, it's a can't-miss show. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth make up the best announcing team in the NFL. Michaels rarely makes a mistake. He is efficient with his words and judicious with his emotions. I'm not overstating this when I say he is the perfect play-by-play announcer and, just maybe, the best of all time. Collinsworth is the best analyst in the NFL, holding true to the most important mantra of announcing: Call it like you see it. The Sunday night game has become the NFL event of the week.
CBS (The NFL Today): I used to call this show the Two and a Half Men of pregame shows. It was crude, sexist humor with no redeeming qualities. Well, I'm not going to take credit for the change, but someone clearly stepped in and told the boys it was time to grow up. Over the past two years, the show has moved closer to being a smart, intelligent pregame show without becoming a total bore. It's not quite 60 Minutes or anything, but it's much better. Boomer Esiason has become a star because his opinions are strong even when against-the-grain. Bill Cowher and Dan Marino bring strong analysis. Shannon Sharpe is a bit of a loudmouth but still has his moments. The debate segments are better than any of the other Sunday morning shows. Not bad. Not great. Not funny. Not offensive. If the announcing teams at CBS were ice cream, we're talking vanilla. Good, but it's nothing special. The top team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms is fine, but not as good as the best announcing teams on any other network. Actually, the announcing team of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts, which would be considered the third string on CBS's depth chart, is the network's best duo. I also like Marv Albert and Rich Gannon. Overall, if it's a Sunday afternoon, I think I'd rather watch a game on Fox than CBS unless Eagle and Fouts are calling it.
NFL Network (NFL GameDay Morning): I go back and forth on this show. The panel of Steve Mariucci, Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Deion Sanders, Warren Sapp and Michael Irvin go from being funny to annoying, insightful to arrogant, intelligent to downright ridiculous. Too often, it feels like all of them are trying to be the smartest guy in the room, and the funniest, and the most outrageous. Warner is the best of the bunch. Sapp can be the most entertaining when his arrogance doesn't get the best of him. Here's how I see this show: I can stand it in short spurts, but if I watch it too long, I feel like I never want to watch it again. Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock are solid, although far from special. The best part is they give you all the pertinent information and never get in the way of the game. Also, to be fair, Mayock has a very solid reputation among most fans and media critics.
ESPN (Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday NFL Countdown): The trouble with the pregame show, unfortunately, seems to be the legendary host Chris Berman. Once the best pregame host in the NFL, he has lost his fastball, so to speak. His imitations are tired. His references are dated. His shtick is old. Although, give him this: He does know his role, which is to set up the analysts. As far as those analysts go, the crew of Mike Ditka, Keyshawn Johnson, Cris Carter and Tom Jackson is probably the strongest Sunday morning lineup on TV. They speak with such authority and experience that everything they say seems credible. The one nit is they rarely seem to disagree with each other, even on controversial subjects. If they all think the same way, then maybe the cast needs to add an alternative voice or two. Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden are top-notch, especially since Gruden, perhaps having heard criticism, started being a little more critical. Before that, he seemed to love everybody and everything. Here's why Gruden will soon be the best analyst on television: The NFL game is changing. Offenses are going uptempo with no huddles, meaning analysts will have even less time to get in their points. Gruden has an enormous football IQ and already speaks in succinct sound bites. That combination will allow him to say things in seven or eight seconds that other analysts won't be able to spit out in 25.

Are you ready for some football? Lots of it? Today is the first Sunday of the NFL season, and we will see more football than ever before in 2013. Counting all the pregame and postgame shows, Sunday's viewing has become a 15-hour event. Then we have Monday and Thursday nights. Here's our annual Two Cents broadcast guide to the NFL season.

Your viewers guide to NFL TV 09/07/13 [Last modified: Monday, September 9, 2013 12:40pm]
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