While Fox Sports announced recently that two new members would be joining the broadcast booth on that network for the 2012 NFL season, CBS Sports has done nothing to its broadcast pairings for the upcoming season. The network announced Tuesday its seven top pairings from last season would stay intact… and in the exact same order of prominence…
1. Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
2. Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
3. Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
4. Marv Albert, Rich Gannon
5. Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots
6. Bill Macatee, Steve Tasker
7. Spero Dedes, Steve Beuerlein
The only change: Don Criqui and Randy Cross won't be back this season, which might have something to do with the fact NFL Network is airing a full slate of Thursday night games for the first time. Criqui and Cross did only three games in 2011.
That's a bit of a shame, because Criqui is a Hall of Fame broadcaster who even into his 70s did a bang-up job. But it goes to show how deep CBS's roster is. You could argue that at Fox, Criqui would be in Dick Stockton territory, which would mean he'd be in the fourth or fifth spot. At 72, he might be ready to walk away, but he's still doing New England Patriots preseason broadcasts along with Cross.
Regardless, CBS can continue to allow their younger voices–Eagle, Harlan and Dedes–to grow, waiting in the wings for veterans like Gumbel and Albert (and eventually Nantz) to step aside. It's a nice balance.
Some might have preferred to see Eagle (an Awful Announcing favorite) and Fouts move up into the No. 2 spot, but Gumbel might have had something to say about that as the former top NFL play by play man for CBS. I'd personally prefer to hear Eagle or Albert, who has the résumé be a top play by play man at any network.
As for the color guys: we've gotten used to Simms and his unintentional comedy. He had a few classic moments in last year's playoffs, but he and Nantz have good chemistry and their voices indicate the game you're watching matters. It's too late to go back now.
I'd also prefer Fouts to Dierdorf, but both are tolerable, which in the analyst world means they're above average. Gannon's a bore made better by his partner and I can't recall what Beuerlein's voice even sounds like. Tasker's underrated; I'd much prefer to see him or even Wilcots with Gumbel or Albert. On the whole though, CBS has decided not to tinker with an announcing lineup that has served them well for several years.