10) Jim Nantz & Phil Simms – CBS
Most Popular Grade: B (30.4%)
Least Popular Grade: F (12.8%)
Analysis: The #1 CBS team had by far the most even distribution among all the announcing teams. So the least popular grade of an “F” might be a bit deceiving because Nantz and Simms got over 100 “F” votes more than the next broadcast booth, which ironically enough was Fox’s top team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
The vast majority of those “F” votes from our readers were dedicated to Simms, who is basically the football version of Tim McCarver at this point in his career. When you work for so long at the top (Simms has been the lead analyst for CBS since they got NFL rights back in the late 90’s) you’re bound to lose some people along the way and that target is going to increase over time. Simms leads the world in giving his analysis of what just happened, then changing his mind once he sees the replay. There are so many times when Simms second guesses himself or leans on verbal crutches (“talked about” and gratuitous overuse of the word “football” in particular) that one wonders when CBS might be ready to make a change in the near future.
Nantz’s gravitas definitely plays better to the golf fan than it does in football or basketball, but his football delivery has gotten more lively since he was moved from the studio in the mid-2000’s. CBS Sports is notoriously conservative in making any changes and Nantz is etched into stone as their #1 play by play man until the end of time or a government ban on football, whichever comes first.
9) Thom Brennaman/Justin Kutcher & David Diehl – Fox
Most Popular Grade: C (35.8%)
Analysis: With Joe Buck taking his traditional mid-season break to call the baseball playoffs, Justin Kutcher got a run of five games with David Diehl as Thom Brennaman moved up to work with Troy Aikman. From what I saw from Kutcher this year, his work was solid. If Fox is ready to move on from the likes of Stockton and Myers at the tail-end of their rotation, he’d be a good choice to move to full-time status in 2015. (Although not everyone was fond of the young play by play man.)
Diehl replaced the departing Brian Billick and hopes were high for him as a game analyst coming into the season. I’d like to see more from him next year as there were some ups and downs during his rookie campaign.
8) Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston & Tony Siragusa – Fox
Most Popular Grade: B (31.7%)
Analysis: One of Fox’s longest-tenured broadcast teams was infamously moved down the pecking order after being the network’s #2 team for a number of years. And with all those years together, you know what you’re going to get from these three. Decent analysis from Johnston, completely random stuff from Siragusa on the sidelines that may or may not provide any substance whatsoever, and professional play by play work from Albert.
One more note on the younger Albert – while he hardly ever makes any waves nationally, he is well respected he is by his peers across the industry. He’s routinely listed by other announcers as one of those individuals that doesn’t quite get the respect he deserves for calling a number of sports at a high level. Even though his crew no longer works playoff games for Fox, that’s something that shouldn’t be lost.
7) Greg Gumbel & Trent Green – CBS
Most Popular Grade: C (39.1%)
Analysis: Another announcer who’s taken a step down the ladder is Greg Gumbel. After many years as the network’s #1 and #2 play by play man, he was down to the #3 team this year with rookie CBS analyst Trent Green. The former Chiefs QB was an obvious upgrade from the final years of Dan Dierdorf and should have a very solid future as a game analyst for some time.
It’s worth noting that although “C” was the pairing’s most popular grade, they also received 39% of “B” votes, meaning almost 80% of AA readers gave Gumbel & Green either a “B” or a “C.” CBS should be fairly pleased with the tandem and their positioning as a very steady #3 team at the network.
6) Joe Buck & Troy Aikman – Fox
Most Popular Grade: B (33.8%)
Least Popular Grade: D (8.5%)
Analysis: Like Nantz and Simms, Buck and Aikman received a disproportionate number of “F” votes, likely due to their positioning as the top broadcast team above anything else. They received 12% of “F’s” while everyone else in the Top 7 was less than 4%. And yes, there are still plenty of people who will never like Joe Buck because of what he’s done in the past or comments he’s made or the air he gives off.
However, I can’t think of anyone that either myself or the sports blogging proletariat has done more of a 180 on in the past few years. Buck has won many of us former doubters over with his work that is more energetic and engaging. He’s come a long, long way from the monotone call of David Tyree’s helmet catch and is now living up to the standard you want to hear from a #1 play by play announcer. Just compare these two calls:
For his part, Troy Aikman may be the most under-the-radar #1 NFL analyst in years. Seriously – when was the last time you heard someone have any strong takes about Aikman’s television work? He doesn’t say the weird things Phil Simms does, isn’t as wacky as Jon Gruden, and doesn’t get the plaudits of Cris Collinsworth. Aikman has just quietly goes about his business in a successful analyst career… much like he did in his playing days.