NBC’s broadcast team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth are routinely described as the best and most professoinal announcing pairing in football.  Maybe even in all of sports.  When you combine their years of experience and respect gained over those years, the duo might just be unmatched.  But they drew a rare moment of criticism in the Divisonal Round of the playoffs when they took time out of the Ravens-Patriots broadcast to publicly exonerate Roger Goodell and repeat what was said in Robert Mueller’s investigation of the commissioner.

Michaels read what sounded like a prepared statement and Collinsworth championed Goodell’s integrity as he was shown in the crowd in New England.  The comments drew immediate pushback from Bill Simmons and others.  Naturally, there was speculation over whether or not the league had influenced NBC and prodded the network into saying something.

NBC Sports President Mark Lazarus opened up about the episode this week and pushed back against the pushback for the Michaels and Collinsworth comments:

Via Newsday:

Said Lazarus, “We knew there’d be some criticism, but we thought strongly a couple of things: One, that we were the first game since the report came out. Two, we had the team involved in our game.

“And three, the commissioner was in the audience. We couldn’t show him and not address the fact that it came out. I think if you go back and read it, Al’s statement was very much reporting what the report said. It was not editorializing by him. It was pretty much saying what the report said.

“Cris’ comments were more his own opinion and he feels he said exactly [what he wanted] and he repeated that on our show the next day – that he had very direct and personal conversations with Roger and doesn’t doubt the commissioner’s integrity.

“I think it’s offensive, frankly, that there are people who take a look at [Robert] Mueller, war hero, silver star, purple heart, you know, head of the FBI under two different presidents and they’re questioning his integrity? I think that’s somewhat offensive.

“That being said, Cris made the statement that he looked the commissioner in the eye and has dealt with him on hundreds of things and has never questioned his ethics.”

Perhaps what is a surprise here is the self-awareness expressed by Lazarus that he knew there would be criticism for merely acknowledging the story and Goodell’s name.  In that respect, it shows just how toxic Goodell is that NBC could fall under fire of their own for making a reference to him.  The biggest issue for most observers is not so much Al Michaels reading the statement and repeating what was in the Mueller Report, but Collinsworth championing the integrity of Goodell.

Forget the videotape for a moment.  The paper trail of Goodell’s hypocrisy, ineptitude, and as SI’s Michael Rosenberg calls it, “deceit” (we don’t want another suspension for saying the commish lied) even within the Mueller Report is still quite damning.  It shows that Goodell misled many individuals on multiple occasions.  So to only focus on the positives for Goodell coming out of the report, to even the casually informed fan, was a significant misstep.


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