Amazon Thursday Night Football

It was a true worst-case scenario on Thursday night for Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins organization, and the NFL. And Amazon, who paid billions for the rights to broadcast the game, appeared to be wholly unprepared to deal with it.

Four days ago, Tagovailoa suffered what appeared to many NFL viewers to be an injury with concussion-related symptoms. However, he would later return to that game having cleared concussion protocols. While the NFLPA launched a still-ongoing investigation into the matter, both the Dolphins and the NFL stood firm that Tagovailoa’s injury was back-related and that all protocols had been followed.

Fast-forward to Thursday Night Football where the Dolphins took on the Cincinnati Bengals. During the second quarter, Tagovailoa was sacked by Cincinnati defensive tackle Josh Tupou and the momentum slung Tua around, with his back and head hitting the turf extremely hard. Tua stayed down while his hands contorted above him. Eventually, a stretcher came onto the field and he was taken off.

Almost immediately, the NFL world voiced its frustrations with the NFL and Dolphins organization for even allowing Tua to be on the field just days after a significant injury. Many were hoping that the Prime Video TNF broadcast crew and halftime studio show would step into the larger conversation surrounding the situation. Surely, Amazon wouldn’t be able to get away with something like last week’s verbal dance around the Deshaun Watson situation.

And yet, it became quickly apparent to viewers that the Amazon crew was lost at sea attempting to have an honest conversation about the injury and its place in the larger discussion around the NFL and CTE.

First, Amazon caught heat for replaying the injury beyond a necessary amount, which for many viewers was once. They also employed slow-motion and zoom-ins to a degree that many found distasteful given the nature of the injury.

From the booth, Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit refused to speculate about the nature of the injury, which was a good idea. But they also didn’t dig into the larger discussion or provide context which detracted from the honest conversation that needed to happen.

The halftime show, however, is where Amazon’s TNF coverage really failed. The panel, which includes the host Charissa Thompson and former NFL players Tony Gonzalez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Richard Sherman, lacked the kind of journalist mentality that was needed at the moment. Not only did they fail to tell the story and scope of Tua’s situation, but they seemed to actively avoid any mention of necessary context. While they all expressed deep concern for the quarterback, which is human and valid, their discussion stopped way short of where it needed to be.

Sherman, in particular, was called out by some viewers, given that he once wrote an article in which he said he hated “Thursday Night Football” because of how the short week affects player heath.

Either someone at Amazon was checking Twitter or the broadcasting crew realized they needed to deal with the situation during the second half. In the fourth quarter, Michaels and Herbstreit finally discussed Tagovailoa going through concussion protocols on Sunday as well as the NFLPA investigation.

There were serious concerns that by the time the game was over, the post-game show would mirror the feel of the halftime one. However, here too, it was clear that someone behind the scenes was paying attention and serious adjustments were made.

Chief among the adjustments was that they were joined by news analyst Michael Smith, who brought some much-needed analysis about concussions, Tua’s situation, and the timeline of the NFLPA investigation. Viewers and media watchers were relieved to see someone on the Amazon set provide the information and context that was previously lacking. His impact then lent gravitas to a discussion by the former players about how scary concussions and injuries are, which was a much better use of their experience than trying to talk circles around the issue.

NFL fans and viewers are going to remember the trainwreck that was Amazon’s handling of the injury during the second quarter and halftime, but credit is due that they adjusted on the fly and figured out how to have a more honest conversation about it by the end of the night. That doesn’t absolve them of the gratuitous replays and tone-deaf conversations, but at least you can say that they heard the criticism and tried to fix it. If you want to say that they should have known better to begin with, well, we won’t argue.

There will undoubtedly be many conversations in the days ahead at Prime Video on the fallout and how to be prepared to have hard conversations about the sports league that you’re in bed with. The larger concern is, of course, Tagovailoa’s health and well-being. But Amazon learned an important lesson Thursday night about what it really means to be an NFL broadcast partner.

What the league wants and what your audience wants can sometimes be very different conversations, and you have to be ready to have them.

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to