An Awful Announcing rendering of Chris Rose and Rich Eisen, both whom are play-by-play voices for the NFL Network.

Rich Eisen was the recipient of an Awfulie this week, tying with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo as the best sports radio personality of 2023.

Eisen, a wearer of many hats, may be at his best when hosting The Rich Eisen Show. Eisen’s charisma and wit are undeniable. He has a knack for injecting humor into his show, which makes it lighthearted and entertaining. And that’s largely thanks to his interview skills, as the former SportsCenter anchor can put athletes and celebrities at ease while drawing out interesting stories and perspectives while maintaining an engaging conversation.

But is he at his best as a play-by-play announcer?

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post doesn’t seem to think so. During a recent episode of the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, he made it more of a referendum on NFL Network’s play-by-play announcers as a whole, as he was pretty skeptical of the quality. Marchand believes that NFL Network has been struggling to find good play-by-play announcers ever since Bryant Gumbel, who severely lacked experience in the broadcast booth, served in that role.

This past weekend, the NFL Network effectively had all three games of Saturday’s tripleheader. Eisen served as the play-by-play announcer for the Indianapolis Colts-Pittsburgh Steelers game, while Chris Rose served as the play-by-play voice for the Cincinnati Bengals-Minnesota Vikings game. And Kevin Harlan, a CBS employee who regularly calls NFL games, called the Denver Broncos-Detroit Lions nightcap.

“They’ve gone through a lot of people through the years, and they don’t have the standalone Thursday games,” Marchand said. “But they do have standalone games, making their announcers more of a focus because they use studio guys. Last Saturday, Chris Rose did the first game; he was OK. I’m a Rose guy. I think he’s a very good studio host. He was OK, but not great. Then, Rich Eisen — I’ve said it before — he’s just not a play-by-player. It’s distracting when you’re watching.”

“NFL Network, they have to figure that out,” he added. “They’ve had trouble for years and years now, getting it right, in terms of the crews they use on their games, because it shouldn’t be a story. It shouldn’t be trending on X. That’s an issue. I think they need to either hire somebody full-time who’s a play-by-player or just figure out another method because, so far, this has not worked out well.”

According to Marchand, the main issue with Eisen and Rose is that they haven’t had enough reps, making performing well during a standalone game more challenging. When you don’t have enough experience calling plays and suddenly find yourself in the spotlight during a big game, every call you make is scrutinized more closely.

“When you listen to Eisen, he’s calling a game the way he thinks you’re supposed to call a game instead of being instinctive, which comes from reps and reps,” he said. “And he also makes it about himself a lot, which is not great, as well. So, you add in all those things, and it hurts the broadcast…The first rule of broadcasting is not to be annoying and not to get in the way, which might not sound like a nice thing to say, but if you do the opposite and you do get in the way, it is confusing on calls.”

According to Marchand, the NFL Network’s choice of play-by-play announcers doesn’t provide the same “feel” that comes with experience.

For what it’s worth, Eisen has received some praise for his work this season. At the same time, Marchand’s criticism raises a pertinent question: with a renewed focus on standalone games, can NFL Network find its footing in the play-by-play arena, or will the search for the right voice continue?

[Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.