Who are the biggest sports broadcasting flops of the last decade?

This week it was reported that Jac Collinsworth was being moved out of the NBC broadcast booth as the voice of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The son of Cris Collinsworth was given the role in spite of very limited experience as a play-by-play announcer in major sports and it showed over the course of two seasons. NBC experimented in putting Jac in a role he probably wasn’t ready for and the network swung and missed.

But the younger Collinsworth is far from the first to face a quick hook after being placed in the spotlight. And at least he still has what seems to be a good career in front of him as a features reporter. But his stint in the Notre Dame booth was the wrong place at the wrong time.

Naturally, the move got us thinking about other untimely demises in recent sports broadcasting history. So here now in chronological order are some of the biggest sports broadcasting flops of the past decade. (And in case you want to take a cringey walk down memory lane, you can revisit our ancient list of the Top 10 Sports Media Busts from 2012 including the likes of Dennis Miller and Rush Limbaugh.)

2014 – Bill Simmons, NBA Countdown analyst

This entire article could be filled with the many different iterations of ESPN’s NBA Countdown show as the panel has changed almost every year as the network keeps flailing away at finding the right combination that could provide half the insight and entertainment as TNT’s Inside the NBA. But the most infamous attempt was Bill Simmons. There’s no questioning Simmons’ career in sports media as a writer, podcast host, producer, etc. Nevertheless, his time on the ESPN studio set was most notable for the rocky chemistry on air. He got a soft landing transitioning to a Grantland based basketball show after two seasons in 2014 before departing ESPN altogether to build his own media empire. That led to another candidate here, which was his HBO show that was canceled after just five months on air in 2017.

2014 – Gus Johnson, Fox soccer announcer

Perhaps the biggest and boldest broadcasting move in modern sports media history was Fox Sports’ effort to transform Gus Johnson into the voice of soccer. In September 2014, AA wrote when Johnson departed the soccer landscape after a little over a year, “It ends what will go down as one of the biggest rolls of the dice in sports broadcasting that ultimately ended in snake eyes.” Gus made his debut in 2013 calling the Champions League and soccer fans never truly accepted him as he was basically learning on the job. Maybe it could have worked out differently had Fox been patient with it, but putting Johnson in such a high profile spot with no experience was basically setting him up to fail. At least we’ll always have Wigan’s FA Cup Cinderella win.

2014 – Mike Goldberg, Fox NFL announcer

Fox was certainly making some audacious moves in 2014! That included longtime UFC announcer Mike Goldberg taking the reins for a regular season NFL broadcast between the Lions and Vikings. It went so poorly that Goldberg cursed out his critics on social media, was asked not to return for another scheduled assignment the following week, and never broadcasted another NFL game again.

2015 – Mike Francesa, FS1 host

Mike Francesa

In its infancy, Fox Sports 1 was pulling out all the stops to compete with ESPN. As the network was searching for live daily programming, it turned to an unlikely source – New York sports talk legend Mike Francesa. However, Francesa’s transition to the national scene did not go so well. He wasn’t the same on his own as he was paired with Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and what little highlights the show offered were oftentimes meme-worthy, like this amazing soccer interview around the 2014 World Cup when he expressed amazement that players could use both legs to kick the ball. Francesa’s rocky Fox tenure ended in September 2015 after just a year on the air.

2016 – Greg Norman, Fox golf analyst

What is it about mid-2010s Fox and broadcasting flops! Remember that brief second when Fox Sports actually televised golf? The overall production wasn’t bad – it brought innovations like drone cameras and a permanent leaderboard on the screen. But one element of the broadcast that fizzled was the presence of world golf megastar Greg Norman. The Shark was unceremoniously dumped after one calamitous year calling the US Open. At least he didn’t do any more damage to the sport of golf in the years that followed, right?

2016 – Mike Carey, NFL on CBS rules analyst

The rules analyst has become a staple of NFL telecasts, but it wasn’t always that way. When Mike Pereira burst onto the scene with Fox Sports, it revolutionized NFL game broadcasts by putting someone with officiating knowledge on the telecast. CBS tried to answer with veteran NFL referee Mike Carey, whose television presence was akin to being held hostage on set. Carey lasted two seasons before being replaced in 2016. CBS was ultimately able to find its long-term person for the role in Gene Steratore.

2017 – Sergio Dipp, ESPN Monday Night Football reporter

Many people on this list fell victim to networks putting them in positions they weren’t quite ready for – none moreso than Sergio Dipp. He’s had a very successful career to this day working as a reporter and anchor for ESPN Deportes. But most fans unfortunately remember him for serving as the English language sideline reporter for a Monday Night Football Week 1 doubleheader in 2017 where he clearly wasn’t comfortable in his second language. After a report on Broncos coach Vance Joseph went viral for its awkwardness, Dipp was never seen on the telecast again. Thankfully Dipp seemed to take it in stride.

2018 – Jason Witten & The BoogerMobile, ESPN Monday Night Football

Jason Witten on ESPN

Inspired by Tony Romo’s form as a broadcasting rookie, ESPN remade its Monday Night Football announce team in 2018 with a trio of Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland, and former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. Like Romo, Witten had no major broadcasting experience before taking one of the biggest broadcast roles in sports. Unlike Romo, Witten was a fish out of water in the booth. (Although you can arguably say the same thing about Romo now.) This was also the same season that ESPN experimented with having McFarland as an on-field analyst in the ill-fated BoogerMobile, which deserves its own Smithsonian exhibit for awful sports innovations. Witten returned to the Cowboys for the 2019 season, played the next year with the Raiders, and now coaches football in Texas while Booger is back in the studio for ESPN where he excels.

2021 – Adnan Virk, WWE Raw announcer

Adnan Virk is one of the most talented sports media personalities active today whether it’s on televisions, podcasts, or other mediums. But when it was announced that he would take over as the lead voice for WWE Raw in April 2021, it completely came out of left field and ended almost as quickly as it began. Sadly, Virk’s tenure only lasted a couple months as his pro wrestling career was about as successful as The Shockmaster.

2022 – Drew Brees, NBC NFL analyst

Drew Brees

When it comes to the biggest failures on this list, this selection might rank in the top spot when you combine platform, star power, and expectation. Drew Brees is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Given his work on and off the field in New Orleans, he was one of the most popular figures in team sports. He’s also one of the smartest players to ever play his position. And yet as a broadcaster, Brees bombed. His one playoff assignment in the booth with Mike Tirico was marred by awkward silences and tepid analysis. NBC and Brees mutually parted ways after just one season where Brees called Notre Dame games and was a studio analyst in addition to that playoff assignment.

2024 – Jac Collinsworth, NBC Notre Dame announcer

Finally comes the most recent entry, Jac Collinsworth. It was surprising when NBC gave Collinsworth such a big assignment in his late 20s taking over as the voice of his alma mater. It’s a role that had been previously filled by some of the biggest names in the industry – Charlie Jones, Mike Tirico, Tom Hammond, Dan Hicks, and others. Collinsworth clearly wasn’t ready to fill those shoes, at least not at this point in his career. After two years of rough reviews, NBC is returning to Hicks as the voice of the Irish once again.