Last night’s edition of Sunday Night Football on NBC featured a sloppy game between the Giants and Cowboys. The only soothing part of the game was hearing Al Michaels’ smooth tones back in primetime. Michaels is a universally loved broadcaster, but the most powerful voice in the NFL is 68 years old. How much longer might we have Al in the booth? If NBC were starting to think about his replacement, and after the way they handled Leno, Conan, and late night TV who can say they aren’t, then we need to examine who has the chops to fill the very large headphones he would leave behind.
This could be seen as the easy choice for NBC. Patrick is a highly respected broadcaster, and already under contract. The biggest knock on Patrick is his lack of experience calling games, but his work at ESPN should more than prove he has the ability to be in that seat. Patrick would set off the smallest ripples if chosen, and that reason alone makes him a frontrunner for the job.
What must it be like for a hall of fame broadcaster like Gumbel to be relegated to second chair behind Jim Nantz? Nantz calls everything important on CBS Sports from the Masters to NCAA Men’s Tournament, and still get’s their best NFL games. Gumbel is a big talent who would have no trouble sitting next to Cris Collinsworth. This move would be tough on Ian Eagle who might have to take Dan Dierdorf from Gumbel in the divorce.
The answer for NBC in replacing Michaels is sitting in the booth already. If there is one guy in sports who could recreate the magic of Vin Scully it is Collinsworth. Just give him one year, and if it fails they can always bring in someone new to write it all off as an experiment gone wrong. NBC could book different guests to join him in the booth during the second quarter of games to add spontaneity to the broadcast. There just aren’t that many people with the star power of Michaels, but Collinsworth is definitely one of them.
The job of replacing Michaels will be difficult, but the line of people vying for his seat will be long. Maybe NBC should consider sending Michaels to Germany during the NFL offseason for the same rehab regiment used by Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning. It just makes things easier for everyone if we can still have Michaels making cryptic references to the over/under in the booth until he’s at least 95.