The NFL off-season has been a wild one to date with blockbuster trades galore and the return of one Tom Brady after his very brief retirement. But the headline moves are not just limited to those who are out on the field every Sunday with significant changes coming in the commentary booths too.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will no longer be calling games for Fox after a big-money switch to front up ESPN’s coverage of Monday Night Football, while the great Al Michaels also has a new home. Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were one of the NFL’s premier broadcast teams, doing an excellent job on Sunday Night Football but will split after 16 years with Michaels having jumped ship to join Amazon Prime, the home of Thursday Night Football.
With booth swapping levels reaching unprecedented levels and following the passing of arguably the most beloved analyst of all-time, John Madden, last December, what better time to examine who stands out from the current commentary crowd.
Ian Eagle and Charles Davis/Kevin Harlan and Trent Green
CBS has by far the strongest stable of commentators and if a certain duo aren’t available for a game then you are in safe hands if one of these pairings are handed the job. Ian Eagle and Charles Davis are firmly established as the number two pairing for the network and with good reason. There’s nothing particularly flashy about the way they call a game but Eagle, a veteran of covering multiple sports, is a skilled play-by-play man and has good chemistry with Davis. The former defensive back, who is perhaps more famous for providing the vocals for Madden 20, offers good insight without going over the top.
One of the most recognisable voices in US sports broadcasting belongs to Kevin Harlan, who has predominantly worked on radio but can always be found on TV come Sundays in the season. An experienced hand at the wheel who has provided several memorable calls, Harlan was paired with ex-quarterback Trent Green at the start of the 2020 season and the relationship is coming along nicely.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
The biggest move of the off-season, as far as TV viewers are concerned, could be Buck and Aikman’s decision to swap Fox for ESPN ahead of the 2022 campaign. Buck and Dallas Cowboys hero Aikman have been calling games for two decades at Fox, getting the network’s prime Sunday attraction each and every week, but have accepted a new challenge in the form of freshening up the Monday Night Football broadcast.
Buck, the son of former sports broadcaster Jack Buck, has an immediately recognisable voice, not just to NFL fans but also followers of golf and baseball. His laid back style works well with Aikman’s approach, although the duo may have become a little too laid back in recent years and face a serious challenge when it comes to dominating ESPN’s airwaves.
Peyton Manning and Eli Manning
ESPN have spent years searching for the right commentary team to lead their Monday Night Football coverage and they arguably stumbled across it last season. Pairing together the Manning brothers, who have four Super Bowl wins between them, proved an excellent decision with the siblings turning out to be very entertaining.
Throw in a special guest or two for each game and ESPN may have unearthed the future of sports broadcasting. While the majority of people still tune in to watch the traditional broadcast, the Manningcast is an excellent alternative for those wanting to feel like they are watching a game with a few friends.
Jim Nantz and Tony Romo
CBS raised the bar for commentary teams when they paired Jim Nantz and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo together in 2017, and so far no one has been able to match the standards they have set. The duo do exactly what you want a commentary team to do when watching an NFL game on TV and that is enhance your enjoyment of the game itself.
Nantz might not be the best play-by-play man but he’s certainly in the top five and he does a great job of keeping the passionate Romo in check while providing him with a good straight man to bounce off. Romo is guilty of going over the top on occasions but his love and understanding of the game are unmatched. His enjoyment comes through the screen, while his ability to break down plays and educate fans is a joy. The pairing of Nantz and Romo is a real treat and one NFL fans should enjoy while it lasts.