Brady and Burkhardt? Aikman and Buck? Mike and Cris? Pick the real No. 1 NFL booth
When Tom Brady retires 20 years from now, we'll have an interesting group of No. 1 NFL announcing teams.
Fox needed to replace its No. 1 team when Joe Buck and Troy Aikman left to ESPN, and it made a massive splash by announcing that Brady will become its lead analyst when he retires from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady got a 10-year deal from the network. It has been a huge offseason in terms of NFL broadcasting shakeups.
With the inclusion of Amazon to the NFL roster of networks, we have a five-way race for best No. 1 team in the sport. None of them will ever reach the heights of the incomparable Pat Summerall and John Madden, but pick your favorite:
ESPN: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
Buck and Aikman have been together a long time, and now they'll be on a new network. It'll take some time to get used to them doing "Monday Night Football." There are those who dislike Buck's sometimes flippant style and those who dislike Aikman too, but that's the life of a high-profile announcing team. Everyone on social media will find a reason to complain about them.
Buck and Aikman have become a soundtrack for the NFL since starting to work together in 2002. Aikman grew into the job, improving as he got further removed from the game and was willing to be more critical with his comments. Buck won't be everyone's favorite but he and Aikman have formed a great tandem. After messing around with combinations that whiffed on "MNF" in recent years, ESPN paid up for a known commodity in Fox's old No. 1 team. They'll do just fine on that stage, of course.
CBS: Jim Nantz and Tony Romo
Romo changed everything about the broadcasting landscape. CBS took him right from the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback room to the analyst role in its No. 1 NFL booth, a huge gamble that paid off. Romo didn't have any experience or polish and that was part of the charm. Romo calling out plays before they happened became a phenomenon. Tom Brady might not have been hired straight to Fox's No. 1 team had it not been for CBS' bold move on Romo years ago.
If we're being honest, Romo's star has dimmed a bit since he started. It's hard to keep up that vibe that you're having a beer with an excited guy watching a game, and he just happens to be a four-time Pro Bowl QB. Romo is still very entertaining and his excitement shapes the broadcast he's on. Nantz can be an acquired taste. Is it possible to really like an announcer when he does the Masters but not so much during NFL Sunday?
Fox: Kevin Burkhardt and Tom Brady
Burkhardt might be the biggest unknown of this group. He just took over the No. 1 play-by-play spot at Fox after Joe Buck left, and suddenly got a high-profile partner. Burkhardt is a solid play-by-play man, a worthwhile replacement for Joe Buck. Let's be honest: It won't matter once Brady joins the booth.
Everyone will be tuning in to see how Brady does. Peyton Manning would have been the biggest hire any network could have made, but Brady isn't far behind. Brady spent most of his career trying to say very little, because he played for the New England Patriots, but we've seen his personality come out more in recent years. He's funny on social media. "Man in the Arena," the ESPN+ documentary series on Brady's career, was a bit disappointing because it was produced by Brady's company and steered far away from most controversies, but Brady still established himself as an engaging voice. It's not easy to call NFL games, making quippy breakdowns as plays are happening, but Brady knows football. We'll see if that translates to a great broadcasting career. It worked for Tony Romo. It did not work for Joe Montana.
NBC: Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth
Tirico is perhaps the most versatile broadcaster in TV, switching easily between sports or between the booth and studio. He has a distinctive, professional voice and since he has been in high-profile positions for many years, his ascent to the NBC No. 1 team won't be a big deal at all. It's hard to find anyone who really has a strong negative feeling about Tirico as a broadcaster.
Then there's Collinsworth. Fans love to complain about Collinsworth on Sunday night. And he'll say a few things every broadcast that will drive anyone nuts. He's the most divisive announcer on this list (Joe Buck might not be far behind), and that's not necessarily a bad thing. His bold opinions, enthusiasm and preparation are hard to deny, whether you like him or like to hate him. Good or bad, Collinsworth keeps us entertained.
Amazon: Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit
This is the most interesting pairing of the five, put together for Amazon Prime Video's foray into the NFL. Michaels is arguably the greatest sports announcer ever. His "Miracle on Ice" call is among the most famous calls ever, and that was more than 40 years ago. There have been plenty of big games since then and Michaels nails them all. He has also had plenty of broadcast partners, and Herbstreit has been on plenty of games. They're just mostly college games.
Herbstreit has been a staple of ESPN's college football coverage for many years. It has been jarring to hear his voice during the few NFL games he has done for ESPN through the years, because we're used to him doing Michigan vs. Penn State. Herbstreit can sometimes come across as smug, but he is a familiar voice who does a very good job breaking down games. He'll have to prove to hardcore NFL fans that he knows the pro game, too. Being paired with the consummate professional Michaels will help, because it would help any analyst.
There's your five No. 1 teams (though we'll have to wait for Brady). Who do you got?