1. When the NFL broadcasting carousel was taking place in early 2022 and talent was switching networks and landing monster contracts, there was a lot of talk about the value of broadcasters.
People are going to watch NFL playoff games no matter who is calling them, so why shell out big bucks for talent? Even CBS play-by-play man Greg Gumbel said on the SI Media Podcast that a broadcaster doesn’t bring one viewer to the TV set.
While fans may not tune in for the announcers, the people calling a football game can certainly enhance or worsen your viewing experience. Both of these cases were on display this weekend.
For the second year in a row, NBC’s second crew was panned across the board. Last year, the object of viewers’ scorn was Drew Brees, who was calling his first NFL game during wild-card weekend. This year, it was Al Michaels and Tony Dungy calling Chargers-Jaguars on Saturday night who drew the ire of social media. With Jacksonville pulling off a historic comeback, viewers felt Michaels and Dungy didn’t have the energy to match the hype of the moment.
This was the first time Michaels and Dungy called a game together, so it’s not shocking there was a lack of chemistry. Michaels has never been a screamer, and, unfortunately, he got caught up in focusing on the penalty flag during the Jaguars’ game-winning kick instead of the comeback win being completed.
The bottom line with Al is this: He didn’t want to leave NBC and Sunday Night Football and its audience of 20 million viewers. He got pushed out and then had to call a miserable schedule on a streaming service that struggled to get 10 million viewers a game. Then he had to call a playoff game with Dungy, a guy who he has never worked with before and appeared to be in a coma for most of the night.
While Dungy brought nothing to the table, the most egregious part of NBC’s broadcast was rules analyst Terry McAulay protecting the refs by saying a blatant false start wasn’t a false start.
If you listen to the SI Media Podcast, you’ve heard me say many times the rules analyst job is the most overrated thing to ever happen in sports broadcasting, and McAulay showed why. A rules analyst should be used to explain confusing or little-known rules. They shouldn’t be used to tell us what we are seeing with our own eyes.
While Michaels and Dungy were the targets of social media Saturday night, it was Romo’s turn Sunday.
In wrestling lingo, when a good guy becomes a bad guy, it’s called a “heel turn.” I feel like we’ve watched Romo do a heel turn. Fans loved him his first couple of years, and now they can’t stand him.
I still think Romo knows his stuff, but he does seem to rely more on hype than analysis these days. The constant yells of “THIS IS THE GAME!” or “THE SEASON IS ON THE LINE HERE!” are O.K. in small doses, but that’s not what’s happening with Romo. I feel like Romo tells us “why” something is happening during a game a lot less than he used to.
It would’ve been nice to get more insight into why the Dolphins were a complete mess on offense and kept getting called for delay-of-game penalties.
I don’t think Romo has regressed as much as critics on social media think he has, and I think his enthusiasm is a plus, but I’d like to see him give us more insight and analysis.
Keep in mind, Romo was the one person in America who, before the game, said the Dolphins would keep things close and didn’t understand why the Bills were such a large (13 points) favorite.
On the flip side of what we saw Saturday night and early Sunday, Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen, calling Giants-Vikings on Fox late Sunday afternoon, were excellent. Olsen has really improved as the season has gone on and is so good at explaining plays in a straightforward and concise manner.
When Olsen came on the SI Media Podcast a few weeks ago, I suggested to him that he go harder at the refs, so it was nice to see him call out the officials for the awful roughing-the-passer call against the Giants on the Vikings’ final drive of the game.
Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth, calling Ravens-Bengals, on Sunday night were solid, as well. Tirico is always going to give you a good broadcast, because he’s prepared, but he also makes it seem effortless.
Tirico couldn’t have had a better call of Sam Hubbard’s wild 98-yard fumble return touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was perfect from start to finish.
2. If you just read everything I wrote above, then this clip will make sense to you and you will get a kick out of it.
3. The social media wars are just as intense as the playoff games themselves.
4. Packers linebacker Quay Walker was fined $13,261 for pushing a Lions athletic trainer during their game in Week 18.
Lions running back Jamaal Williams was fined $18,566 for this touchdown celebration in the same game.
Good job, NFL.
5. Great piece here, inspired by the famous one-shot in Goodfellas, by Kyle Brandt from CBS’s NFL Today pregame show Sunday.
6. This week’s SI Media Podcast features an interview with ESPN’s Troy Aikman. Topics covered include:
• Being on-air for Damar Hamlin’s injury
• Wild-card weekend
• NFL’s quality-of-play problem
• First year at ESPN
• Why Tom Brady is still good
Following Aikman, Sal Licata from WFAN in New York joins me for our weekly “Traina Thoughts” segment. This week, we discuss the best bets for wild-card weekend, the problem with the national title game, a tipping dilemma and more.
You can also watch the SI Media Podcast on YouTube.
7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Google. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.