The Guys Upstairs: Debating the Best NFL Announcers

We’re going to mix things up a little bit this week.

We’ve explored some great debates about some outstanding athletes from all generations. This week, with the NFL season on the horizon, we’re going to turn away from the athletes and debate a topic that’s always fun to discuss: NFL announcers.

The NFL viewing experience, perhaps more than any other sport, is highly impacted by who is calling the game. The broadcasters can either entertain you or make you want to cut off your ears. The field of sports broadcast journalism is one of the toughest industries to make it in professionally. Let’s analyze who’s made it to the top. Who are the best and worst announcing crews?

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (NFL on FOX)

This duo has been at it together for seemingly forever.  If there’s a Sunday afternoon 4:25pm NFC East tilt, you can bet your bottom dollar these two will be there. 

Buck (a Hoosier, I might add) is one of the most recognized faces in broadcasting due to his work outside of the NFL. He has called almost every World Series since 1996 and is slated to cover next year’s Super Bowl with Aikman.

A lot of people love to hate on Buck. I am at the top of that list. Personally, I look for a broadcaster’s personality, humor and emotion to be on display when they’re on the call. However, Buck is just about as dry as they get. His knowledge of the game is undisputable and he’s a solid all-around announcer. He doesn’t get off topic, stays focused on the game and gets the job done. He has been the voice of plenty of classic plays and moments in sports history and he’ll likely be around for a while.

Aikman, the Hall of Fame former Dallas quarterback, is right up there with Jimmy Fallon for the most annoying fake laugh. It sounds like he’s choking on something. It’s a forced laugh that surfaces when Buck makes a pathetically corny attempt at a joke. Their humor attempts are cringe-worthy. It’s better to just stick to the game and add a chuckle, rather than force a joke. 

Most importantly, let’s not forget when Aikman got a mile high in the mile high. 


Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth

If there is one commentator who receives more hate than Buck, it’s Collinsworth. The former NFL wide receiver gets a lot of unnecessary hate in my opinion. His classic “Collinsworth slide-in” on Sunday Night Football is a signature move.

He does get a little too giddy sometimes. A nice run block or wide receiver cut has him ready to jump out of his chair. Sometimes, he gets so excited that we have no fucking idea what he’s talking about. However, you have to respect his little kid-like excitement for the game, even after all these years playing and announcing. 

Al Michaels has also been announcing football games forever. He started with Monday Night Football in 1986. At 74 years young, he is the elder statesmen of this debate. He’s been around the block more than a few times and his experience demands respect. I personally like Michaels because he gives a lot of facts and tidbits about players that are actually interesting. 

Jim Nantz and Tony Romo

As people, these two seem to be quite opposite. Nantz is another experienced voice who has also called some of the biggest moments in golf and college basketball history. Romo was a Pro Bowl quarterback as recently as four years ago and had no prior announcing experience before teaming up with Nantz. 

Romo’s exit from the league is still puzzling to me. He was a Pro Bowler his last healthy year in 2014-15. He had some serious injuries towards the end of his career, and I guess the Cowboys just ultimately went with Dak over him. 

Nantz has the most soothing voice in sports. It’s probably why he’s had such a long career calling golf. A Nantz-narrated round of golf is the ultimate background noise for a weekend nap on the couch.   

Romo caught attention last year for his impressive ability to correctly predict the play just before it happened. This adds a compelling element to his narration. You pay a little more attention to a 2nd and 10 play early in the second quarter. I find myself listening a little more closely. Additionally, Romo has a good sense of humor and his energy and enthusiasm for the game complements Nantz’s soothing approach perfectly.

Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland

RIP to the Booger Mobile. This year, McFarland is ditching the snot rocket and heading up to the booth to take a seat next to Tessitore. They will be alone this year after Jason Witten the robot unretired and returned to the Cowboys. 

Both Tessitore and McFarland are fairly new to the NFL broadcasting game, so they have a tall task this year keeping the MNF folks engaged. I like McFarland. He brings a lot of good analysis and X’s and O’s. His analysis complements Tessitore well. He should provide more valuable and timely analysis this year, now that him and Witten aren’t talking over each other and apologizing for it every 5 minutes. 

My Take

I’ll take Michaels and Collinsworth, with Nantz and Romo coming in a close second. Al and Cris have great chemistry and rarely have slip-ups. The numbers seem to agree. Sunday Night Football has been the highest ranked prime time show for the past eight years. 

I want to see another year of Romo before I make any judgement on him.  Romo seems to be the hottest name in football broadcasting right now after he came blazing out of the gates last year. Let’s see if he can live up to the hype this year. 

What do YOU think? Who do you enjoy listening to call football the most? Am I missing any elite duos on this list?

NBA expert and IU grad. '96 Bulls > Warriors. #FireGarPax

Twitter: @realdmill