NFL Announcer Tiers: All-time & Current

Phil Plantier

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I'm officially on vacation in a few hours (my vacation spot looks a lot like my office, and I'm wearing the same clothes, but it's the principle of the thing), and @Van Everyman and others had some good reflections in the Jim Nantz thread, so I thought I'd use some of my work time to expand.

So: what are your tiers for color and play-by-play announcers? Let's limit this to NFL-only, so Michaels gets downgraded on my list. Also excluding studio presenters, so I can leave Chris Berman off of Tier 2. One more thing, I'm ranking them by their highest point rather than longevity, for those of you who may choke when they see where Phil Simms is.

Tier 1: Legendary
Howard Cosell
John Madden

Tier 2: Hall of fame
Al Michaels
Joe Buck
Dick Enberg
Pat Summerall
Tony Romo (I don't think it's too early)

Tier 3: Hall of very good
Greg Gumbel
Cris Collinsworth
Troy Aikman (arrow pointing up, too)
Frank Gifford
Don Meredith
Merlin Olsen
Kevin Harlan
Ian Eagle
Matt Millen

Tier 4: Good announcers
Phil Simms
Mike Tirico (I realize this is low compared to most people)
Steve Levy
Boomer Esiason
Jim Nantz
Daryl Johnston (tough to rate)
Mark Schlereth
Thom Brennaman (boooo!)
Ronde Barber
Dan Fouts (he was, I swear)
Gus Johnson
Vern Lundquist
Edit: Rich Gannon (I agree with @Gunfighter 09)

Tier 5: Average announcers
Brian Griese
Louis Riddick
Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy (convinced they were one person with two voices)
Paul Maguire (being verrrry generous here because I think he was funny his first season or two)
Adam Amin (too soon to tell, really)
Aqib Talib (sky's the limit if he wants it)
Charles Davis
Spero Dedes
Sam Rosen
Chris Spielman
Andrew Catalon
Adam Archuleta
Tiki Barber
Trent Green
Jay Feeley
Steve Tasker
Booger McFarland

Tier 6: Completely unmemorable (literally I have no memory of them)
Tom McCarthy
James Lofton
Marv Albert
Steve Beuerlien (14 years?!)
Bill Macatee (ditto?)

Tier 7: I never understood the appeal
Bob Griese
Kenny Albert
Tim Brando
Kevin Burkhardt
Beasley Reece (messenger of the bad times)
Solomon Wilcots (ditto)

Tier 8: No one understood the appeal
Dan Dierdorf
Joe Theismann
Tony Siragusa
Randy Cross (thanks @luckiestman, I guess)
Joe Tessatore

Tier 9: Immediately change the channel
Chris Myers

Tier 10: Disasters
Dennis Miller
OJ Simpson
Tony Kornheiser
Jason Witten
 
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Archer1979

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I'm going old school, and it may more be the nostalgia talking, but the team of Pat Summerall and Jack Whitaker was as much about Whitaker as it was about Summerall. He's definitely either Tier 2 or Tier 3.

I'd bump Dierdorf up a tier if for no reason other than the Conrad Dobler stories.
 

PC Drunken Friar

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Tony Romo should get his own tier. I get the appeal. I just think he sucks.

Louis Riddick should be a riser or in the Hall of Very Good.

I actually like Booger McFarlen when they put him in the booth.
 

tims4wins

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I think there need to be separate categories for play by play announcer vs. analyst. Like how do you compare Nantz to Trent Green? Their roles are completely different.
 

Kliq

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Tony Romo should get his own tier. I get the appeal. I just think he sucks.

Louis Riddick should be a riser or in the Hall of Very Good.

I actually like Booger McFarlen when they put him in the booth.
I guess I have pretty low standard for a lot of commentators, I thought Booger was fine in the booth and I didn't have a problem this year with Levy. Agree that Riddick is good, although a weird thing to me on the MNF broadcast was that Griese and Riddick had very similar sounding voices and it was sometimes hard for me to figure out who was talking.

Not sure what his NFL credentials are but Verne Lundquist is my favorite football announcer of all time.
 

MuzzyField

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I guess I have pretty low standard for a lot of commentators, I thought Booger was fine in the booth and I didn't have a problem this year with Levy. Agree that Riddick is good, although a weird thing to me on the MNF broadcast was that Griese and Riddick had very similar sounding voices and it was sometimes hard for me to figure out who was talking.

Not sure what his NFL credentials are but Verne Lundquist is my favorite football announcer of all time.
Verne and Terry Bradshaw in the fog at Soldier Field is a classic.
 

djbayko

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Tony Romo should get his own tier. I get the appeal. I just think he sucks.
Tony Romo is great. But this is all subjective. There are factors which are going to be more important to some than others, and traits which some find offputting but others don't. I would personally move Ian Eagle down 2 tiers because I find his voice to be grating, but I realize I'm probably in the minority there.
 

BigJimEd

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Tony Romo should get his own tier. I get the appeal. I just think he sucks.

Louis Riddick should be a riser or in the Hall of Very Good.

I actually like Booger McFarlen when they put him in the booth.
Agreed on all.

Riddick is very good in the studio and good in game who I think will get better.

Romo is bottom tier of analysts.
 

Phil Plantier

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I guess I have pretty low standard for a lot of commentators, I thought Booger was fine in the booth and I didn't have a problem this year with Levy. Agree that Riddick is good, although a weird thing to me on the MNF broadcast was that Griese and Riddick had very similar sounding voices and it was sometimes hard for me to figure out who was talking.

Not sure what his NFL credentials are but Verne Lundquist is my favorite football announcer of all time.
Verne and Terry Bradshaw in the fog at Soldier Field is a classic.
Yeah, I might have underrated Verne. I had forgotten about him at first but now I hear his avuncular style in my head.
 

ifmanis5

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I don't like him either but by any objective definition, Nantz is an automatic Tier 2 and a first ballot sports broadcasting HOFer.
 

Seels

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Phil Simms was always terrible. I agree that Fouts at least at one point wasn't terrible (though he was never good), but Simms was always among the worst even at his best.
 

bankshot1

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I always thought Cosell thought he was bigger than the game. He was good but no way would I have him as the top-ranked football announcer. I liked him for the Ali fights though. Even he knew he wasn't as big as Ali.

IMO2 Kevin Harlan is fun to listen to and calls a good game.

My list would probably start with Al Michaels, John Madden and Ray Scott
 
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BusRaker

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That's a shit-load of older (mostly) white men. Has there ever been a woman at the highest level of play by play / color commentary?

Edit: googled it
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesley_Visser

Edit 2: This is a pretty awesome story
"Visser was married from 1983 to 2010 to sportscaster Dick Stockton, who broadcasts football and baseball for Fox and baseball and the NBA for Turner Sports. Visser and Stockton met at the sixth game of the 1975 World Series, where Stockton called Carlton Fisk's iconic home run for NBC and Visser was covering the game for The Boston Globe."
 
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MuzzyField

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Cosell is on the Mount Rushmore of NFL Broadcasting.

He, along with Roone Arledge straight-lined the NFL into the jugular vein of American culture. MNF is the Big Bang equivalent for the rise of NFL popularity and love him or more likely hate him, Cosell was the ignition switch.

Pete Rozelle was smart enough to let it happen and stay out the way.
 

BaseballJones

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That's a shit-load of older (mostly) white men. Has there ever been a woman at the highest level of play by play / color commentary?
The OP is keeping this to NFL broadcasting, and I think it's just play by play and color commentators. So there really haven't been many (any?) women in those roles for the NFL.
 

tims4wins

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Phil Simms was always terrible. I agree that Fouts at least at one point wasn't terrible (though he was never good), but Simms was always among the worst even at his best.
See I think he was decent when he first got going, then fell into the classic announcer trap. Go back and watch the Snow Bowl.
 

MuzzyField

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I think Beth Mowins has done more than one national game at this point, and even has some regional CBS and some preseason games in the vault.

Gayle Sierens did that one NBC game back in the 87 after having already transitioned from sports to main news anchor at the Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA a job she held for 30 years.
 

DourDoerr

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Cosell was immense for the league. His delivery, his choice of words were unique and gave each broadcast a veneer that that game was an Event. Unlike any other game announcer since - a true original. And that's despite his grudge against Oscar Madison.

I remember liking Bob Trumpy. He had a breezy style and a good voice, but honestly can't remember if he added much insight (which might be damning enough). Those qualities alone though would get him to at least average.
 

BaseballJones

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Beth Mowins and Gayle Sierens each were allowed to call one network game
I should know that, since I know Beth from our college days. I think she’s great but not enough NFL experience to put her in any sort of NFL broadcasters HOF or anything like that. But she’s good at her job.
 

EvilEmpire

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Good list.

I'd move Brian Griese and Louis Riddick up from tier 4 (Average) to tier 3 (Good) and Romo down from Tier 2 (HoF) to tier 3.

I do like Romo a lot and even mostly enjoy his somewhat goofy exuberance, so I think he's near the top of tier 3. He has natural talent and will probably learn to tone it down enough to broaden his appeal even more. Griese and Riddick are probably bottom third of tier 3, but I really like Riddick more than a lot of those guys. I think he's really good now and will steadily continue to improve.
 
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Phil Simms was always terrible. I agree that Fouts at least at one point wasn't terrible (though he was never good), but Simms was always among the worst even at his best.
I actually think Simms was good for a while and Fouts has always been close to the nut low.
 

Vinho Tinto

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Cosell was immense for the league. His delivery, his choice of words were unique and gave each broadcast a veneer that that game was an Event. Unlike any other game announcer since - a true original. And that's despite his grudge against Oscar Madison.
And he did a lot of it while drinking in the booth.

Growing up in the 80s, I have a sweet spot for Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen.

I love Joe Namath’s cadence and voice, but he was a terrible color man.
 

DourDoerr

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I’ll go to bat for Riddick too. Very smart with a keen eye and an interesting husk of a voice delivered with a little bit of rope-a-dope in his voice. He did a season on NFL Matchup and I thought he blew away Jaws.

BTW, I would put Ron Jaworsky in Tier 3. He knew what he was talking about and could make a passionate case for his observations. He seemed too much the diplomat in the MNF booth though and was dismissed in favor of Gruden. A terrible outcome that led to 6 years of the best modern approximation of the Dark Ages I’ve yet to see surpassed.
 

trekfan55

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Bill Walsh spent some years as the color guy for the #1 team on NBC, I liked him a lot.
 

Phil Plantier

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That Ray Scott and Al DeRogatis aren't on the list is a travesty.
The other (invisible) criterion that I had was whether I had any memory of them, even if it was just catching them on RedZone. I barely remember Cosell. Same with Meredith, although his charm was probably lost on youthful me.

Gruden didn't really leave an impression on me. I'll go on others' recommendations.

I might have overpromoted Romo. I think his current tone is wearing a little thin, but I think he can adapt.

Is tier 10 Ian Eagle?
This is the first I've heard of any dismay with Ian Eagle.
 

J.T. Pinch

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Chris Schenkel handled the Giants broadcasts for thirteen years including the famous 1958 Championship Game which was broadcasted nationally. (When Ed Sabol debuted his first film for the NFL in 1962, he hired Schenkel to do the voiceover of that years CG.) He possessed a great voice coupled with a silky-smooth delivery. He was also one of the most versatile broadcasters of his era, covering golf, boxing, bowling, basketball and the Olympics.

Agreed, Ray Scott is a legendary figure. Hearing him intone "first down Green Bay" could somehow raise goosebumps. He had a voice full of gravitas and possessed a unique economy of words to describe the action. A touchdown pass might go something like this: "Starr........to Dowler....six!

Scott was, of course, at the mic for the famous Ice Bowl. He insisted on watching the action with the window open in the press box because he believed he got a better feel for the action that way. Frank Gifford was alongside him that day doing the color when he famously remarked "I'll take another bite of my coffee."
 

jaytftwofive

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The other (invisible) criterion that I had was whether I had any memory of them, even if it was just catching them on RedZone. I barely remember Cosell. Same with Meredith, although his charm was probably lost on youthful me.

Gruden didn't really leave an impression on me. I'll go on others' recommendations.

I might have overpromoted Romo. I think his current tone is wearing a little thin, but I think he can adapt.



This is the first I've heard of any dismay with Ian Eagle.
Yes Ray Scott....."Intercepted..........Herb Adderly............Touchdown!"
 

jaytftwofive

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Cosell I couldn't stand for baseball that's for sure. He used to inerrrupt Keith Jackson a lot, particularly Chambliss game winning HR Game 5 76 ALCS. Somebody should show the video of him slurring his words because he had an "inner ear infection" on MNF in Philly November, 1970. And Meredith said...."Yeah he had an inner ear infection....he had an inner era infection all over my boots". LOL.
 
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jaytftwofive

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Chris Schenkel handled the Giants broadcasts for thirteen years including the famous 1958 Championship Game which was broadcasted nationally. (When Ed Sabol debuted his first film for the NFL in 1962, he hired Schenkel to do the voiceover of that years CG.) He possessed a great voice coupled with a silky-smooth delivery. He was also one of the most versatile broadcasters of his era, covering golf, boxing, bowling, basketball and the Olympics.

Agreed, Ray Scott is a legendary figure. Hearing him intone "first down Green Bay" could somehow raise goosebumps. He had a voice full of gravitas and possessed a unique economy of words to describe the action. A touchdown pass might go something like this: "Starr........to Dowler....six!

Scott was, of course, at the mic for the famous Ice Bowl. He insisted on watching the action with the window open in the press box because he believed he got a better feel for the action that way. Frank Gifford was alongside him that day doing the color when he famously remarked "I'll take another bite of my coffee."
Yes Schenkel should be considered.
 

Vandalman

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Jim Simpson on NBC

Kyle Rote, who coined the phrase, "You cannot stop a great player like (ex. Jim Brown), you can only hope to contain him."

Geez, I’m old.