Comparisons to Madden inevitable for incoming analyst Collinsworth
Cris Collinsworth knows he has big shoes to fill in the Sunday Night Football booth
He won't try to be Madden, he'll continue to editorialize -- one of his strengths
Despite a strong résumé, don't expect to see Warren Moon on national television
Two weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune reminded Cris Collinsworth what NFL fans will be thinking for the next five months:
"Do I know the comparisons are coming?" Collinsworth said. "Do I know that people are going to say that he's no John Madden. I get all that. I'm 50 years old. I understand exactly where I am and I'm willing take on the challenge. I may never be as good as John Madden, but it doesn't mean I can't do a good job in my own right, and that's all I am trying to do."
NBC executives had always planned to replace Madden with Collinsworth, who co-hosted the network's Football Night in America studio show for the past three years; the timetable got moved up dramatically when Madden announced in April that he was leaving NBC's broadcast booth. The move stunned most of Madden's colleagues, especially Collinsworth, who enjoyed the work-life balance his studio job had afforded him.
"The untold story of this is that I didn't want this job," Collinsworth said during a recent interview with SI.com. "I have one kid in college and a son who is a high school senior who plays football every Friday night. I also have another son who is playing freshman football and a daughter who plays soccer. Doing the studio show meant I went to New York on Saturday night [from his home in Northern Kentucky] and typically came home on Monday morning. Now I leave home every Thursday night, and to see everything I want to see involving my family is incredibly hard.
"I know it's my job to take on the burden of being the guy who follows John Madden. Nobody in their right mind would volunteer for this job. It's not a good professional position to be in. Yet it is my job. [NBC Sports head] Dick Ebersol asked me to do it and I honestly thought about telling him that it was a career trap. You don't want to be the guy that follows John Madden, but I am."
Collinsworth and announcer Al Michaels blended well during the network's Hall of Fame game broadcast on Aug. 9. The duo makes its regular-season debut on Sept. 10 (Titans at Steelers) for a Thursday night broadcast. Three days later, Sunday Night Football debuts with the Bears at Packers.
One major difference between Collinsworth and Madden is that Collinsworth will editorialize in the booth far more than his predecessor. "I offend people," Collinsworth said. "I know that. There are a lot of people who don't like a football analyst on the games doing that. They just want a straight calling of the game and there are a lot of places that they can hear that. But that's not what I do. ... Even though I fully acknowledge that sometimes what I say is wrong -- and I try to be the first to admit when I am wrong -- you are going to know what I think at the end of the broadcast. If that ends up working out, great. If that ends up not working out, I will get to see a lot of my kids' games."
Madden told SI.com recently that he's not coming back, but if Brett Favre has taught us anything, the NFL is a never-say-never league. What if Madden changes his mind and returns to the booth?
"I would give him a hug, and say thank you very much," Collinsworth said. "Then I'd call Bob Costas [the host of Football Night in America] and tell him the band is back together again."
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