2012 NFL Broadcasting Guide
Jon Gruden is MNF's lone analyst, despite uncertainty about his coaching future
CBS is planning big coverage for Super Bowl, including on CBS Sports Network
Jets at Patriots marks the first time ever NBC will air a Thanksgiving night game
We are a nation that debates everything except this:
We love the NFL.
It unites us like no other television programming. Last year NFL games were watched by an average of 17.5 million viewers -- the NFL's second highest viewership average since 1989 -- and accounted for 23 of the 25 most-watched TV shows among all programming and the 16 most-watched shows on cable last fall. A record 37 NFL game telecasts averaged at least 20 million viewers -- topping the previous mark set last year (35) and up from 16 in 2006.
So everyone is watching football, but who is watching those who broadcast the sport you love? That's where we come in. Here's SI.com's NFL broadcasting guide to the 2012 season:
The NFL Today -- James Brown (host), Bill Cowher (analyst), Boomer Esiason (analyst), Dan Marino (analyst), Shannon Sharpe (analyst), Jason La Canfora (information), and Lesley Visser (reporter).
1. Jim Nantz (play by play) and Phil Simms (analyst).
2. Greg Gumbel (play by play) and Dan Dierdorf (analyst).
3. Ian Eagle (play by play) and Dan Fouts (analyst).
4. Marv Albert (play by play) and Rich Gannon (analyst).
5. Kevin Harlan (play by play) and Solomon Wilcots (analyst).
6. Bill Macatee (play by play) and Steve Tasker (analyst).
7. Spero Dedes (play by play ) and Steve Beuerlein (analyst).
La Canfora replaces Charley Casserly as the lead information broker on CBS. "Charley did a great job for us," said CBS Sports president Sean McManus. "I think he'll do a really good job for the NFL Network. We were looking for someone who could contribute to all of our platforms and Jason has the energy, exuberance and the 24-hour commitment. I talked to coaches and owners around the league, and I watched what he was doing. I saw how many stories he was on top of, and he looked to me the ideal candidate. He literally lives and breathes the NFL 24 hours a day."
CBS is making a move on ESPN's terrain by featuring seven days of cable programming (on the CBS Sports Network) next year from Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. The network also will debut a new hour-long show ("NFL Monday Q") Sept. 10 on the CBS Sports Network, featuring Simms, Gannon, Beuerlein and host Adam Schein.
"It's tough to have a viable cable network without regular NFL programming and this is the first of what I hope will be many announcements," said McManus. "Traditionally, CBS Sports has basically covered the Super Bowl on Sunday. We'd do a little programming on Saturday and then 10 or 11 hours of coverage on Sunday. I can promise you this year we will do seven complete days of coverage, almost 24/7."
CBS will broadcast Super Bowl XLVII from New Orleans on Feb. 3, 2013. It's always a big year for the network that broadcasts the title game.
Super Bowl XLVII marks the seventh time Simms will serve as the Super Bowl television analyst. But here's something even more remarkable: Super Bowl XLVII will mark Esiason's 13th title game as an analyst on the radio side. Only Hank Stram has done more Super Bowls as a radio color commentator.
Stability in its broadcasting teams and studio show, especially with the top three announcing teams. On this end, we note here that Eagle and Fouts are the most underrated broadcasting team in the NFL, deftly mixing humor and insight weekly.
BEST GAMES (all games ET)
Bills at Jets (Sept. 9, 1 p.m.), Ravens at Eagles (Sept. 16, 1 p.m.), Jets at Steelers (Sept. 16, 4:15 p.m.), Chiefs at Saints (Sept. 23, 1 p.m.), Raiders at Broncos (Sept. 30, 4:05 p.m.), Broncos at Patriots (Oct. 7, 4:05 p.m.), Bills at Niners (Oct. 7, 4:05 p.m.), Jets at Patriots (Oct. 21, 4:15 p.m.), Steelers at Giants (Nov. 4, 4:15 p.m.), Broncos at Panthers (Nov. 11, 1:00 p.m.), Bills at Patriots (Nov. 11, 1 p.m.), Texans at Lions (Nov. 22, 12:30 p.m.), Ravens at Chargers (Nov. 25, 4:05 p.m.), Steelers at Ravens (Dec. 2, 4:15 p.m.), Broncos at Ravens (Dec. 16, 1 p.m.), Steelers at Cowboys (Dec. 16, 4:15 p.m.), Jets at Bills (Dec. 30, 1 p.m.), Chiefs at Ravens (Dec. 30, 4:15 p.m.).
SI.com: What differentiates The NFL Today from other studio shows?
McManus: The personalities. Listen, I think all four shows are extremely well done and have wonderful personalities. But I think we have been able to find a very good mix between light-hearted camaraderie and hardcore football analysis. I think that is the secret to it. I watch all the NFL pregame shows and I enjoy them all. But I think we have the best mix.
SI.com: Is there one player who really interests you this season in terms of performance?
Cowher: "I'm really curious about [Patriots receiver] Brandon Lloyd. It's the first time Tom Brady has had an outside receiver in a long time. That's a guy I'm interested in to see if he can be a difference-maker.
OBLIGATORY PEYTON MANNING COMMENT
"The expectation level for Peyton is unrealistic because of what we think about the old Peyton. He has not played for a year. I think if his nerve comes back he will be a better quarterback in November than he is in September. I think all of the attention in the first couple of games will be about whether he can take a hit. Can he stay healthy? Will he have velocity on his throws in December? I think if he is able to do that, I think they will be in the hunt. They have a good defense and they are in a good division." - Cowher.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
CBS has sold 85 percent of its Super Bowl commercial inventory, with pricing as high as $3.8 million for a 30-second ad.
MUST FOLLOW ON TWITTER
One of the league's ultimate insiders, La Canfora is an essential follow for NFL fans.
Sunday NFL Countdown -- Chris Berman (host), Cris Carter (analyst), Mike Ditka (analyst), Merrill Hoge (analyst), Tom Jackson (analyst), Ron Jaworski (analyst), Keyshawn Johnson (analyst), Suzy Kolber (host), Chris Mortensen (information/reporter), Adam Schefter (information/reporter), Josina Anderson (reporter), Bob Holtzman (reporter), Rachel Nichols (reporter), Sal Paolantonio (reporter), and Ed Werder (reporter), Kenny Mayne (features).
Monday Night Countdown -- Berman, Carter, Trent Dilfer (analyst), Ditka, Jackson, Johnson, Mortensen, Lisa Salters (reporter), Stuart Scott (host), Steve Young (analyst), and Schefter.
Monday Night Football -- Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Jon Gruden (analyst), Salters (reporter).
The major change is elevating Gruden. He is now the lone analyst on Monday Night Football and the face of the show. "Jon is a unique talent and has a lot to offer," said Monday Night Football producer Jay Rothman. "You'll see there's really no three-man booth out there in terms of football coverage, really in NFL or college football. It's very difficult in a game with a play clock and the short window in which you dissect the game and analyze the game, that sort of thing. It's cluttered. That's why you don't really see it. I think this allows for more space and it allows for us to be more precise and on point. It allows us to showcase Jon's and Mike's talents, and we think it's the right move."
Jaworski shifts to work across a number of NFL outlets, including Sunday NFL Countdown, where producers will incorporate him into discussions with the regular staffers. Hoge and Kolber also join the morning show. ESPN wants to get Dilfer as much exposure as possible, so he moves full-time to Monday Night Countdown. Bill Parcells will no longer appear on Sunday Morning Countdown.
Given the success FOX has had with rules analyst Mike Pereira -- and how much NFL referees are in the news at the start of the season -- ESPN has brought in retired football official Gerry Austin as an analyst. He will be in the booth with Gruden and Tirico and might appear on-camera if the situation warrants it.
"It has frustrated Jon the amount of time we've spent talking about rules and I've come around to agree with Jon," Tirico said. "It's a drag on the momentum of the game. To have as great an expert as Gerry Austin, with his on-field experience, to pop in when something happens to explain, clearly, concisely what is going on, is a great addition to our Monday Night season."
Dilfer continues to get more airtime. This is good.
Tebow programming. Our fear, as always, is that Bristol can't quit its Tebow addiction. We'll see how much the Jets backup gets talked about on Sundays during the opening weeks.
It's heartening to see ESPN management invest in its Fantasy Football Now studio show. The show has expanded to two hours this fall (11 a.m.-1 p.m. on ESPN2) and is arguably the best studio show out there.
BEST GAMES (all times 8:30 ET p.m.)
Broncos at Falcons (Sept. 17), Bears at Cowboys (Oct. 1), Texans at Jets (Oct. 8), Broncos at Chargers (Oct. 15), Lions at Bears (Oct. 22), Eagles at Saints (Nov. 5), Chiefs at Steelers (Nov. 12), Bears at Niners (Nov. 19), Panthers at Eagles (Nov. 26), Falcons at Lions (Dec. 22).
SI.com: How concerned are you that Jon will return to coaching?
Tirico: I'm still waiting for the 30 or so guarantees that said he was going back into coaching. I'm waiting for those people to say they were not right. Jon, at some point, will go back. I don't know what that point is. I don't know if he knows what that point is. But instead of living in potentially tomorrow land, I live in the present.
"Do I want him to go back? Hell, no. I love his company and he's become one of my better friends. There are few days that go by where we don't talk. I don't want him to go back but I want him to be happy. I think when this started, very few people thought he would be doing it for this long and here we are in Year Four. Will Jon be coaching in 2013? I have no earthly idea. But given where his temperature has been the last couple of years, I think the chances are good that he will be around with us."
SI.com: If you had to give Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III some advice, what would that be?
Gruden: Just try to show steady improvement. Don't try to play outside yourself. Try to learn this offense. Trust Mike Shanahan. Trust this system. It's a proven system that works. Take care of yourself. Just be careful when you're scrambling. You're going to create a lot of plays with your legs, but try to learn a little bit from Michael Vick. You don't want to take too many hits unnecessarily. You want to be on the practice field on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That's key for his development. So trust Mike Shanahan, lead the team in effort, be there early, be there late, set a tone, and just trust your God-given ability, because you've got a lot of it.
OBLIGATORY PEYTON MANNING COMMENT
"I hate to be a devil's advocate, but I think the schedule is tough. The battery of [Colts long-time offensive coordinator] Tom Moore, [former Colts center] Jeff Saturday, [former Colts line coach] Howard Mudd, the men that trained him and helped develop him and put that offense in for him are no longer with him. I think he's doing a lot of things on his own from installing the offense to calling the offense to executing the offense. He's going to have to do it with a very short period of time and a lot of young players around him. So I think it's going to be a little bit more of a struggle than people remember. But I do think physically he's back, he's quick, he looks natural to me behind the center. I think a realistic expectation is 8-8 if you ask me." - Gruden.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
ESPN's Monday Night Football was the most-watched series on cable for the sixth straight year, with an average of 13.3 million viewers.
MUST FOLLOW ON TWITTER
Schefter's Twitter empire has reached nearly two million followers, a remarkable number for an information gatherer. Honestly, you can't go wrong with any of ESPN's NFL types, from Chris Mortensen to John Clayton to Trey Wingo to Matthew Berry.