Tim Brant and Hank Stram ( CBS)—A cocaptain of Maryland's 1971 football team, Brandt has a thorough knowledge of the sport, but his boyish enthusiasm can get tiresome. Stram is an excellent teacher—runners should square their shoulders before getting tackled is one of his favorite tips—but the emotion of the game seems to elude him. His words often sound prerecorded, and many of his pet phrases have become shopworn.
Brant, C-; Stram, C-
Tim Ryan and Dan Jiggetts ( CBS)—Ryan is especially good at telling you who's in the game and who's not, a vanishing art among play-byplay announcers. However, his lack of passion makes you wonder whether he really likes football. Jiggetts, a former Chicago Bears offensive tackle, is animated and, for a newcomer, surprisingly adept at making his points without stepping on his partner's toes. But he often falls into the trap of belaboring the obvious and feels compelled to say something after every down. Give Jiggetts time; he's a comer.
Ryan, B-; Jiggetts, C.
Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen ( NBC)—Enberg brings knowledge, emotion and congeniality to the booth. The viewer gets the sense that Enberg thoroughly enjoys his work. If he has a weakness, it's that his mood never varies from game to game. Olsen remains a wise and observant old head. If you compare the substance of his comments with Madden's, you'll find no big difference. However, Olsen's understated style has become a bit pass�.
Enberg, A; Olsen, B-.
Marv Albert and Paul Maguire ( NBC)—In a business not noted for candor, Albert is the most outspoken NFL play-by-play caller on TV. He may not be especially authoritative on football, but he's superb on the basics, such as how many yards a runner has made through the third quarter and how far a punt traveled. He also has a delightfully droll sense of humor. On a recent Sunday, for instance, he told Maguire, "I was so excited when I was told I'd be working with Maguire, but I thought they were talking about Al."
Maguire came out of the studio at midseason and replaced the lackluster Joe Namath, who has been teamed up with play-by-play man Tom Hammond to cover less important games. An opinionated, lunchpail-type commentator, Maguire reminds you of a guy you might meet on the corner stool at a sports bar. But unlike a lot of bar flies, he often makes trenchant observations about the game.
Albert, B-; Maguire, B.
Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy ( NBC)—While Summerall and Enberg are thinking heads, Criqui is a talking one. He has a clear, crisp voice but also a penchant for filling the airwaves with irrelevant information. Trumpy is fearless and refreshing. For example, he isn't afraid to upbraid refs who, to avoid the embarrassment of having one of their calls overturned by a replay official, claim that a whistle was inadvertently blown after the play, creating a dead ball. But, oh, the bluster! Trumpy is like the guy who dares you to slug him if you don't like what he's saying. Sometimes you feel like doing just that.