Nover’s View: Best and Worst of Monday Night Football

On October 26, 2021, in NFL, by Stephen

By Stephen Nover

Of all the announcers available, you would think that highly prestigious NFL Monday Night Football could do better than Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick.

Riddick isn’t bad. He understands the game and personnel. But Griese has no personality and doesn’t say anything of value or interest. Levy is plain overmatched. He doesn’t know football well enough to do play-by-play.

The Monday night crew has a long list of bad play-by-play announcers. Levy is right there with the worst of them. I should know. I’ve watched Monday Night Football since its inception in 1970.

Here is my list of the all-time best and worst of the Monday night announcers.

Best Play-by-Play Announcers:

1. Al Michaels: Simply the greatest football play-by-play announcer of all-time. Astute, sharp, witty, totally on the ball. Never makes a mistake and isn’t afraid to point out things other play-by-play announcers would shy away from. His ”Now the game really is Over,” as a subtle reference to the total going Over in a game where the outcome was decided but not yet the total is a classic.

2. Keith Jackson: Jackson was the first play-by-play announcer in 1970. He brought a charisma to the job with funny expressions and was smart enough to stay out of the way of Howard Cosell and Don Meredith.

3. Mike Tirico: He wasn’t spectacular, or strong like Michaels. Just a solid pro.

Worst Play-by-Play Announcers:

1. Frank Gifford: One of the most overrated broadcasters of all-time. Constantly would make mistakes. He was nicknamed ”Faultless Frank.” He should have been called just the opposite – ”Faulting Frank.”

2. Mike Patrick: I just hated this guy. Huge ego. Always screaming whether it was a 2-yard run, or a legitimate big play. You never could tell the difference. A receiver would make a routine catch and Patrick would go nuts yelling, ”I can’t believe what I just saw.” No, I could believe it. I just couldn’t believe what I heard.

3. Steve Levy: A bumptious, overmatched lightweight.

Best Color Commentators:

1. Dennis Miller: I know, I know. Just about everybody hated Miller during his two-year stint of color commentating from 2000-2001. I admit he was ill-suited to the job. But I found him absolutely hilarious when I could understand his jokes and arcane references. I wasn’t in need of someone trying to explain plays and strategy. Miller was a most welcomed change of pace. I’m still shocked he was even hired for the position and then actually lasted a second season.

2. Howard Cosell: Another highly controversial figure. Cosell didn’t know the game that well. But he knew how to articulate his points and would go after anybody, or anything. He was a heavyweight. He also was great doing halftime highlights in his staccato voice and was a tremendous interviewer. Like him or hate him, Cosell really made Monday Night Football.

3. Don Meredith: He played great opposite Cosell. Extremely witty with a knack of knowing and saying the right thing at the right moment. Meredith had the greatest ad-lib in Monday Night Football history when the camera panned to the stands focusing on a fan, who unexpectedly raised his middle finger at the TV audience. Undeterred and unflappable, Meredith said look he’s pointing out that his team is No. 1.

4. John Madden: The best combination of knowledge, insight and humor of any color commentator.

5. Alex Karras: He had maybe the best line in Monday Night Football history when the camera zoomed in on frightening-looking Otis Sistrunk, Karras quipped that Sistrunk was from the University of Mars.

Worst Color Commentators:

1. Boomer Esiason: There’s a scene in a famous Woody Allen comedy where a kid in grade school always gets the wrong answer and Woody Allen just puts his hands over his face and slaps his head. That’s how I feel about Esiason. The guy gets a pass from the national media because he’s photogenic and articulate. But he always says something wrong. His opinions are terrible.

2. Frank Gifford: Gifford was a triple threat when he played football for the Giants. He was a double threat – to the audience – when he was a broadcaster being horrible at play-by-play and just as ineffective when he was a color commentator never providing any insight or provocative viewpoints. Just a huge bore.

3. Paul Maguire: Mcguire had the reputation of mixing football knowledge with being clever and funny. He was neither. His stories and jokes were clingworthy. He also was far more wrong than right on his comments.

4. O.J. Simpson: O.J. makes the top-five list independent of being a killer. He was a jovial, superficial cipher who never brought any insight or inside information. He just smiled and made bland and innocuous comments.

5. Jason Witten: Fortunately Witten lasted just a single season, 2018. He brought no special insight. He was a master at malapropism.

Best Sideline Reporters:

1. Lesley Visser: She was more than just a pretty face. She brought a journalistic touch to what started out to be a fluff position.

2. Michele Tafoya: Knowledgeable and asked the right questions.

Worst Sideline Reporters

1. Eric Dickerson: The first requirement to being an announcer is the ability to talk. Dickerson had trouble speaking. He was hard to understand. As great a running back that he was, that’s how bad he was as a sideline reporter.

2. Lisa Guerrero: She didn’t know football. This was apparent and highly embarrassing.


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