Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Jan 2006

Dr. Z's Commentator Awards

Always a favorite. Dr. Z gives four stars this year to five crews: Ron Pitts and Tim Ryan, Kenny Albert and Brian Baldinger, Ian Eagle and Solomon Wilcots, Kevin Harlan and Randy Cross (sort of Dr. Z's "most improved" award) and Al Michaels and John Madden -- important games only. Dr. Z gives MNF two grades: four stars when it is an important game, zero starts for unimportant games because, "when it was a clunker, and the Monday night crew had its share, M&M would simply leave the game and roam the pastures of discourse and debate." By the way, speaking of voting for the best and worst announcers, the third annual FO awards balloting should be up in a day or two, with those categories, the usual other categories, and a couple of new ones like Most Overrated Special Teams Player and the Art Rooney Jr. Award for Executive of the Year.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 26 Jan 2006

51 comments, Last at 27 Jan 2006, 6:31pm by LnGrrrR


by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 2:49pm

Ron Pitts and Tim Ryan?! 4 stars? Whenever I hear Pitts I think his audience is males 5-13... he's like a kiddie color man. (I say this before reading the article)

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:07pm

(After reading article)
Well, I guess he likes Pitts' sense of humor, which is what I find annoying. It's not bad every once in awhile, but I think he takes it too far sometimes... meh...

by Steve Z (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:07pm

And Randy Cross is useless.

by spenceKarl (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:09pm

Does anyone know why so many NFL commentators insist on prefacing every frickin statement with "You talk about..."? It drives me insane. Never in my day-to-day life have I ever spoke like that.

Would make a fantastic drinking game though.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:17pm

when assessing Dr Z's ratings, it's important to remember that he has a very (shall we say) idiosyncratic set of standards

his insistence on accuracy of ball-spotting as being of overriding importance is strange, considering that the GAME IS ON FRIGGIN TV!!

You can see it with your own ears

he has one throwaway line in there
Oddly enough, Frank Gifford, when he first started with CBS, was highly critical, almost a ripper. Then a year or two later he blanded it out and lost his bite

I can vouch for that, since I happened to be living in NY when Gifford first started announcing, and he was quite the smart ass--very sardonic; exactly the opposite of the milquetoast he became on MNF

by Smeghead (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:21pm

I knew he was going to dog on Phil Simms.

by Richard (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:22pm

I think he was too hard on M&M's attempts to entertain the prime-time, weeknight crowds during blowouts. Obviously, for MNF, the mandate changes when it's Baltimore 48, Green Bay 3 and you're killing four minutes of game time. He should have berated the producers, not the announcing team.

by putnamp (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:24pm


Another fun one is to find any average internet forum where people talk about opinion-driven topics like cars, politics, or things of taste. Then, take a drink with each post or response-to-quote that starts with "Well,".

by ToxikFetus (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:29pm

Re: 4

"Let me tell you something..."
"I tell you what..."
"You wanna see..."

by David (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:33pm

Does anyone know why so many NFL commentators insist on prefacing every frickin statement with “You talk about…�? It drives me insane. Never in my day-to-day life have I ever spoke like that.

Any number of football-announcer verbal tics tick me off. "On" for "in," as in "fifteen carries on the day," stilted posessives "The foot of Michael Vick"? Why not "Vick's foot"? And so on.

by David S. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:34pm

Re: #4

"And Urlacher is able to tackle Foster after a gain of 7, anyways, getting to back to what I was saying about Brett Favre, here's a guy..."

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:38pm

Yah, I don't agree with the criticism of Madden and Michaels during blowouts. They're perfectly capable of doing a better job, and they know it - but the average viewer wouldn't watch. It's just that simple.

Plus, in some sense, I am a bit of an average viewer. The exact play-by-play details of the last New England game weren't that important. The Jets weren't doing anything interesting. New England wasn't doing anything interesting. It's tough to say "Well, New England's defensive line and secondary are completely dominating the Jets... again, this play." over and over. It was actually more fun to hear random information, in my mind.

by pcs (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:41pm

I thank Dr. Z for his comments on Bill Maas. Couldn't agree more.

#4: drink whenever an announcer uses "football" as an unnecessary adjective: "He's a tremendous football player..." "This is a solid football team..." "He just goes out and makes football plays..." "He's a heckuva football coach..."

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:42pm

I think this should be a link to the single-page version of the article.

by ToxikFetus (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:49pm

Troy Aikman should be prohibited from saying "National Football League." He insists on saying those three words when "N-F-L", "football", "the league", etc. would suffice. I know others are guilty of this, but it gets really tiring to hear how so-and-so is a player in the "National Football League." Really, Troy? Is that what the little "NFL on FOX" logo means?

by spenceKarl (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:50pm

The ultimate is a statement that begins with "You talk about..." and ends with a superlative. It's a great two-fer.

by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:59pm

Since Dr. Z loves Matt Millen so much as an announcer, can we please, please, please get him back in the booth?

by ScottR (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:03pm

Drink any time Joe Buck - when not talking - slowly glances towards the camera with an expression that suggests he's actually admiring his reflection in the lense.

by Brian (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:05pm

You talk about a great article on National Football League announcers...this might be the best one this year!

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:11pm

#10: I think it's actually (in linguistic terms), either paradigmatic error or simply just the paradigm sports uses for stats. The language itself is reminiscent of accounting terminology, and the two (accountancy and football statistics) are both somewhat similar in that they use math, rates and other nerdy stuff. Observe:

"He's rushed for 60 yards so far on the game"
"This account has gained 30% on balance this quarter"

Stuff like that.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:24pm

RE: #19

Brian, You talk about great football comments... Bam! That was one right there. Joe Theisman and I were having dinner with Brian just last night and he was telling us that, for National Football League football announcers, the football standards are set pretty high. On any given Sunday, any of these guys--any of 'em--can dominate a broadcast and take it to the house.

Okay, who has time on his hands to come up with rules for a drinking game? (ala Beer Trek) We can test drive it during the preseason and "play online" so that by the fourth quarter, we'r all typing like thish ngkdjshiouwertyr564#@!sfd. (hic)

by Chris Owen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:32pm

Fun article as always.

Maybe people can help me with a couple of questions. First, how much work do the spotters do? Up until a few weeks ago, I had myself convinced that the role of the spotter was to identify celebrities and players' parents in the crowd, but gradually I figured out that they help the play-by-play guys. How much do they contribute? Do they figure out the yardage on certain plays? Granted, it's quite simple to see a guy ran for four yards, but generally I'm impressed when an announcer immediately notes how long a play is, especially when it's a long run or pass, or a punt that crosses the 50 and it's not immediately clear where the ball is going to be spotted at the end of the play.

Secondly, I have to ask about one particularly mystifying announcer cliche: referring to a player by name in the plural. What is up with this? "You know Gregg, the Steelers' offense just isn't the same without the Ben Roethlisbergers, the Marvel Smiths and the Jerome Bettisessessesss in there." Is is just me, or has the science of cloning quietly advanced much further than I'd thought?

by ScottR (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:41pm

I know a lot of people dislike Simmons, but he had a funny article this season in which he mockingly scripted the "Sunday Night Football" crew eulogizing Pat Morita's life.

RE: 22 (Chris)

The annoyance you refer to is similar to when announcers reference "a Tom Brady, a Deon Branch, or a Richard Seymour"

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:46pm

Well, ;) he's luck he hasn't seen Brennaman and Green. They're painful to listen to.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:10pm

Well, puntnamp, I'll drink to that!

By the way, Z is spot-on with his complaint about announcers who won't inform about personnel changes prior to the snap, and producers who insist on showing close-ups of the qb's face prior to the snap, instead of how the teams are lined up. Drives me nuts.

by Richard (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:22pm

Drink anytime Joe Buck passes a moral or ethical judgement on somebody.

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:31pm

He overrated the SNF team.

by Richard (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:33pm

With the regression of Banks and King (regression below the mean, IMO), Dr. Z is the only reason to go to CNNSI for football coverage. He's worth it, though. There are very few national writers bringing us something distinct that's still insightful, but Dr. Z does that. You may disagree with a lot that he offers, like some of the opinions on announcing teams, but at least he doesn't patronize the audience by omitting his reasons and asking the reader to accept his views by fiat.

by Falco (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:34pm

just finished slamming my third beer.

by Zac (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:37pm

I'd like to read that article, Scott, but I'm not an ESPN Insider. :-(

by mactbone (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:49pm

Re 30:
Just go to one of the open discussion threads during the regular season - I forgot the poster's name but sometime during the Sunday night game he would post a great Three Stooges parody. He probably wrote about 15 of them over the course of the year.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 6:04pm

I'll concede that some of those remarks are directed toward the producers, not the announcers. However, if Dr. Z did producer ratings, I think they would vary from two to minus five stars.

I am looking forward to the day when we can select a camera angle that shows the formations of both teams before the snap. I actually am aware that the QB will occasionally look left and right before calling for the snap of the ball - I don't need to see it. I don't care what Brett Favre's sister's husband's dog's personal trainer looks like. If you have to interview him, give us the sound and focus on the field. There's no need to take up the entire screen to announce that yes, after eight seasons in the league and two appearances this season on MNF, so-and-so still went to LSU. Hey, and if there was a penalty on the play, the least you could do was put up a graphic about it. I think I saw a penalty late in the NFC championship that Fox didn't even bother to acknowledge on-screen - the only reason I caught it was that I saw the ref walking back with the ball.

Yep, even in a big blowout, I want to watch the game. I do not want to see or hear about nested fowl.

by andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 6:19pm

There is SAP technology. You can get a program say in spanish (wonder how they rate) for example...

now... if they just had an alternate "personnel, down&distance" channel...

by Erin (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 6:26pm

Another way to get hammered by the second quarter is to drink every time Mike Patrick refers to a play or player as "brilliant!" Choose a Guinness for greater panache.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 6:27pm

Should be available in 5 years on "NFL Sunday Ticket" package. It will be commercial free $500 per season with access to 5 different camera angles on live TV. You'll need Microsoft OS 2010 and be piping through a computer to control all that action plus slow motion replays.

by cd6 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 7:13pm

I can't believe nobody made a joke about when announcers (I'm looking your way, Joe Theismann) reach real deep into the vocabulary bag to come up with words that have no place in a football broadcast

"This guy here is a real special teams maven"
"With their team down 14 points, the onus is on the offense to get into the end zone"

In my version of hell, its the Sunday Night Crew teamed with Phil Simms announcing a Brett Farve-Tom Brady endless superbowl.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 7:18pm

#35: Crap, I run linux!

I guess I'll add "Windows" to the list of "American Beer, Trucks and NASCAR" defining what you need to like to be a football fan.

by Erin (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 7:20pm

Theismann's high-water mark came when he opened a broadcast with "To win tonight, the Raiders are going to have to outscore their opponents."

by jebmak (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 7:30pm

Well said Crushinator (#27), well said.

by Sara (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 7:56pm

At least NASCAR fans have the option of listening to the teams' in-car radios during the race, rather than the inane announcing crew.

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 8:50pm

#35: Crap, I run linux!

Damn, me too...

guess I’ll add “Windows� to the list of “American Beer, Trucks and NASCAR� defining what you need to like to be a football fan.

I wish I could think the Windows requirement was a joke, but I'm afraid that day is coming.

But at least so far I've managed to get away with substituting motorcycle racing for NASCAR. :D

by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 9:02pm

I think M&M best highlight was the New England-Miami hame from a year ago when they seemed to forget Miami was on the field until 5 minutes left in the game. It's like they just thought the game was going to be a blow out so they just ignored it.

by Alan Milnes (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 9:08pm

re 35 - I'm surprised it's not available yet in the States. We have it here in Europe for Formula 1 and big football games. Typically 8 / 10 different views you can choose from. For the Superbowl we will have the network picture but a choice of audio feeds - there will be the american feed and a (even more?) dumbed down one for new viewers.

by Adam (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 10:28pm

Paul Maguire: Did you see that? They just dumped a whole bucket of Gatorade on Jon Gruden. But let me tell you something, Jon Gruden is tough. Do you know how tough Jon Gruden is? Jon Gruden is so tough that he could DRINK, ALL of that Gatorade. Thats how tough Jon Gruden is.

Mike Patrick: Without a doubt one of the best in the game today IF NOT EVER!

Joe Theisman: I completely agree.

by FastEddy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 10:52pm

And for real fun, chug a beer every time someone says, "World Champions". Won't happen all that much, but it will happen. I've heard it several times this year. "Everyone's looking to knock off the Patriots since they're the World Champions."

Wha? The NFL plays by a closed set of rules that no one else plays by. The CFL doesn't play by the same set of rules and even if they were willing to do so some Sunday, the NFL would never play them. It would be silly to even take the slightest chance that they would lose through some miracle. Japan doesn't have an NFL team. Neither does Romania, Khazakhstan, Bolivia, or Thailand.

"And for outsider football sites, Football Outsiders is the World Champion. Bam! I'm telling you right now that *nobody* does outsider like Football Outsiders. Lemme tell you about the World Champions of DVOA, I tell you what, that's Football Outsiders."

by primantis (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 1:16am

I'm continually surprised that when people criticize the three stooges they focus on Theismann, overlooking the far more miserable Maguire. It's like discussing evil European dictators and focusing on Mussolini. Don't forget about the guy from Germany, he was worse.

by Josh (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 2:30am

RE 18

I dont suggest telling people to do that. i dont think you want to be the cause of a million deaths by alcohol poisoning because of your challenge.......or joe bucks vanity

by Hoover (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 9:50am

Come on -- how about Dan Dierdorf talking about "chicanery" and "foot speed".

Makes me puke.

by Duane (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 1:14pm

The linguistic idiocy goes well beyond sports figures. Have you noticed that nothing about the weather will happen "tonight". It'll happen "during the overnight hours", or worse, "during the overnight". Part of it is using publicly what was once in-house lingoism. I also think it's a sign of people insecure in their linguistic ability trying to sound more deft, but really sounding ignorant. Or they're just ignorant and copying what they've heard from others.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 2:52pm

I just find it hilarious when one of the Stooges will make a completely hyperbolic statement and Theeeeeeesman, with all seriousness, will affirm the statement. Not so much for what he does, but for how he does it with such sincerity and solemnity.

"I completely agree, Paul."

I also think he waffles more than the others. During the Chi-Atl game he just couldn't make up his mind about Grossman and Orton. Earlier in the week he had already said that it would be a complete mistake to yank Orton. After the game he was fully on the Grossman bandwagon. However, during the first 5-10 minutes of the third quarter he just couldn't reconcile Grossman's performance with his statements that it would be disastrous.

by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 6:31pm

"Now here's a thread...I mean, it's really picking up steam, and then Bam! Some guys on here, they get on a roll, and uh, and and and uh, and uh ya see, they just (wheezy laughter), they just go out there and get it done, ya know? I mean, they make it look pretty easy!"