Time to hand out the 3rd Annual Fang’s Bites NFL TV Awards. If you’re a new reader, you can take a look at how the inaugural and 2nd annual versions played out. Let’s get to them without further delay.
Best Play-by-Play: There’s no one better when it comes to NBC’s Al Michaels when there’s a big game, big moment or big play. He always rises to the occasion. Plus, whenever there’s a lull, he’ll mention the point spread. Al broke in a new partner, Cris Collinsworth and didn’t miss a beat. The man can pretty much retire this award.
Best Game Analyst: Phil Simms of CBS impressed me quite a bit this season. He studies the game film and seems to store gems for the game. In addition, he’s not afraid to admit he’s wrong. Simms doesn’t draw attention to himself. He lets the game come to him and Phil meshes quite well with partner Jim Nantz. First time Phil get the analyst award and it’s much deserved.
Best Studio Show: NFL Gameday Final on the NFL Network wins this for the second year in a row. No other show can show as many highlights as Gameday Final and Rich Eisen, Deion Sanders and Steve Mariucci have formed a very nice chemistry. They have fun together and have formed a good studio team. It’s a great show and in some ways, has surpassed what ESPN’s old NFL Primetime used to do.
Best Studio Host: Rich Eisen of NFL Network has become a very good studio host and this season surpassed two-time winner James Brown of CBS. Unfortunately, JB had a chance to win again, but the last couple of weeks when he’s had the opportunity to press Bill Cowher on his job opportunities, JB backed off. Rich does a great job whether he’s doing the pregame show for Thursday Night Football or hosting NFL Gameday Final. The man steps up time and time again, and he even had time to hang in the Courtyard by Marriott lobby.
Best Studio Analyst: Returning after a year’s absence, Howie Long, Fox NFL Sunday. Howie remains strong on the desk for Fox. He breaks down a defense quite well and his commentaries during the “Fired Up” segments were well done. Nice to have Howie back after Bill Cowher won this award for the 2008 season.
Most Valuable Network: Once again, Fox Sports for winning the ratings in the NFL during a record season for viewing. It outpaced CBS in the pregame battle and in the afternoon. In addition, Fox’s ratings were better than NBC’s Sunday Night Football. The overall winner is the NFL as all of its TV partners in both broadcast and cable TV saw record ratings this season. But Fox is the MVN.
Call of the Year: It’s from Week 1. Screamin’ Gus Johnson. Brandon Stokley. Need I say more?
Best NFL Insider: Adam Schefter of ESPN snatches this award from Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. Adam had some nice scoops this season and it was nice to see after he had gotten into a contract dispute with NFL Network. Adam was all over the Mike Shanahan-to-Washington story and he formed a nice one-two insider team with Chris Mortensen. So for this year, Adam takes the award.
Best Announcing Team: I’m going with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth of Sunday Night Football. I know Collinsworth can baffle people with his analysis, seeing things that America can’t see, but he does make valid points and I am impressed how he has made the transition into John Madden’s chair quite nicely. Al is Al. Just look at my statements on Al above.
Most Improved Presentation: Monday Night Football on ESPN. In the inaugural awards, I gave MNF the Worst Game Coverage Award. It took three seasons for ESPN to get this right, that fans didn’t want to hear interviews with celebrities or have non-players in the booth. By hiring Jon Gruden to join Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski, ESPN finally has an announcing team to challenge the top teams on the other networks. In addition, ESPN had tremendous fortune to air the first Green Bay-Minnesota game which set a cable primetime ratings record. After complaining about Monday Night Football the last few seasons, I have a mere few about the series this year.
Best Game Coverage: Monday Night Football, ESPN. This is an upset over the other networks, but the production was quite good. ESPN does need to put its distracting scoreboard on top of the screen instead of the bottom, but that’s a minor complaint. If ESPN ever got in the Super Bowl rotation, its production of the game would be right up there with Fox and NBC which won the first two years of these awards.
Best Feature: C’mon, Man! on ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown. I really enjoyed this week after week. The team of Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, Keyshawn Johnson, Cris Carter and Tom Jackson picked the biggest headscratching plays of each week and end them with a “C’mon, man!” I laughed each time and found myself tuning for the feature at 8:20 p.m. every Monday. Here’s an example of “C’Mon, Man!” from Week 13.
Rookie of the Year: Stacey Dales of the NFL Network. Stacey joined NFL Gameday Morning this season and after a bit of a shaky start, she became quite a good co-host of the four hour show with Spero Dedes. In addition, she formed a nice chemistry with Steve Mariucci and Michael Irvin during their segments. Nice to see Stacey get a good gig after being dumped by ESPN earlier in the year.
Worst Play-by-Play: Dick Stockton of Fox has gotten progressively worse each year and is showing tremendous signs of slippage. He used to be on the “B” announcing team for both CBS and Fox for their NFC packages. Fox did a good job in taking him off the “B” team and he’s now calling the 4th best game for Fox after Joe Buck/Troy Aikman, Kenny Albert/Daryl Johnston/Tony Siragusa and Thom Brennaman/Brian Billick. He’s shown signs of confusion and miscalled plays. It’s sad to see from one of the better announcers.
Worst Game Analyst: Matt Millen of the NFL Network. The man has no credibility after his tenure as Detroit Lions GM. He can break down a play like he used to every once in a while, but ever since he came back to TV, Millen is actually gunshy. He won’t criticize. He can’t see trends and he and Bob Papa really didn’t mesh all that well in the booth. Not impressed at all.
Worst Studio Host: Stuart Scott is not needed on Monday Night Countdown. ESPN likes a gameday presence for Monday Night Football, but to be honest, things can be handled better from Bristol. If ESPN wants to give Stuart a presence on Monday Night Football, give him the sideline reporter position.
Worst Studio Analyst: (tie) Steve Young and Matt Millen again on Monday Night Countdown. I desperately wanted to give this to Michael Irvin of the NFL Network, but he grew on me during his time on NFL Gameday Morning and actually enjoyed him. Without Emmit Smith to make him look good, Steve Young became victim of “Running at the Mouth” Disease. He talked and talked and talked in hopes something would stick. Then teamed with Matt Millen this season, they became Tweedledee and Tweedledum on the set. Combined with Stuart Scott, they easily became the Worst Studio Team hands down.
Worst Studio Show … In the World!: This goes to Football Night in America on NBC and it is a rather precipitous fall. Two years ago, I gave FNIA the Most Improved Studio Show Award for bringing in Keith Olbermann. Last year, NBC brought in Dan Patrick in hopes of renewing the chemistry Dan and Keith had on SportsCenter. While some of it came back and they remain a rather formidable pair, NBC decided to tweak the show again this season. Bob Costas went to the game sites, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison were brought in to replace Cris Collinsworth, Jerome Bettis and Tiki Barber. While I like Tony and Rodney, Football Night in America is supposed to be about the highlights. Instead, we’re fed interviews, features and the highlights have gotten shorter and shorter. Plus, I don’t want to hear how cold Costas is in December. I’m not impressed. Bring back the highlights.
Worst Game Coverage: NFL Network again! This network is supposed to be a showcase for the league, but its presentation for Thursday Night Football is next to pedestrian. Replays are sometimes not clear or shown from too far away. Or sometimes, replays are too long and we miss actual plays. The game is directed by former Monday Night Football helmsman Craig Janoff, but the production gives credence as to why he was removed when ESPN took over ABC Sports. I hope the production improves next year.
And that concludes this year’s awards. Debate away or attack me like you usually do when I post the awards.