It’s now time to hand out the hardware for the 6th Annual Fang’s Bites NFL TV Awards. On Christmas Day, I listed the nominees for this season’s awards. Now, we have the winners for the 2012 regular season.
Best Play-by-Play: The nominees are Ian Eagle (CBS), Kevin Harlan (CBS), Al Michaels (NBC), Brad Nessler (NFL Network) and Mike Tirico (ESPN). The winner is Mike Tirico of ESPN. Mike has called Monday Night Football since 2007. He’s dealt with different combinations in the booth throughout his tenure, first Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser for one season. Then Ron Jaworski and Kornheiser for two more seasons, followed by Jaworski and Jon Gruden for two and now just Gruden. Tirico has been steady throughout. He’s not afraid to call out a player or a team and he’s always prepared. A much deserved award for Tirico. And if Gruden decides to go back into coaching, Tirico could have a totally new partner next season. No matter what, Mike will be ready.
Best Game Analyst: Your nominees are Troy Aikman (Fox), Cris Collinsworth (NBC), Dan Fouts (CBS), Rich Gannon (CBS) and Mike Mayock (NFL Network). This season’s award goes to Mike Mayock of Thursday Night Football, now a two-time winner. Mike won last year’s Game Analyst Award and will win it again for his work in 2012. There are times when Mike needs to take a breath, but he always brings something to the table and I always learn something new whenever I watch him.
Best Sunday NFL Pregame Show: This season’s nominees are First on the Field (NFL Network), Fox NFL Sunday (Fox), NFL Matchup (ESPN) and the NFL Today (CBS). The hands-down winner is ESPN’s NFL Matchup. This show has been airing since the 1980′s, but the show has mostly remained the same, showing looks not normally seen on TV. Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge explain their analysis in an intelligent manner without talking down to viewers. And Sal Paolantonio is perfect in the host’s chair. While some pregame shows are stuck in laughfests or lame attempts at comedy, NFL Matchup just sticks to basics and viewers are the beneficiaries.
Best Studio Show, Daily or Weekly: The nominees in this category are Around the League Live (NFL Network), Inside the NFL (Showtime), NFL Live (ESPN), NFL PrimeTime (ESPN) and NFL Turning Point (NBC Sports Network). I should have added Sound FX from NFL Network and I’ll make sure this will be nominated next season. All of the shows are done very well, but I’m going to go with the venerable Inside the NFL of Showtime. After moving to Showtime from HBO, the show adjusted from having Bob Costas as host to James Brown and bringing in new castmates Phil Simms, Warren Sapp (since dropped from the show) and insider Michael Lombardi to the only holdover Cris Collinsworth. NFL Films highlights remains a huge part of the show. Seeing the dynamic between Collinsworth and Simms has been fun and JB is one of the best hosts in sports television.
Best Highlight Show: The nominees are Football Night in America (NBC), NFL GameDay Final (NFL Network), NFL PrimeTime (ESPN) and The OT (Fox). It has to be NFL GameDay Final on NFL Network. While Chris Rose is an extremely weak host, the highlights are the star. In addition, an extreme weakness is having Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders are talking over each other, but again, no other show can provide three or four minutes of highlights. The NFL has placed restrictions on Football Night in America and NFL PrimeTime on the length of their highlights, but NFL GameDay Final has no such problem and can go for as long as it wants. The show has suffered since Rich Eisen left for GameDay Morning, but what matters are the highlights.
Best Studio Host: A strong category, it was tough to leave someone out and there is a glaring omission among these nominees: Rich Eisen (NFL Network), Curt Menefee (Fox), Dan Patrick (NBC/NBC Sports Network), Melissa Stark (NFL Network), Andrew Siciliano (DirecTV) and Trey Wingo (ESPN). Tough to leave out James Brown of CBS/Showtime, but I went with six nominees. This season’s winner is first time winner Trey Wingo of ESPN. Trey hosts NFL PrimeTime and NFL Live. The man knows his stuff and deserves a bigger platform. He’s done his time on ESPN and should be given the main host role on either Sunday NFL Countdown or the NFL Draft. Yes, Chris Berman hosts both, but Wingo is a much better nuts and bolts anchor. Wingo doesn’t rely on schtick or catchphrases, he gives you the facts and as a fan, that’s exactly what you want.
Best Studio Analyst: Your nominees are Tony Dungy (NBC), Boomer Esiason (CBS), Marshall Faulk (NFL Network), Rodney Harrison (NBC), Kurt Warner (NFL Network) and Steve Young (ESPN). The winner is Steve Young of ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown. There were times I would scratch my head at Young’s statements, but over the past couple of years, he’s grown on me. His work this season has been spectacular. He and Trent Dilfer had strong words during the first part of the season when the regular officials were locked out and bad calls influenced the results of games. As the season progressed, Young’s level-headed analysis was mostly on target, especially on Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets. Excellent work by Young and he would be a candidate to replace Jon Gruden if the former Tampa Bay coach took a job on the sidelines next season.
Most Valuable Network: The nominees are Fox, ESPN, NBC and NFL Network. Thanks to picking up the final two pieces in its cable provider puzzle, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable, this season’s winner is NFL Network. The network started a new morning show, NFL AM, that is gaining popularity among football fans. In addition, it launched an early morning Sunday pregame show in First on the Field that brought back Melissa Stark to sports television. And to top it all off, Thursday Night Football had its longest schedule ever in 13 games plus its best ratings ever. NFL Network is having its best season ever. Now if can right one wrong in Chris Rose, we’d be all set.
Best NFL Insider: Our nominees are John Clayton (ESPN), Jay Glazer (Fox), Peter King (NBC), Jason La Canfora (CBS) and Chris Mortensen (ESPN). I did omit Adam Schefter and he’s having a very good season, but I’ll go with Jay Glazer of Fox. I’m simply going with Glazer over his sourcing fight with ESPN in the last week. Plus, Jay laid the smackdown on your humble blogger over a mistake I made.
Best Sideline Reporter: The nominees are Alex Flanagan (NFL Network), Jennifer Hale (Fox), Jaime Maggio (Fox), Lisa Salters (ESPN) and Michele Tafoya (NBC). Bringing back this category after a year’s absence, our winner is Michele Tafoya of NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Michele won the initial Emmy Award for Sideline Reporting in 2012 and manages to provide solid information whenever she’s called upon. And her demonstration in Seattle in Week 16 on the crowd noise was one of the most original reports I’ve seen. Quite impressed.
Best Announcing Team: The nominees in this category are Ian Eagle/Dan Fouts (CBS), Kevin Harlan/Solomon Wilcots (CBS), Al Michaels/Cris Collinsworth (NBC), Brad Nessler/Mike Mayock (NFL Network) and Mike Tirico/Jon Gruden (ESPN). The winner this season is the team of the Bird and the Beard, Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts of CBS. I hope Ian and Dan are promoted to the “B” team and will get to call a Divisional Playoff game next season. They have very good chemistry and provide humor to games. Fouts is quite good in providing analysis and spotting trends. Ian has been with CBS since 1998 after one season with the New York Jets and is fast becoming one of the better all-around announcers on sports TV. Fouts has been around for many years calling both the NFL and college for CBS and ESPN/ABC. And Dan is versatile having called play-by-play on radio and TV. They are the winners in this category for 2012.
Best Game Production: Our nominees are Monday Night Football (ESPN), NFL on CBS (CBS), NFL on Fox (Fox), Sunday Night Football (NBC) and Thursday Night Football (NFL Network). We’re going with NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Last month, John Koblin of Deadspin chronicled the evolution of Sunday Night Football’s production and the article showed how SNF focuses on the field, the action and anything the fan wants to see. SNF is the number one primetime series on TV and the way it brings fans closer to the game is a reason why. In addition, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth carry on a conversation throughout that provides fans with a good understanding of the game.
Best Debut: The nominees are Carolyn Manno on Football Night in America (NBC), First on the Field (NFL Network), Amber Theoharis on NFL Total Access (NFL Network) and Hines Ward on Football Night in America (NBC). The winner is First on the Field from NFL Network. Airing at 7 a.m. ET on Sundays, this is America’s first live NFL pregame show. Melissa Stark has proven to be a fine host. While Sterling Sharpe talks over everyone, LaDanian Tomlinson and Michael Lombardi provide analysis and the latest information leading up to NFL GameDay Morning at 9 a.m. The show is done well and originates from the NFL Films studios in New Jersey. For early risers, it’s a decent show and gives viewers their NFL fix.
Worst Play-by-Play: These are the nominees as we have now reached our “Worst” Awards: Chris Berman (ESPN), Thom Brennaman (Fox), Chris Myers (Fox), Ron Pitts (Fox) and Dick Stockton (Fox). The “winner” is Chris Myers of Fox. Chris is a very good host. He’s also a decent interviewer. But as far as play-by-play is concerned, Myers is awful. He’s constantly misidentifying players and there were times when he was behind on the action. I’m not impressed.
Worst Game Analyst: The nominees are Dan Dierdorf (CBS), Daryl Johnston (Fox), John Lynch (Fox) and Mike Martz (Fox). Mike Martz is the “winner” of this category. There’s nothing of substance provided with Martz. He gets this award hands down.
Worst Studio Host: Just two nominees here: Chris Berman (ESPN) and Chris Rose (NFL Network). The winner of this award is Chris Rose of NFL Network. The first-ever employee of two league-owned network simultaneously, Chris Rose is proving the sucking sound you hear comes from two channel positions on your television. Rose is on the worst show on sports television, Intentional Talk on MLB Network, and now he’s trying to ruin NFL GameDay Final and the Total Access Thursday Night Football Postgame show. He can’t control his analysts (see Best Highlights Show) and there are times he tries to go into “Best Damned Sports Show” which he used to host on Fox Sports Net. Chris Rose takes the award this season.
Worst Studio Analyst: Originally two nominees, Michael Irvin (NFL Network) and Eric Mangini (ESPN), I’ll add Warren Sapp (NFL Network/Showtime) to the mix. The “winner” is Michael Irvin of NFL Network. The man yells, he doesn’t make any sense and why NFL Network continues to use him is beyond me. He’s on three shows, NFL GameDay Morning, Thursday Night Kickoff and NFL GameDay Final. All he does is yell, cackle and laugh. No need for this.