“Sunday Night Football” will not have the slide this year, but it will begin the switch.
While the broadcast restrictions of COVID-19 will make it so game analyst Cris Collinsworth won’t slide onto the screen in the opening of broadcasts, NBC announced that some weeks Al Michaels will not on the broadcast at all.
Mike Tirico will call an unspecified amount of games, probably in the three-to-five range, this season that the network is labeling “bye weeks” for the 75-year-old Michaels.
“His first bye week will be Week 3 in New Orleans, and then after that we’re going to take it month by month just to kind of see how the schedule shakes out,” “Sunday Night Football” executive producer Fred Gaudelli said.
Michaels said he is on board with the plan.
“This is a great schedule for me,” Michaels said via text. “A lot of West Coast games and a couple of byes during the season to cut down on some travel, which is welcome for me. I was part of formulating the plan. I’m all in.”
Michaels’ first announced “bye week” will be Week 3. Michaels, as has been the case in the recent past, will have Thanksgiving off when NBC’s game is in Pittsburgh. Tirico will also call one of the two playoff games that NBC owns. Beyond that the plan lacks specifics.
When Tirico does play-by-play, Jac Collinsworth, Cris’ son, Liam McHugh or a combination of the two will handle the “SNF” pregame.
As for the broadcast, the famous “Collinsworth slide,” where Cris joins Michaels at the beginning of broadcasts is “on hold” for now because the booth will have social distancing rules.
The Michaels-Tirico transition issue has been simmering behind the scenes at NBC for awhile because Tirico left ESPN’s “Monday Night” booth for NBC with the understanding he would do NFL games. NBC lost “Thursday Night Football,” which complicated the issue.
NBC’s brewing play-by-play dilemma was a reason ESPN thought there might be an opening to trade for Michaels for its “Monday Night” booth. NBC declined ESPN’s overtures.
While Tirico is signed to a lucrative, long-term contract as the face of NBC on its Olympic coverage and the front man on most of its properties, Michaels’ deal is up after next year when NBC has the Super Bowl in Michaels’ backyard of Los Angeles.
It would be a nice way to go out, but the issue is that Michaels has not shown an inclination toward retiring.
NBC has already signed Drew Brees, who one day could potentially replace Collinsworth in the “Sunday Night” booth. The plan is for Brees to begin with Notre Dame games and the “Sunday Night” studio after he retires.
Meanwhile, Michele Tafoya won’t be on the sideline as TV reporters will be relegated to the stands because of COVID-19. And NFL Films will provide each home team crowd noise that Gaudelli believes will give “Sunday Night Football” its regular big-game sound. On the “Thursday Night” opener for NBC, the Chiefs will have limited capacity so the network will use natural sound.
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