Super Bowl week is prime time for sports media shakeups

PHOENIX — The reason Super Bowl week brings me back to my days of covering baseball is because it is like the Winter Meetings with all the talks, rumors and moves.

Let’s go back to just a year ago in Los Angeles.

The game was broadcast on NBC, and these were the top NFL announcing teams at the time:

Fox: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman

NBC: Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth

CBS: Jim Nantz and Tony Romo

ESPN: Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick Jr.

Amazon: TBD

Tom Rinaldi, Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen and Erin Andrews of Fox Sports
Fox Sports’ Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen, flanked by Tom Rinaldi and Erin Andrews
Fox Sports

Now they are:

Fox: Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen

NBC: Mike Tirico and Collinsworth

CBS: Nantz and Romo

ESPN: Buck and Aikman

Amazon: Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit

And the beauty of Super Bowl week is that is when all the wheels started really spinning. Aikman was close to staying with Fox in a split deal with Amazon. If that had happened, Buck and Aikman would be calling the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman concluded their first season at ESPN after a 20-year partnership at Fox Sports.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman’s joint leap to ESPN from Fox Sports for this past NFL season began to come together one year ago.
Getty Images

Instead, ESPN, which had an eye on Michaels, swooped in and swiped Aikman and Buck after the talks first heated up during the lead-up to the big game. Then dominoes fell all over the place — even the Super Bowl-winning coach Sean McVay entered the picture with a potential $20 million per year offer from Amazon.

Last offseason was the craziest in sports broadcasting history. Even before, the wheels were spinning, and little sliding doors — ESPN letting Tirico leave “Monday Night Football” for NBC in 2016 and Romo inking a historic $180 million total value deal in 2020 — led to Amazon entering the picture as a new bidder that loosened things up even more.

Not all of the same dynamics are there right now. But, as with the Winter Meetings in their prime, the beauty of this week is it is when the bold executives, broadcasters and agents begin to make industry-changing moves.

It’s a lot of fun.

Mets radio’s youth movement

Keith Raad at a Brooklyn Cyclones game
Keith Raad will join the Mets radio booth after a stint with the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones.
Keith Raad/Instagram

It was important to WCBS and the Mets that Howie Rose’s new partners have Mets roots. This was actually something they wanted when Josh Lewin left a few years ago, but they could not find someone with those roots and felt Wayne Randazzo was the best choice, despite not bleeding blue and orange as a kid. This time, though, with Randazzo’s replacement, 29-year-old Keith Raad, and Patrick McCarthy, who turns 28 in March, they have found announcers who were Mets fans and who they felt had the chops to be in the booth.

While I don’t think you want complete homers — and there is no reason to think they will be, to be clear — I do believe it makes sense to have people who care as much about the team as the people listening on radio do. It gives a genuine shared passion.

McCarthy, the son of former Mets radio man, Tom, will be the third person in the booth, which is more akin to Eddie Coleman’s old role than to Brad Heller, whom McCarthy is replacing and who did not do play-by-play. McCarthy was a Mets fan when his dad broadcast their games, but moved his allegiance when his father went to Philadelphia.

Patrick McCarthy (r.) is joining the Mets radio team.
Patrick McCarthy (right) also brings Mets roots to the new WCBS radio team.

Both will be lucky to learn from Rose, whom I profiled this past week as he shared his fight with cancer. Rose is the quintessential local radio play-by-player. First off, he nails the details of every call. Second, he knows the history of the team as well as anybody, having grown up a Mets fan. Third, this background allows him to relate to the emotion of his listeners. So the Mets and WCBS did it right, looking for homegrown announcers.

That’s the part you can predict. Now they have to just be good at broadcasting.

One more winner in last year’s broadcasting shuffle

You know who had a good year from the lists in the top section? Brian Griese, who chose to leave ESPN to become the quarterbacks coach under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. How’d that work out?

Griese has to garner some, if not a lot, of credit for rookie Brock Purdy looking like Joe Montana during this year. Purdy might end up going from Mr. Irrelevant as the last pick in the draft to Offensive Rookie of the Year.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) talks with quarterbacks coach Brian Griese at practice on Jan. 26, 2023.
Brian Griese made a successful transition from the ESPN broadcast booth to working with Brock Purdy as the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach.

Griese would have been a little irrelevant if he had stayed at ESPN — maybe he would’ve gotten assignments on the “extra” MNF games — and now instead may be in position for potential coaching promotions.

The plan

The plan from Phoenix is to have columns, notes and hopefully some news from you all week. We will top it off with a review of the pregame show and the Super Bowl broadcast next Sunday.

We are also going to have two podcasts this week. The first one drops Wednesday morning, featuring Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks. The second one, on Friday, is set to include a rare interview scheduled with the NFL’s No. 2 executive, chief media and business officer Brian Rolapp. You can subscribe here.

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