For the multi-talented Mike Tirico, he is getting one of sports biggest and most important jobs as the new play-by-play voice of NBC Sports flagship program Sunday Night Football (SNF) the No. 1 rated show on television. Tirico will replace Al Michaels who left the for his new job as the play-by-play voice for Amazon’s new Thursday Night Football that will make its debut next week.
Joining Tirico on the SNF team will be analyst Cris Collinsworth, who begins his 14th season on the broadcast, plus another team member sideline reporter, Melissa Stark is new to NBC but not new to covering the NFL. She made her NFL broadcast debut on Monday Night Football on ABC in 2000, coincidentally in the season after the Rams last won the Super Bowl. Melissa spent three years on the sideline for ABC, and in the past 11 years has been with NFL Network.
Tonight, it will be the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams hosting the Buffalo Bills and them the SNF team head to Dallas for the Sunday night opener between the Cowboys and Buccaneers, not a bad two games to get the new play-by-play seat warm.
In a conversation this week all three got a chance talk to the media about their thoughts about working on the NBC SNF team.
TIRICO on doing SNF and starting with the Hall of Fame Game: If I learned anything in Canton, it’s that my instincts are to be trusted. We’re going to be fine. Everybody communicates. Everybody connects, gets along. Similar-minded folks.
Sometimes when you look at sports TV, I think the most valuable thing is putting together a group that fits and works well together. We haven’t done a, quote, regular season Sunday Night Football game together, but I know what Drew Esocoff (the Director) thinks and does, certainly Rob Hyland (the producer)
Cris, I don’t have to look over and see, hmm, what is he thinking. I’ve listened to Cris. I’ve worked with Cris. I have a sense of exactly where he’s going and what he wants to say, and the same is true with Melissa.
So, it’s all first nature, and that means we don’t have to worry about the artificial stuff. We can just worry about doing our jobs because the connectivity of the group working together is going to take care of itself and already has.
COLLINSWORTH on his new broadcast team and not working with Al Michaels: You know, it was one of the first conversations that all of us had together. We had a great run with Al and Michele and Fred and Drew. It was great. We had, whatever it was, 13 years together. A lot of times it was like falling out of bed. You just knew what each other were thinking, and it just falls into place.
It really is hard to believe that it doesn’t feel like a new team. I don’t even know if that makes sense or not. But I know these — you know, I just know them. I’ve worked with them. I know exactly who they are.
Mike and I communicate very easily. We’ve done a full season’s worth of games plus together. We’re all friends.
That was the obvious part from my standpoint. I went out — the only rule that Al Michaels had for me was that I had to go out to dinner with him on Friday and Saturday night.
Back in the early days, I would take an either-or because I wanted to stay in my room and do homework.
But he was right in that he said, it becomes about the partnership on the air. It becomes about the relationship on the air. You’re going to know plenty of football for this game. You need to know more about me and us and what makes us tick.
I thought it was some of the great advice that I ever really got because I started doing that, and we really became fast friends and communicated very easily.
I’ve got the advantage of when I first came in, I was taking over for John Madden. It wasn’t like I just walked in and they all of a sudden went, you’re a whole lot like John Madden. That just wasn’t the case. We did a whole lot of things differently.
But to me, I’m not the person coming into it at this point. It just doesn’t feel like a hard transition.
Now, I’m sure when we get into the first broadcast there’s going to be communication issues and we’re going to all have done things in a different way. I understand there’s going to be a transition period of time.
But we’ve already spent a lot of time together, obviously, getting ready for this season, and I don’t know who it was that said it before, but there’s a real comfort already to just being a part of the group and being friends and being able to tell jokes about each other and on each other that typically don’t come until you’ve known somebody a couple years at least, and it’s just like a group I’m used to hanging out with already.
TIRICO on replacing Al Michaels: I’ve done this already at Monday Night Football. Al had done Monday Night Football for 20 years, and Monday Night Football moved to ESPN.
But obviously as you well know, being in that unique slot, the only game that night, the music, all that, there’s a legacy to Monday Night Football. And after Keith Jackson did it the first year and then Frank Gifford the next 15, Al had done it for 20, so for many people the only person they associated with Monday Night Football, the only people were in the play-by-play care were Frank Gifford and Al, because they did it for a combined 35 years.
So I followed Al on that and had that run for 10 years. That’s something that doesn’t even factor into my mind or my approach here now.
I’m very different at this point. I’m significantly older, 16 years older than I was then. I’ve done a couple hundred primetime NFL games and been the primetime host for three Olympic Games.
For me, it’s an assignment that I’ve worked for, I feel like I’m completely prepared for, and surrounded by the best people.
For me, there’s no angst about being that next person in that chair.
Sunday Night Football airs on NBC, streams on Peacock and can be seen in Spanish on Universo.