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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 10 NFL Play by Play Broadcasters of All Time

Top 10 NFL Play by Play Broadcasters of All Time

Publish Date: 12/08/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Greatest NFL Broadcasters

This list will be National Guys, so no local play-by-play announcers. This list, of course, is just an opinion, but it’s an opinion from people who have been alive long enough to remember each one of these men calling a game. A great play-by-play announcer makes a great game even better; on the flip side, they have the ability to make a boring game more interesting.

10) Mike Tirico

Tirico brings life and excitement to any sport he covers with his engaging conversational style and ability to inflect or demure when commentating the action on ESPN’s Monday Night Football coverage from 2006 until 2015, then moving over to NBC for Sunday Night Football coverage a year later. Holding down this position for two of the most widely watched sporting events shows how effective Tirico is at his job.

9) Charlie Jones

Jones played tennis in college, served in the U.S. Air Force, and earned his law degree, but his true calling lay as one of history’s great sports broadcasters. He began his pro football broadcasting career for ABC covering AFL Dallas Texans games in 1960 and continued until 1997 when they lost AFC coverage rights to CBS; famous for his deep yet friendly voice, Jones received the Pete Rozelle Award that year.

8) Ray Scott

Scott is one of many iconic figures associated with the Green Bay Packers, beginning his play-by-play career for them in 1956 and calling such events as the 1967 NFL Championship (or Ice Bowl) and the first two Super Bowls. After becoming CBS’ lead announcer for NFL games, he worked four Super Bowls and several league and conference championship games before being given the Rozelle Award in 2000.

7) Don Criqui

Criqui was an iconic voice in NFL broadcasting from 1967-2013 for both NBC and CBS, calling NFL games with his game-host-like voice for 47 consecutive years from 1967 to 13, an unofficial record in sports broadcasting history. Additionally, Criqui called college basketball games on CBS. Furthermore, he worked 14 Orange Bowls before serving as the radio voice of Notre Dame football from 2006-17 – winning him the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

6) Jim Nantz

“Hello Friends” has been the signature greeting of NFL fans on CBS for almost three decades when they tune into a game. Commentator Jim Nantz started in 1991 in CBS’ NFL booth before moving on to hosting NFL Today before returning as number one commentator in 2004.

He is maintaining a dynamic yet satisfying schedule. He typically completes the NFL season and, should CBS host the Super Bowl that year, calls that before taking a short break to join CBS’ Road to Final Four coverage and, finally the Masters coverage. In doing so, he joins Curt Gowdy, Kevin Harlan and Dick Enberg as the only play-by-play announcers ever to call both a Super Bowl and Men’s Basketball Championship Game (Nantz has done this six times! ). Since 1986 he’s been part of Masters coverage since 1986!

Nantz’s voice is perfectly tailored for each sport he calls: friendly, engaging, enthusiastic and smooth. In 2007, his debut Super Bowl call came during the game between the Colts and Bears where Devin Hester became the first player in Super Bowl history to return the opening kick for a touchdown with no flags being raised by referees! “Gets past the first wave and here he goes”, as Nantz explained it then.

5) Jack Buck

Jack Buck made his mark as a baseball announcer with the St. Louis Cardinals, but also distinguished himself in football play-by-play announcing. Although many of his most renowned calls involved baseball, he was present for many significant moments during NFL playoff games and beyond.

Buck began calling NFL games for CBS after calling AFL games for ABC, initially covering the Chicago Bears games before switching to Dallas Cowboys coverage during 1967’s legendary Ice Bowl championship game. Later, CBS disregarded dedicated team announcers in favour of regional games announced by him alone, during which time Buck also called several NFC Championship Games as well as Super Bowl IV.

Buck is best known in the NFL for his work as the voice of Monday Night Football on CBS Radio for nearly 20 years alongside Hank Stram. On this platform, he called 17 Super Bowls and some memorable playoff moments.

Buck’s deep and gravelly voice was instantly recognisable. His calls, whether baseball or football related, were vivid and informative; his flare for big moments caught on film and became iconic, and there was no mistaking his humor (sometimes self-deprecating at times!).

4) Dick Enberg

Enberg, known for his play-by-play work for UCLA during their John Wooden years, also became well known as the play-by-play voice of Rams football and California Angels baseball during his time on the West Coast.

He spent nine years broadcasting Bruins basketball during the 1960s and ’70s, during which they won eight NCAA titles. On Jan 20, 1968 – known as “The Game of the Century” – Houston/UCLA  it became the first NCAA regular-season game broadcast nationwide in primetime format.

Enberg joined NBC Sports in 1975, where he would remain for almost 25 years – calling baseball, college hoops and football, the NBA, the US Open Golf tournament and tennis events. Beginning in 1979 as a replacement to Curt Gowdy as NFL voice at and 8 Super Bowl Games during that time on NBC, before moving on to CBS as one of their voices of NFL games.

Enberg was one of those broadcasters renowned for being smooth and polished in his delivery and voice.

3) Al Michaels

Michaels is no surprise on this list; this man has accomplished so much in sports broadcasting without needing anyone’s assistance. From calling an incredible momentous call in 1980 – when college players from America defeated Russia for the gold medal – to covering the aftereffects of an earthquake just before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series, Michaels stands alone among play-by-play announcers by calling Super Bowls (11 times), World Series (8 times), NBA Finals (2), and Stanley Cup Final (3).

Michaels has established himself as one of the premier NFL play-by-play announcers over three decades. From 1986 to 2005, he called Monday Night Football on ABC; then, in 2006, he moved over to Sunday Night Football on NBC.

Michaels has an exceptional sense of timing. He can recognize moments when his commentary is needed or can defer to an analyst. Michaels commands his broadcasts, never allowing a game or play to “get away” from him; instead, he adds his unique blend of humor and sarcasm to elevate what would otherwise be mundane plays or games, often including pop culture references or something pertinent to that game’s spread or over/under totals – fans love his spontaneous comments that pop up here and there throughout their broadcasts!

Video: Best Al Michaels Calls

Best Al Michaels Calls

2) Curt Gowdy

Gowdy was honored with induction into 23 different Halls of Fame, including Pro Football, Naismith Memorial Basketball and National Baseball – a media award from basketball hall is even named in his honor! Gowdy was considered the ‘broadcaster of everything’, calling 13 World Series, 16 All-Star games, 9 Super Bowls, and 24 Final Fours to add to 14 Rose Bowls and 8 Olympic games on his impressive resume.

Gowdy was instantly identifiable with his polished yet warm voice. If Gowdy was calling a game, audiences knew to tune in; his versatility was virtually unparalleled, shifting focus between sports while staying true to one.

Curt Gowdy hosted “The American Sportsman” on ABC for many years. This show featured celebrities participating in hunting and fishing trips with Curt. Such was his association with nature that a state park in Wyoming was officially named for him – Curt Gowdy State Park is located halfway between his high school hometown, Cheyenne and college town, Laramie.

1) Pat Summerall

Summerall was an NFL placekicker who found success as a broadcaster. I remember growing up during this era of the early 80’s when Summerall and John Madden would call every big football game, every meaningful moment, with ease and without fail! He covered The Masters tournament from 1976 until 1994 and served as CBS’ US Open Tennis coverage expert.

Summerall retired from playing football and joined CBS as a color commentator of its NFL coverage in 1962, initially pairing with Chris Schenkel on Giants games until midway through 1974 when he switched to play-by-play work with Tom Brookshier, covering three Super Bowls together before teaming with Madden over 22 seasons across two networks – becoming one of the most iconic broadcast partnerships ever.

Summerall worked 11 Super Bowls – until Al Michaels equalled it. He even filled in for Harry Caray after suffering a stroke while on WGN-TV baseball games on WGN-TV during 1987.

To describe his style will require some effort. His voice was deep and commanding. Never has an announcer created such an impact with few words on television; for instance, when calling Joe Montana-to-Jerry Rice touchdown passes or touchdown runs such as Marcus Allen in Super Bowl XVIII, his calls always included this line: ‘Montana……Rice…. Touchdown!’ One of his more memorable calls came during Super Bowl XVIII when he also described them this way.

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