Kirk Herbstreit defends 'Thursday Night Football' colleague Al Michaels against criticism

Don't bring that Al Michaels slander near Kirk Herbstreit.

The "Thursday Night Football" analyst came to his play-by-play partner's defense during an appearance on the "Pardon My Take" podcast that aired Wednesday. Herbstreit, in his second year working with Michaels, 79, said the "narrative" regarding Michaels' enthusiasm during the broadcasts was "a bunch of (expletive)."

Michaels, who has called the NFL for five decades, doesn't take the criticism to heart, Herbstreit said.

"He hears the noise. I don't think he's like 'I'll show them. I'm gonna really bring it this week.' He definitely isn't doing that," Herbstreit said. "He has more of an eff you attitude about it, than 'I'm going to show them.' He thinks it's a bunch of (expletive). I think it's a bunch of (expletive). And I think it's just a narrative that social media's kind of running with."

The quality of the game in a standalone window like "TNF" makes announcing the game more challenging, said Herbstreit, who has called college football for nearly three decades at ESPN and is a member of "College GameDay."

Al Michaels, center, talks to Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. before a "Thursday Night Football" game in November.
Al Michaels, center, talks to Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. before a "Thursday Night Football" game in November.

Injuries across the league and the lack of quality coaching, especially during a short week, are other factors that affect the quality of the league as a whole, not just on Thursdays, Herbstreit said. Herbstreit added that there are "10 good teams" and that the rest are "trying to find an identity."

That hasn't insulated the "TNF" booth from being the target of fans hoping for more juice on the broadcast.

"I think Al hears it. He disagrees with it. He's really enjoying, I think, our crew and what we're doing and what we have to work with on Thursday night," Herbstreit said. "To be at his age, I marvel at what he does. I'm not just telling you guys that. A producer's talking in his ear. He's always recognizing and (identifying), typically, the right guy every time. I'm blown away by him. I'm not just saying that to defend the guy. I'm being honest with you guys."

Michaels and Tony Dungy took heat for their call of the 2022 AFC wild-card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Michaels has defended his job performance on multiple occasions since. In November, he told the New York Post “I don’t think I’m a lot different than I have been through the years.”

“And if people you know want to say that, ‘Al doesn’t sound as excited.’ Hold on a second, folks," Michaels said. "I’m doing the same game I’ve always done.”

Michaels called "Sunday Night Football" for NBC from 2006-2021 and was also the play-by-play voice of "Monday Night Football" from 1986-2005.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kirk Herbstreit defends TNF colleague Al Michaels against criticism