While everyone’s attention is rightfully focused on the New Orleans Saints’ prime time game with the Las Vegas Raiders on “Monday Night Football,” one big change may have flown under the radar for the Saints’ Week 3 home game against the Green Bay Packers.
NBC’s Al Michaels let slip during the Seahawks-Patriots Sunday night game that he will be taking a “bye week” afterwards, promoting veteran play-by-play man Mike Tirico to his chair next to Cris Collinsworth. This change was discussed during a preseason conference call with NBC producer Fred Gaudelli, who explained that it is part of a gradual transition in the booth as Michaels, 75, eases into retirement. Michaels has worked for NBC since 2006, after spending 30 years calling games with ABC.
Tirico, 53, was brought over from ESPN back in 2016 as the heir-apparent for Michaels on “Sunday Night Football,” though his football play-by-play work with NBC has mostly been limited to calling Notre Dame games. Before the move, he teamed up with Raiders coach Jon Gruden on “Monday Night Football,” so he’s used to working on a big stage.
Intriguingly, Tirico could end up working with Drew Brees someday. Brees agreed to a contract with NBC during the offseason that will put him on the Notre Dame broadcast team once he retires from playing professionally. If he hits the ground running as well as Tony Romo, another former quarterback who transitioned to in-game analysis, Brees could end up replacing Collinsworth once he’s stepped away from the microphone.
The plan kind of makes sense. Tirico would have a few years on NBC behind him at that point, and Brees wouldn’t be rushed to replace the 61-year old Collinsworth. It ensures some continuity for the NFL’s flagship program, if everything goes as planned.
But let’s circle back to Tirico. He’ll join Collinsworth for the upcoming Saints-Packers game, but it’s unclear how often he’ll sub in for Michaels throughout the season. He has already been tapped for NBC’s second Wild Card Round playoff game, and could return for the annual Thanksgiving Day game (this year’s NBC matchup: the Baltimore Ravens visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers).
So, Tirico fans and Michaels detractors alike: rejoice.