NBC's Jac Collinsworth, Jason Garrett pairing lacks credibility with side of nepotism | Opinion

·4 min read

The University of Notre Dame's name was incorrectly identified in an earlier version of this story.

"The Slide Jr." is coming to your television on Saturdays this fall.

And if you’re wondering why that guy looks and sounds like the guy calling NFL games the next night on the same network, well, that’s just the reality of sports broadcasting’s nepotic obsession.

NBC’s choice to call its coveted Notre Dame games, the duo of Jac Collinsworth (play-by-play) and ex-Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett (color analyst) became official Monday, but the blowback started a day earlier when the New York Post first reported the news.

And for once in this digitally overhyped, too-caffeinated, quick-to-call-out discourse of the modern era, it was justified.

Not because Collinsworth, 27, or Garrett are bad guys. Not because they are bad announcers, even – the two worked together during the USFL season and were just fine. But because here we are in 2022 saying we are going to do better, that the most qualified and best candidates will receive the most prestigious positions. Then the actions simply don’t match the rhetoric.

Collinsworth could be the next Jim Nantz, but let’s be honest: he’s getting this job five years after graduating from – shocker, the University of Notre Dame – because of his last name. Cris Collinsworth, a former NFL wide receiver and broadcaster for 32 years, has been the color analyst for NBC's "Sunday Night Football" since the 2009 season.

Notre Dame players take to the field prior to their game against Virginia at Scott Stadium on Nov. 13, 2021.
Notre Dame players take to the field prior to their game against Virginia at Scott Stadium on Nov. 13, 2021.

Cris Collinsworth's son did not have to struggle to enter this exclusive business that most people would (or at least say they would) trade their own jobs for.

When it comes to diversity, football broadcast booths fail to mirror the players they are describing and analyzing. That can usually be tied to the space being populated by former quarterbacks and fired coaches – and now, apparently, sons. Pair him with a coach who had three playoff seasons in nine years under the sport's biggest microscope in Dallas, and the viewer has every right to question the credibility of what they are hearing.

Sports broadcasting has plenty of other examples that point to nepotism. Joe Buck, whose father Jack Buck was a legendary baseball broadcaster, was the same age as Jac Collinsworth when he called his first World Series. Kenny Albert, the son of Basketball Hall of Fame broadcaster Marv Albert, began calling NFL games at age 26.

Three decades have passed and the decision-making process has hardly improved, evidently. Both Albert and Buck have ascended to the top of their craft, but were given their shots earlier than if their last names were, say, Smith and Jones.

That’s not to say Collinsworth is completely unqualified. He's hustled. But 18-year-olds usually get their foot in the door in this business by hustling at student radio stations or newspapers – not on NBC’s sideline production team.

Virtually no college-aged kids have the chance to travel to the Summer Olympics and be a social media correspondent, as Collinsworth did in Rio de Janeiro six years ago.

No one – unless you happen to have that all-important last name – spends three years reporting pregame features for "Sunday Countdown" at ESPN right out of school.

And again, none of this is on Jac Collinsworth. The adults in the room set him up for this because they’re banking on people like them to think this is all cute and fun and games. Does it make for good content and halftime show fodder? Sure. But the next generation of football consumer isn’t going to buy it.

Arguments have been made that Notre Dame doesn’t play its best games on NBC this season, so executives in Stamford, Connecticut, can make this type of decision. Does the Big Ten, entering business with the network after its current deal expires in 2023, want to hear that? The network is expected to have exclusivity in the evening window. Where does that leave Notre Dame, and therefore, the Collinsworth-Garrett pairing?

NBC had the right idea. Spice up one of the most iconic brands in college football by having a 20-something broadcaster with a smooth voice and an ex-NFL coach in the broadcast booth.

The execution left much to be desired.

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBC's Jason Garrett, Jac Collinsworth ND pairing lacks credibility