Amazon has reportedly found its analyst for Thursday Night Football. According to NBC Sports’ Peter King, Kirk Herbstreit is the choice for the streaming platform and retailer. King reported the news in his weekly Football Morning in America column.
The decision comes a week after the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand reported that Herbstreit was under consideration by Amazon after Troy Aikman signed with ESPN, Sean McVay decided to remain Los Angeles Rams coach, and San Francisco 49ers John Lynch declined the opportunity. (Former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was also reportedly in the mix, but those discussions apparently didn’t progress.)
According to King, Herbstreit will continue his current role with ESPN/ABC as the network’s top college football game analyst and commentator on Saturday pregame show College GameDay.
Marchand reported that Herbstreit’s contract might allow him to broadcast NFL games with another network while continuing to call college football for ESPN. But that depended on how Disney’s lawyers interpreted his current agreement. Judging from Amazon’s decision, however, Herbstreit’s deal allows for that very option.
As King says in his column, Herbstreit seems like an unusual choice considering most of his broadcasting experience is in college football. But he’s called some NFL games during the past few years and has said he was interested in calling both sports if the opportunity was available.
Herbstreit worked NFL Draft coverage for ESPN in 2018 and last year for ABC. He also called the first game of ESPN’s Monday Night Football doubleheader with regular play-by-play partner Chris Fowler to kick off the 2020 NFL season. And this past season, the duo called the first game of ESPN/ABC’s NFL Week 18 Saturday doubleheader.
The question now becomes who calls play-by-play alongside Herbstreit on Thursday Night Football. Amazon has pursued Al Michaels for the position, but ESPN is also interested in pairing him with Aikman on Monday Night Football. But if ESPN is somehow able to snatch Joe Buck away from Fox, Michaels will presumably go to Amazon.
The belief has been that Michaels prefers to work with an experienced analyst, rather than break in a first-timer like McVay or Payton. Herbstreit has mostly called college football, of course, but has plenty of experience broadcasting football, is a seasoned professional, and should work smoothly with Michaels.
Amazon surely wanted to make a big splash with its TNF broadcast team and Herbstreit is a different enough choice to be intriguing, even if he might not carry the same recognition among NFL fans as Aikman or attract the curiosity that McVay or Payton would have.
But as Marchand has said in some of his analysis of the story, Herbstreit is, above all, a broadcaster. By that measure, he’s arguably the best choice for the position among available analysts. He’s not a coach-turned-broadcaster. There’s no question as to whether or not he can do the job.
And while Herbstreit is a personality, especially with college football commentary, he’s an insightful, informative analyst who explains to the viewer what happened and why very clearly. Additionally, he explains what coaches and players are thinking on many plays based on his conversations with them throughout the week. He’s not afraid to be critical or protect people with whom he has relationships.
Yet Herbstreit’s workload will also be a question going into the upcoming football season. Calling Thursday Night Football, then doing College GameDay on Saturday, followed by a college football broadcast for ESPN or ABC is a lot to take on. Other NFL broadcasters like Aikman have called Thursday night and Sunday games. But Herbstreit would obviously have one less day to make the transition from the NFL to college football, and already has to deal with going from the GameDay location Saturday morning to the game he calls in the evening.
Some believed that his more controversial commentary during the last college football season was a result of him being asked to do too much, calling games then appearing on ESPN’s studio coverage, followed by another game broadcast. Could that be an issue as Herbstreit attempts to juggle both NFL and college football obligations? Perhaps, but he certainly appears eager for the opportunity.
Joe Buck, Troy Aikman Visit Bristol For First Time Since Signing With ESPN
“My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”
Monday Night Football on ESPN is going to have a new sound this year with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth. The deal is reportedly worth a combined $165 million, and will officially begin on September 12 when the Denver Broncos visit the Seattle Seahawks at 8:15 p.m. EST on ESPN.
“I’m thrilled to officially welcome Joe and Troy to ESPN and Monday Night Football,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “They are elite broadcasters who have been at the forefront of our industry for more than two decades [and] are universally respected, and fans truly appreciate their candor and expertise.”
Buck and Aikman visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol for the first time today. The broadcast duo, now entering their 21st season in the booth together, are switching networks for the first time, a move that was initiated because of Aikman’s expiring contract. Throughout the season, Aikman had an inclination that it would be his last at Fox; however, he would have stayed at the network. The original thought, according to Aikman, was that he would call Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime while continuing his role in doubleheader games with Fox – but it was quickly realized that it would not be feasible.
“ESPN began conversations with me, and it was an opportunity that was just the best fit for me,” said Aikman. “I didn’t think that was going to happen until a little bit after the Super Bowl.”
Buck’s contract was not set to expire until the end of this season, but after watching his veteran partner change networks, the possibility existed that he too would depart.
“When I knew Troy was gone, I think there was a little bit more intensity in my talks with Fox about ‘Was I going to stay there?,’ or ‘Was I going to try to continue my relationship on-air with Troy?’,” Buck reflected.
After approximately a month of negotiations between Buck and Fox, the broadcaster was off to ESPN. While the negotiations moved quickly, Buck never felt like he was taken for granted by Fox after working there for 28 years.
“They tell you how much you’re worth to them every time a check arrives,” said Buck. “They prove all that stuff by letting you continue to do it, and the relationships that we had. It was very collegial and very friendship-driven, much more so than employer-employee at Fox, and I expect the same will continue here at ESPN.”
Much of the media landscape across the National Football League has been significantly altered going into next season. Whether it is Buck and Aikman going from Fox to ESPN; the new Fox booth of Kevin Burkhardt and, upon his retirement, Tom Brady; the addition of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime with Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit; and Mike Tirico being moved into the lead Sunday Night Football role with Cris Collinsworth, the game will adopt a new sound upon the season’s opening kickoff.
ESPN Head of Event and Studio Production Stephanie Druley commented that amid the new broadcast landscape, the network believes it now has the number one football broadcast booth in the country. Additionally, she revealed the addition of a second Monday Night Football booth to be announced in the coming weeks as part of the network’s new broadcast rights deal with the NFL. The secondary booth will be calling three games this year and five games next year, and an announcement with more details is forthcoming.
For Buck, being welcomed to ESPN was representative of a full-circle moment, as his father Jack called Monday Night Football on the CBS Radio Network with Hank Stram. While Buck idolized his father and strived to one day be like him, he was always attentive as to what was going on in one of the other booths in the stadium.
“I knew as a little kid something special was going on two doors down, and that was when Howard Cosell was there; Don Meredith was there; Frank Gifford was there – and it was, ‘Man, that is the peak of sports and media,’” said Buck. “My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”
“This is an opportunity with ESPN that I’m really excited about,” added Aikman. “We’ve been doing it so long in one way [and] it feels like it’s 2001 again…. I have nothing but respect for the people I worked [for] at Fox, and appreciate the way I was treated for the 21 years I was there, but am excited for the next chapter.”
NFL Explains How World Cup Effected 2022 Schedule
“We didn’t strategically deploy any of our games to either go really strong or go a little less strong, because we knew there was going to be soccer that day.”
This will be the first year that the World Cup will be contested during the NFL season. It isn’t a challenge professional football is used to in America. That is why Mike North, the NFL’s vice president of broadcast scheduling, told Richard Deitsch that it was important to do some homework.
“Very early in the process we got with our broadcast partner at Fox and we knew that there weren’t going to be any windows where Fox was not going to be able to broadcast an NFL game,” he said.
The real effect had to do with the NFL’s international schedule. Five games will be played outside of the United States borders this season. North said he wanted to understand the potential schedule for the World Cup so he could create the best atmosphere for the international contests.
“I’m not sure we’re doing the right thing for the fan in Germany if we’re playing in Bayern Munich’s stadium while the German national team is playing a World Cup game; I’m not sure we are doing the right thing for our fans in Mexico if we were playing a game in Mexico on a day when the Mexican national team was playing. So we were certainly aware of the World Cup schedule and worked very closely with our friends at Fox to make sure we were aligned on how we were going to approach it.”
North said that he wasn’t worried about football beating fútbol. He just wanted to understand what he was putting his teams up against.
“We didn’t back out of any of our windows. We didn’t strategically deploy any of our games to either go really strong or go a little less strong, because we knew there was going to be soccer that day.”
FIFA moved the World Cup to the final two months of the year in 2022. To play the games any earlier would have meant players would have been dealing with extreme heat in Qatar.
The first match will be played on November 21. The final is scheduled for December 18. That overlaps with weeks 11 through 16 of the NFL season.
Peter King: ‘Tom Brady Needs To Study Cris Collinsworth’
“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is.”
Peter King dedicated a not-insignificant portion of his “Football Morning in America” column this week to advice for Tom Brady. FOX announced last week that the Buccaneers’ quarterback will become the network’s lead NFL analyst upon his retirement.
Brady’s decision and his reported salary have been the source of much speculation and prediction amongst his soon-to-be colleagues.
King is optimistic that Tom Brady will be entertaining and informative when he makes his FOX debut. He did offer the GOAT a little bit of advice about what he should be doing in the months leading up to calling it quits on his playing days and starting his new career.
“I think what I’d do if I were Brady is study Cris Collinsworth—and honest to goodness, I don’t say that because I work for NBC,” he wrote. “I say it because Collinsworth knows how to talk X’s-and-O’s conversationally, he’s an easy listen, and he can criticize when the time comes.”
Interestingly, last week, Collinsworth says he hears from most former players that are getting ready to make the jump to broadcasting. He was surprised he never heard from Tom Brady before FOX announced their deal.
King had two other suggestions. The first was that Brady watch multiple games from start to finish so that he can hear what the give-and-take between a broadcaster and analyst sounds like. The other is that he has to commit to being interesting and not censoring himself. King has faith that Brady will be able to do that.
“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is. On that LeBron James show last year, Brady said, ‘Ninety percent of what I say is not what I’m thinking. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like conflict, so in the end I always just try to play it super-flat.’ That has to end once he’s on TV if he wants to be any good.”