I took a look at network television’s NFL studio hosts and analysts and identified the seven that stand out. Here they are in alphabetical order
- James Brown of (CBS) hosts the oldest of the network pre game shows, The NFL Today. The Harvard alum is more interested in straight forward reporting than flash and glitz which better defines the approach of Fox. This is his second stint with CBS. He actually left for Fox at one point and returned. Brown keeps The NFL Today moving nicely, relying on the depth of knowledge of panelists Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason, Nate Burleson and Phil Simms. Brown is smooth, engaging and triggers timely discussions. Like Mike Tirico (NBC) and Curt Menefee (Fox), he doesn’t express his own opinion often, yet, like many talented hosts, he elicits the best from his colleagues on the set.
- Nate Burleson joined (CBS) in 2017. Nate is a television star in the making, working on The NFL Today and for the NFL Network. He usually serves as an analyst, but when CBS’ James Brown isn’t available he easily transitions to hosting, handling scores and doing sponsor drop-ins and outcues. The Canadian born former NFL wide receiver is quick on the learning curve. He is already equally comfortable in the hosting role as he is an analyst. Burleson is not afraid to spew predictions either. Even as a graphic showed the 49ers’ outstanding record with Jimmy Garoppolo, Nate suggests that San Francisco will move on from the quarterback this offseason. He proceeded to suggest that if the 49ers can trade for the Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford, they’ll do so and the team’s offense will take off.
- Suzy Kolber of (ESPN), 56, is an accomplished veteran who’s covered the NFL for decades. As a longtime host of studio programming, she is at ease stirring discussions among the set’s analysts, be they voices with strong or differing opinions. Suzy’s professionalism manifested itself in 2003 when she was blindsided by an inebriated Joe Namath during a sideline interview at the Meadowlands. Kolber thought quickly on her feet, maintained her equanimity and segued back to the game broadcasters upstairs.
- Randy Moss of (ESPN) was one of the best receivers in his NFL days. At 43, he is now one of the liveliest and most energetic personalities on ESPN’s platform of pregame shows, breaking down players’ strengths and team strategies. Before a Ravens-Browns game on a Monday night, Moss graded Cleveland running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Randy cogently addressed Hunt’s receiving skills and Chubb’s power and speed. He doesn’t hold back or share empty statements, pointing out for instance that Cleveland sometimes forgets to give its two best players the ball. Moss also famously hosts, “You got Mossed!”
- Adam Schefter of (ESPN) is the network’s Insider and has an expanded role in the network’s pregame show. Most Insiders like Jay Glazer of Fox or Mike Florio of NBC will pop up on the screen only when asked to by the host and it’s usually for breaking news. Not Schefter, 54. He sits comfortably at the table with the rest of the crew and is right in the middle of broad discussions. His breadth of knowledge merits his participation.
- Michael Strahan of (Fox) is the former Giant and Super Bowl champion. He brings charm, humor and confidence to the studio. It helps when you’ve co-hosted talk shows which Strahan did with Kelly Ripa. He makes simple points but they’re good. “You think teams will realize that (Kyle) Murray likes to roll right.” Strahan will then highlight how the QB likes to spin away from pressure and roll toward his right to either pass or to run it himself. Strahan, 49, fits in with FOX’ less rigid format; one distilled with football material, quips and personality.
- Mike Tirico of (NBC)is the host of NBC’s Football Night in America. Every now and then he’s off the show because he is filling in for legendary Al Michaels. Mike, 54, does well raising topics for his cohorts, yet he doesn’t often infuse many of his own opinions, deferring instead to the analysts. Tirico’s years of covering all kinds of sports has helped him develop a smooth and versatile skill-set when hosting pregame shows and calling games. He never gets flustered, no matter the assignment. You might argue that he’s the most versatile sportscaster on television today.
While Bob Costas (NBC), Brent Musburger (CBS) and Bryant Gumbel (NBC) were before my time, I get the sense that they spewed their opinions and sprinkled their personalities into NFL studio programming, more so than today’s visible hosts, Brown (CBS) Kolber (ESPN), Menefee (Fox) and Tirico (NBC).
So be it. Social media wasn’t really born when the earlier trio were at the peak of their broadcast careers.