The 25 Greatest NFL Announcers of All Time

Dan LevyNational Lead WriterSeptember 25, 2013

The 25 Greatest NFL Announcers of All Time

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    It's hard to believe, but there was once a time in this country when professional football was not actually that big of a deal. Some of the early championship games wouldn't even sell out. Baseball was America's pastime, and college football was our nation's gridiron tradition.

    And yet, the sport grew and grew through the years, becoming the monolithic entity we know today as the National Football League.

    What does all of that have to do with a list of great announcers?

    There are many reasons for the growth in popularity of the NFL, but none is more important than television. Pro football is a made-for-TV event, and the better technology has become, the more enjoyable the game has been to watch. Think about how important TV is to the NFL: The only thing keeping fans from actually going to the games is the ability to watch them from the comfort of their homes.

    The NFL seems to break television ratings records every year, and the billions upon billions of dollars they rake in from their media partners have turned the NFL into one of the most powerful businesses on the planet.

    While the league truly owes its success to pioneering media geniuses like Roone Arledge and Steve Sabol (to name two of many), it's the television and radio broadcasters who are welcomed into millions of homes every weekend. 

    Who are the best of the bunch?

    In the long and illustrious history of the game—from the Greatest Game Ever Played to the Ice Bowl to The Catch—we thought it would be interesting to look at which announcers rank as the best in professional football history.

    (This ranking is part of a series. The first installment was college football announcers.)

The Caveats

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    We limited this exercise to just those calling the games, not those working in the studio.

    We also tried to limit this list to (mostly) nationally recognized games. Yes, I'm sure your local radio guy is awesome, but there's a chance he did not make this list. Sorry.

    As we all have biases based on our age, where we live and what teams we follow—the networks employed different announcing crews for each team for years before moving to regional and eventually national television announcers—I've asked for some help in this particular endeavor.

    Some help for this list came from Bleacher Report NFL experts Mike Freeman, Josh Zerkle, Mike Schottey, Ty Schalter, Will Carroll, Christopher Hansen and Erik Frenz.

    Hoping to expand this for opinions outside the B/R snow globe, I collected the opinions of some people who listen to the announcers about as closely as I do, including Tim Burke (Deadspin) and Ed Sherman (The Sherman Report). Still more came from you, friendly reader, via Twitter. Oh, and this guy—the writer, not the subject.

    Before you rip into the comments to complain that your favorite announcer wasn't named, keep in mind our initial list had 87 names. We cut that down to 50, presenting the first 50 names alphabetically (read: not ranked in any way) on a single page before dedicating more time—and media—to the top 25 announcers. 

    Oh, and so you know going into this list, sideline reporters are eligible, but none made the list. Also, this is a Gruden Free Zone.

    Enjoy, debate, and hopefully we didn't forget your favorite voice.

25. Myron Cope, Merrill Reese and Homers Everywhere

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    The first spot on our official rankings goes to homer radio announcers around the country. Every city has one, with few being more memorable than the late Myron Cope in Pittsburgh—inventor of the Terrible Towel—and Philadelphia's Merrill Reese, king of all the homers and yet, at times, still incredibly critical of the team that pays his salary.

    Cope's craggily voice may never work in today's media world, but it made him as much a part of Pittsburgh sports as the players themselves. 

    Reese is a legend in Philadelphia for his exuberance, even at the expense of detail. Watch this play and notice all the things that happened from the snap to the score. Did Reese explain any of them? Nope, he's too excited counting yards.

     

24. Merlin Olsen

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    Merlin Olsen's impact on the game, both on the field and calling the game, certainly warrants recognition. Growing up, I remember Olsen as a larger-than-life figure in the booth, paired mostly with Dick Enberg as NBC's lead announcing crew.

    From his March 2010 obituary in the Los Angeles Times:

    "I was amazed by his size just like everybody else, but more than that at his great intelligence," former CBS analyst Irv Cross, who played three years with Olsen on the Rams, told The Times in 1982. "His ability to analyze the game was something everybody on the team recognized. It was just unbelievable that any one person would be gifted in so many ways."

23. Mike Mayock

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    Mike Mayock is best known as NFL Network's draft guru, but he has carved out a bit of a niche for himself as an in-game analyst as well, working the NFL Network's Thursday games and Notre Dame football games for NBC.

    NFL Lead Writer Ty Schalter added, "Mayock is fantastic in small bursts, and is willing to actually provide analysis rather than advance narrative. He still gets lost in his own world sometimes, though."

    Mayock is a picker of nits (his term, not mine), which draftniks love, but it can get a bit overwhelming during a live event. Still, he is one of the best analysts going today, for sure.

    (Let it be known that this is the best video I could find after searching for nearly an hour. There are some times when I understand the leagues controlling their content online, but there are other times when it's incredibly obnoxious. Let us help you promote your league by throwing us a few of your best in-game clips, please.)

22. Mike Tirico

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    I have had the good fortune to spend time with Mike Tirico on a number of occasions, and rarely have I come across someone as thoughtful and likeable. Hell, I once interviewed him from inside the Monday Night Football booth an hour before kickoff, and he gave me the time like we were sitting in a coffee shop on a Saturday morning.

    But that's not why he's on this list. Having a chance to witness Tirico's preparation come through in his game call is why he's on this list.

    Having seen Tirico balance the time between the likes of Tony Kornheiser and Joe Theismann and Kornheiser and Ron Jaworski, then manage the egos of Jaws and Jon Gruden, he should have won an Emmy. Hopefully being on this list will suffice as an honor.

21. Vin Scully

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    When we do our baseball list—spoiler alert­—Vin Scully will be No. 1 for sure. But did you know the Dodgers' broadcasting legend also called a ton of football games in his career?

    Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News retold a story about Scully's dance with doing Monday Night Football back in 1970, writing:

    He says he saw the trend of analysts taking over came back in the 1970s, when he was asked by ABC producer Chuck Howard if he’d be interested in becoming the first play-by-play man on Monday Night Football.

    “He said it was going to be the hottest thing on TV—and he was right,” said Scully.

    Scully declined, in part, because “the more I thought about it, I realized it would conflict with the Dodgers’ schedule.” But another reason he passed, he said, had to do with how he saw the play-by-play man’s role being diluted.

    Imagine how different things might be if Scully did Monday Night Football when it began. Imagine how different things might be if CBS picked Scully to be the permanent partner for John Madden, instead picking Pat Summerall after each had a four-week stint with Madden during the 1981 season.

    Rather than being assigned the Super Bowl with Madden that year, Scully was given the lower profile NFC Championship Game with Hank Stram—after losing the lead play-by-play gig to Summerall—putting Scully in the TV booth for "The Catch."

20. Charlie Jones

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    Charlie Jones made our list of top college football announcers (one of five men in the top 20 of this list to be on that list as well), but he was probably best known for his work calling games from the professional football booth.

    Jones was a throwback to the old AFL days of the 1960s, working with NBC from 1965 through 1997. He called some great games in his day, none more memorable than the epic comeback by the Buffalo Bills over the Houston Oilers in a 1993 Wild Card Game—paired with Todd Christiansen who surely deserved more consideration for this list—that featured Buffalo's comeback from a 35-3 third-quarter deficit to win in overtime.

    Jones never really ascended past the second or third announcing team for NBC, but his long tenure and signature voice made him someone who was difficult to exclude.

19. Lindsey Nelson

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    Lindsey Nelson, high on our college football list, was a key voice of the college bowl season for more than 30 years. He was also a broadcaster of the New York Mets for nearly 20 years, starting with the team in 1962.

    Nelson covered NFL football for CBS from 1966 through the 1981 season, serving as the play-by-play man for the Cowboys and Bears before moving to national and regional coverage in the 1970s. Nelson also called games on Monday night on radio, a true throwback to a bygone era of sports broadcasting.

    It's interesting that with a career as long and storied as Nelson's, he really didn't get much national recognition until he was in his 50s. He surely made up for whatever time he may have lost in the national spotlight, being named to nearly every major announcing Hall of Fame in existence.

18. Jim Nantz

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    Jim Nantz is an excellent broadcaster, and perfect as the lead representative for a buttoned-up network like CBS. It's just that—like his lead announcing counterpart at Fox—it's very easy to suffer from "Nantz fatigue," especially for fans of more than just professional football.

    Nantz is the lead college basketball announcer for March Madness as well as CBS' golf coverage, including the Masters and PGA Championship (note: CBS and Turner are corporate partners for the NCAA tournament and PGA), and serves as the play-by-play man in the lead booth for the NFL on CBS. It's a lot of Nantz, especially like last season when CBS had the Super Bowl.

    Nantz is a quintessential game manager in the booth—which is exactly what CBS wants—so if it ever decided to put him with a more dynamic color analyst for football and/or give the Final Four to Marv Albert or Verne Lundquist, the network's overall sports coverage would be much better served.

    In a way, Nantz became too good for his own good.

17. Don Meredith

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    I'll admit that Don Meredith predates my era of prime-time football viewing, so this ranking is purely based on those who are old enough to remember him and on the hundreds of clips available online.

    Dandy Don was an original member of the Monday Night Football crew, working NFL games from 1970 through 1984 at ABC and, for a stint, NBC.

    Meredith was seen as a bit of a jokester in the booth, often playing off the demonstrative and bombastic Howard Cosell (more on him later), but clearly he knew his football, having played nine years at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, which included three trips to the Pro Bowl.

    I asked my father about Meredith, and he balked, suggesting he was more of a character than an analyst (then what would that make Cosell, one might wonder). When I suggested that to media scribe Ed Sherman, he replied, "You need to have Meredith in there. He changed the whole profession. He probably talked more about football than people recall."

    There are a lot of MNF names still to come, but it would feel odd to have this list without one of the first, and longest tenured, characters.

16. Frank Gifford

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    Frank Gifford started covering games on CBS after his Hall of Fame playing career was over, moving to ABC for Monday Night Football in 1971, taking over the play-by-play duties for Keith Jackson.

    It must have been interesting for Gifford, sharing a microphone with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith—in the old pregame stand-ups, they literally shared a microphone while on camera—something that helped cement his reputation and stature in the NFL booth. But, wow, it must have been a difficult road to navigate with those huge personalities.

    In the 1980s, after Meredith left the booth, the powers that be shifted Gifford into the role of color analyst, teaming him with Al Michaels and, for most of his tenure in that position, Dan Dierdorf. Unburdened by the structure of down and distance, Gifford was able to inject his expertise as a former player into the experience of calling games for 15 years, creating a favorable situation for him to shine on TV.

    His first on-air exchange with Michaels for an MNF regular-season game showed how relieved he was to have a chance to breathe.

    Like with any announcer who spends more than two-and-a-half decades in the same television booth, time was not entirely Gifford's friend. His role as a game analyst morphed into more of a game host, with Michaels shouldering far more of the load and Dierdorf providing post-play analysis.

    In a way, those years were some of the best in the history of Monday Night Football, but the three-man booth—which Gifford helped establish as a weekly staple—eventually began to marginalize his contributions. Throughout his tenure, however, those contributions were massive.

15. Tom Brookshier

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    Tom Brookshier was born in New Mexico and went to college in Colorado, but he was as revered in Philadelphia as any sports personality could be.

    Brookshier played for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1953-1961—he missed the 1954 and '55 seasons while serving in the Air Force—starting in the defensive backfield for the 1960 NFL Championship team. His career ended because of injury a year later, and in 1962, Brookshier joined the ranks of local radio and television for three years before signing with CBS as a color analyst in the mid-to-late 1960s.

    Brookshier hosted This Week In Pro Football with Pat Summerall in the early 1970s, and the tandem worked so well together that CBS decided to pair them in the booth, with Summerall—a former player himself—handling the play-by-play duties and Brookshier providing analysis.

    Brookie, as he was known, worked three Super Bowls in the booth and several more in studio. He eventually got replaced in the lead booth by John Madden, taking on the role of play-by-play announcer for less prominent games at CBS.

    Brookshier was also a pioneer in sports radio as one of the first morning show hosts on Philadelphia's WIP, teaming with upstart Angelo Cataldi in the station's early years. For those who know Philly radio, I'm not entirely sure if that's a good thing to remember Brookshier for. (We kid because we love, WIP.)

    In 2010, when Brookshier died, Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger—seen in the video above with questionable audio quality—wrote about his first experience doing live television with the Philly legend:

    In October 1997, when Comcast SportsNet launched its Philadelphia signal, they created a show called Eagles Post-Game Live, a two-hour talk show with Michael Barkann anchoring, Tom Brookshier providing analysis and me providing, well, I don't know what I was providing. I was just there.

    I had very little TV experience, and I was terrified at the thought of doing a live two-hour show.

    As the director began the countdown "One minute to air…30 seconds to air…" I was shaking. Tom leaned over and asked, "Are you all right?" I said, "Tom, I'm scared to death." He nudged me with his elbow and said: "Just relax and follow my lead."

    So I did… I followed his lead for the rest of that season and the season that followed. Even after Tom left the show in 1999, I continued to hear his voice. Each week as they begin the countdown on Eagles Postgame Live, I still hear it. Thirteen years later, I'm still following his lead.

14. Troy Aikman

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    Troy Aikman is, in some ways, the perfect television analyst for today's NFL. Aikman provides solid, dependable analysis without talking over the heads of casual fans and with a style that has never made the game about him.

    He calls the game from the booth similar to how he played the game on the field—he does his job, does it well and lets the stars be the stars. As a player, the game was never about Aikman, even when he was lifting Lombardi Trophies or putting on a Hall of Fame jacket. As an analyst, he's not afraid to get critical when he sees a play or call he doesn't like, but he does it in a way that still manages to respect the game.

    Now, all of that could make him boring. He is, at times, boring, and being paired with Joe Buck all these years certainly hasn't made him less boring.

    From B/R Lead Writer Ty Schalter: "Aikman is good, but the pairing of Buck and Aikman has always been sleep-inducing for me. Either would be great with a peppier partner. Aikman also constantly works Cowboys games, and it's hard not to hear his analysis through the lens of his old job."

    While I agree the call can get dull, I think the combination of Buck and Aikman works rather well for Fox. In a job that often gets analysts noticed for things they do wrong—really in doing this I've found that nobody likes any of today's color analysts all that much—Aikman should be lauded for what he does right.

     

13. Joe Buck

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    Does Joe Buck deserve to be on the list one notch ahead of his partner Troy Aikman? Some diehard football fans may think Buck doesn't deserve to be on the list at all. (Those people are wrong.)

    Buck is boring, and he hates your team, as the online comments plead week after week, year after year. And yet, Buck still lands the top assignments for Fox's coverage of the NFL and MLB. Why? Because he is really, really good at his job.

    Buck makes Aikman better than Aikman makes Buck, which is why he is one spot higher on the list. People say Buck is boring and seems uninterested by the game, but some of those same people loved the "minimalist" way people like Pat Summerall called the game. If Buck was in the booth before the Internet age, or he was paired with a more dynamic analyst like John Madden, would history remember him more favorably?

    Or is it just that we've grown tired of him already?

    The thing about Buck is that, like Jim Nantz at CBS, he's too good for his own good, which puts him in high-profile positions too often for some that watch a lot of Fox events. The year Buck hosted the pregame show for Fox and called the games and then did baseball was one of the worst things Fox could have ever done to its coverage and its lead announcer. Some turned on Buck during that time and really never came back. There was some serious "Buck Fatigue" going on, but that was Fox's fault, not entirely his.

    Sure, his tone and temperament comes off as ostentatious, especially for a football telecast. And yes, the idea of him hosting a live HBO talk show was one of the worst decisions anyone could have made. But calling games? He's pretty damn good at calling games.

    Buck's career has been far from perfect—we remember the "disgusting act" comment as being worse for Buck than Randy Moss—but he has intellect, a dry wit and the ability to never let a game get away from him as an announcer. A twinge less ego and a little more excitability, and he would be on par with the best play-by-play men ever.

12. Jack Buck

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    Joe still can't get out of his dad's shadow, even on a list for a sport for which his dad is less remembered than baseball.

    Jack Buck called football for decades, working at CBS, ABC and NBC on television and serving as the lead voice of Monday Night Football with Hank Stram on radio. Buck was in the booth for several NFL championship games, including the 1967 Ice Bowl.

    He also called 18 Super Bowls, mostly on radio.

11. Marv Albert

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    Marv Albert is another announcer better known for calling a sport other than professional football—if you think he won't be one of the top announcers on the NBA list, you're crazy—but he should be remembered, historically, as one of the great football announcers of our time.

    A New York broadcasting legend, Albert was a mainstay in the booth for NBC's NFL coverage for most of the 1990s, but personal (ahem) transgressions in the late '90s led NBC to fire him. Albert returned to NBC less that two years later, but by then the Peacock Network had lost the rights to calling NFL games. Albert then joined TNT shortly after his return to the national spotlight, a home he has had ever since.

    In 2002, Albert joined Westwood One radio to call Monday Night Football games for nearly a decade. He now calls NFL games for CBS, getting its third- or fourth-tier assignments behind Jim Nantz, Greg Gumbel and sometimes Ian Eagle.

    Albert was a phenomenal football radio announcer—in some ways better than TV—and has proven over the length and breadth of his career that he is one of the great personalities in the industry. Does he deserve to be on this list? "Yes!"

10. Cris Collinsworth

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    Cris Collinsworth is the best in-game analyst working today, and the competition isn't even close.

    Collinsworth provides so much value to a telecast, from breaking down coverages and blocking schemes in a palatable way to calling out players and coaches who underperform. Collinsworth pulls zero punches in the booth, but his criticisms are handled in a way where he isn't necessarily ridiculing the man, more that specific decision in question.

    Now, Collinsworth is not without his faults, most notably his penchant for sounding enamored with his own analysis. But what color analyst doesn't do that, so if his confidence crosses the line to cockiness, it doesn't do so in a way that takes away from the telecast or makes the game about him.

    In today's sports media culture, there may not be many analysts I'd rather have on a call than Collinsworth.

9. Howard Cosell

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    I'll admit I had no idea where to put Howard Cosell on this list. Should he have been in the top two, because nobody in the history of announcing any sport in America is as memorable as Cosell? Nobody. He's the guy.

    But that doesn't make him the best. In fact, to some, Cosell's penchant for overshadowing an event made him the worst. He was both adored and reviled by fans of Monday Night Football for years, which in some ways was part of the brilliance of putting him in the booth in the first place.

    From a 1995 obituary by Robert Thomas Jr. of The New York Times:

    "Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff," Cosell once said. "I have been called all of these. Of course, I am."

    To Mr. Cosell, criticism was another form of homage. If the criticism came from other broadcasters, he always considered the source: "There's one thing about this business," he once said, "there is no place for talent. That's why I don't belong. I lack mediocrity."

8. Al DeRogatis

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    After his playing career with the New York Giants ended, Al DeRogatis began a second career in broadcasting, starting his tenure in the booth working radio with Marty Glickman* before moving to TV to work NBC games with Curt Gowdy.

    DeRogatis did television as somewhat of a part-time gig, as his obit in The New York Times discussed how he worked as a vice president with Prudential insurance company for 33 years after his retirement.

    Why is he this high on the list? In 2004, Sports Illustrated did a roundup of the best announcers in sports, and Paul Zimmerman, best known to his loyal readers as Dr. Z, picked DeRogatis as his top analyst of all time.

    1.  Al DeRogatis: He worked for NBC in the 1960s. Some people found his presentation too technical. Not me. He was an explainer, not a screamer.

    *-A quick aside about Marty Glickman: He may be the most influential figure in the history of modern sports media. Glickman was an Olympic-caliber athlete but was asked not to participate in the 1936 Berlin Olympics because of, as rumors swirled, his Jewish heritage. After his career as an athlete, he went into broadcasting and was an innovator in the field, coining phrases announcers still use today.

    A mentor to many influential broadcasters, including Marv Albert, Bob Costas, Dick Stockton, Len Berman, Sean McDonough, Mike Breen, Bob Papa and Mike Tirico, to name a few, Glickman worked New York Knicks, Giants and Jets games throughout his enormously influential career in media.

    (Note: Finding substantive video clips of DeRogatis was hard to do for NFL games, so the above clip is from the 1976 Rose Bowl.)

7. Chris Schenkel

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    If there was a big game, Chris Schenkel was probably calling it.

    Schenkel is also on our college football list of top announcers, but he really got his start in the business calling professional football. Schenkel called Giants games back in the 1950s. He was on the call for NBC for the 1958 NFL Championship Game, which is widely regarded as the greatest game ever played.

    Schenkel was named Sportscaster of the Year four times in his career and received an Emmy award for lifetime achievement as well as the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

6. Curt Gowdy

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    Curt Gowdy is widely remembered as a baseball announcer, but he was also the top AFL and NFL announcer for decades, working for ABC in the early 1960s before moving to NBC.

    Gowdy teamed with many great names in broadcasting during his time in the NFL booth, working for all three major networks (he moved to CBS later in his career). Gowdy called Super Bowl I for NBC in 1967 and went on to call eight more Super Bowls in his career, including Super Bowl III when Joe Namath and the Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts.

    Gowdy was also in the booth with Al DeRogatis for the infamous Heidi game, for what that's worth. 

5. Paul Christman

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    Paul Christman was a college football Hall of Famer at Missouri before playing six seasons in the NFL, winning the 1947 NFL Championship. Upon his retirement, Christman went into announcing, serving as the play-by-play announcer for the Chicago Cardinals for CBS before moving on to call AFL games with Curt Gowdy on ABC.

    Christman followed Gowdy to NBC in the mid-1960s and worked Super Bowl I for the Peacock Network. He later moved back to CBS in 1960 to work with Ray Scott before dying of a heart attack in 1970.

    Christman passed away eight years before I was born, so why is ahead of the likes of Gowdy and Schenkel? Again, the credit goes to Dr. Z:

    MY TOP PLAY-BY-PLAY ANNOUNCERS

    I have to qualify this because, for my purposes, what I want in a play-by-play man is someone who will spot the ball accurately (it's amazing how few of them can do it), who will be reasonably correct in identifying the person who makes the defensive play, who will NEVER ignore live action to keep the storyline going (an alarming recent trend), and ... I guess I'm asking too much here ... will tell you who is subbing for whom in situational packages, such as the nickel. I realize I am calling for the near-impossible on that last one because none of them do it consistently.

    1. Paul Christman: Smooth, calm and accurate. I think he would be shocked by the lack of respect announcers show the game these days.

4. Dick Enberg

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    Oh my, Dick Enberg is high on this list, and he certainly deserves to be here.

    Enberg began his career doing local TV and radio in Los Angeles, which included UCLA basketball contests before getting a job at NBC. First, Enberg tried his hand at hosting game shows before signing with NBC Sports in 1975.

    Enberg eventually replaced Curt Gowdy as NBC's lead football announcer, calling the top games for NBC's NFL coverage as well as the annual Rose Bowl game. Enberg called eight Super Bowls in his career, hosting coverage for another.

    He is as adept at calling tennis or baseball or basketball or any host of sports as he is football. He is, without question, one of the greats in the history of the profession, headlined by his work covering the NFL on both NBC and CBS for more than three decades.

3. Pat Summerall

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    Other than John Facenda with NFL Films, there is no voice in history more synonymous with NFL football than Pat Summerall. The booming seriousness of his voice was expertly softened by the tiniest hint of twang. He made every game sound like the biggest game of the year, and his partnership with John Madden elevated the two far above the rest of their contemporaries.

    A kicker for 10 years in the league, Summerall started a career in radio in the early 1960s before hooking on with CBS as a color analyst until 1974 when he and Tom Brookshier teamed up in the booth to call games together. Summerall was asked to handle the play-by-play duties, which he did for seven years in the lead announcing tandem, before Madden's ascendance changed the course of football announcing history.

    Madden was pegged to replace Brookshier as the lead analyst, and Summerall beat out Vin Scully to serve as lead play-by-play voice. The two worked 22 years together at CBS and Fox, working eight Super Bowls together. (Note: Summerall worked 16 Super Bowls in the booth in his career as either play-by-play or color analyst.)

    Summerall's calm, minimalist demeanor was almost too calm and minimalist on its own, but it proved to be the perfect yin to Madden's bombastic yang. The two were the best announcing tandem in the history of any sport.

    From NFL Lead Writer Mike Schottey: "When Pat Summerall passed away, I wrote on Twitter: 'If you're thinking of a football play and it's not being announced by Pat Summerall or Keith Jackson, you're doing it wrong.' I still very much believe that, but it's probably because of my generation. Summerall was the voice of football for a lot of people who love the game today."

2. Al Michaels

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    Spoiler alert: Our series of announcers rankings will conclude with a look at the greatest announcers of all time across all sports. For that, we will be hard pressed to find anyone to rank ahead of Al Michaels. He is, simply, the greatest American play-by-play voice in sports and, for most of his career, he always has been.

    Born in New York before his family moved to California when he was a boy, Michaels has always stayed true to his signature New York accent despite working on the West Coast and Hawaii.

    He came up as a baseball announcer—in his first appearance on Monday Night Football he joked to Frank Gifford that he would handle the "hit-and-run" if Gifford agreed to handle the "bump-and-run"—but he quickly became the go-to voice for any big event, calling Monday Night Baseball for ABC in the late 1970s before getting the Monday Night Football gig in 1986.

    Oh, right, there was also that whole "Miracle on Ice" thing.

    Michaels was great, as expected, in the Monday Night Football booth—despite the way he pronounces New Orleans, which to this day annoys me to no end. He even survived the Dennis Miller debacle of 2000-01 before joining up with John Madden at ABC and then, amid some controversy, NBC for Sunday Night Football where he works now alongside Cris Collinsworth.

    From NFL Lead Video Contributor Josh Zerkle: "Carrie Underwood said that Al and Cris are the best on TV. And Faith Hill had said that for years. Case closed."

1. John Madden

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    John Madden is one of the most important men, not just announcers, in the history of the NFL.

    Madden has done more for the game of football than any one man should ever be able to do, and much of his reach and impact is because of his work as a television commentator after retiring from coaching.

    Madden is one of the great television characters of all time, and yet, he was as real as they come. What you saw was what you got with Madden: an honest, learned and excitable analysis of professional football.

    From Lead Writer Will Carroll: "While he got to be a caricature at the end, Madden changed how a lot of people looked at the game by giving an angle we weren't used to seeing. Color went from telling stories like Gifford and Meredith to analyzing the game because of Madden."

    Sure, Madden had a tendency to get worked up in his own exuberance, but that was part of what made him so affable. Madden made watching football fun, from his outlandish use of the telestrator to his sound effects when replaying a tackle to the Turducken on Thanksgiving.

    His All-Madden teams changed the way fans looked at the game's best players—the dirtier the player got, the better he was—and the video game franchise that bears his name changed the way young fans connected to the game.

    In how many ways do I owe my fandom to John Madden? Too many to count.