By Matt Yoder, Awful Announcing
The NFL is preparing to hold its annual selection meeting in New York City. The Draft has become one of the biggest sporting events of the year and has turned into a must-see television event now spanning three days. As a huge NFL Draft nut, it got me thinking... what if a draft was held consisting of NFL announcers and media personalities? What if we got a few of the best minds and writers together in one place to hold that fantasy draft and Roger Goodell hypothetically announced names like Cris Collinsworth, Jim Nantz, Mike Mayock, and Jon Gruden? What if we had the chance to build our own fantasy networks to broadcast the NFL? This idea came to fruition in the form of the AA NFL Media Fantasy Draft.
We invited three experts to take part in the draft and be the GMs of their own networks. First is Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, one of the most respected sports media writers in the country. Second is John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, who breaks and reports more sports media news than anyone in the industry. Third is Paul Pabst, Executive Producer of The Dan Patrick Show, with years of experience working in the sports media and an integral part of one of the most successful national sports talk shows. And the fourth drafter is, well, me... because I work here.
Our draft lasted nine rounds and each of us were tasked with filling the same positions to create our own network that covers the NFL consisting of:
2 Announce teams (Play by Play, Game Analyst)
1 Studio Host
2 Studio Analysts
1 Wild Card
For the sake of simplicity and clarity, imagine each network having an equal amount of games consisting of equal stature. The possibilities are endles. Al Michaels calling games with Troy Aikman. James Brown in the studio with Trent Dilfer. Gus Johnson finally getting the chance to fill a top network slot. Hopefully you'll have your own thoughts and opinions on the draft and who you would pick to build your own NFL talent base. At the end of the draft, we want you to play Mel Kiper Jr. (or Mayock, McShay, or draftnik of choice) and tell us who you think did the best job building their network. At the conclusion of the draft will be links to each network page that will have the entire roster as well as the network philiosophy of each GM. Our poll is located at the conclusion of the draft and on each network's page and will be open until the real NFL Draft begins next week.
The AA Fantasy Draft produced many moments of intrigue and drama, reaches and steals, and surprises until the very end. The only things we were missing were the hats and jerseys. Here's the full draft results...
Round 1 - Pick 1
John Ourand: James Brown, Studio Host, CBS
With the first pick, I will select James Brown as my studio host. The gap between JB and all the other studio hosts is bigger than the gap at any other position.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Richard Deitsch: Al Michaels, Play by Play, NBC
The true heir to Pat Summerall as the league's big-game announcer and a message to viewers that I’m serious about building my network as best in class.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Paul Pabst: Jim Nantz, Play by Play, CBS
Hello friends, with the third pick in the draft, the PBR Network selects the buttery-voiced Jim Nantz. Nantz can handle either PxP or studio host. He also can handle both hoop and golf coverage on my network in the offseason.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Matt Yoder: Joe Buck, Play by Play, Fox
As stunning as it is to see Awful Announcing select Joe Buck, his work during the most recent playoffs was stellar as he showed more enthusiasm in his delivery. He'll give us an established #1 play by play man as he continues to win vocal fans on Twitter over with his work.
Round 2 - Pick 1
Matt Yoder: Cris Collinsworth, Game Analyst, NBC
Collinsworth is the best analyst not just in the NFL, but perhaps in any sport. He's not afraid to call out players and coaches when need be and can relate his analysis to viewers. His reunion with Joe Buck gives Team AA a true #1 broadcast booth that has experience calling multiple Super Bowls.
Round 2 - Pick 2
Paul Pabst: Dan Patrick, Studio Host, NBC
This may be the easiest pick in PBR Network history…the hair, the pipes….say hello to our studio host…Dan Patrick. As I send the pick in, he says…”I’m just happy to be here and I’ll take it one show at a time.”
Round 2 - Pick 3
Richard Deitsch: Mike Mayock, Game Analyst, NFLN
After a revolving door of oxygen-sucking analysts (Matt Millen and Joe Theismann), Mayock solidified the NFL Network’s game crew. Yes, he talks a lot during a broadcast but his information and attention to detail is fantastic. He’s also become the premier television NFL draft analyst, which means I can use him in the studio during the NFL offseason.
Round 2 - Pick 4
John Ourand: Mike Pereira, Wild Card, Fox
He may be available later in the draft, but I wanted to make sure that I got him on my side. He provides a service to the viewers that nobody else can match on any other network. He helps set my football telecasts apart from everyone else. This is my wildcard pick.
Round 3 - Pick 1
John Ourand: Tony Dungy, Studio Analyst, NBC
He's the best studio analyst on TV right now. He's insightful. He's likable. And most importantly to me, he's a former coach who is not likely to coach again. That allows me to trust his opinions more than others.
Round 3 - Pick 2
Richard Deitsch: Adam Schefter, Reporter, ESPN
The thirst for NFL news is insatiable and I can use Schefter on my studio show or game broadcast. This might be a little high for a reporter but you can never have enough great content.
Round 3 - Pick 3
Paul Pabst: Jay Glazer, Reporter, Fox
There’s officially a run on reporters. Jay Glazer, come on down. He breaks stories and necks, in that order. He’s built like Natrone Means. When the games are over, the PBR Network needs a killer as its main NFL reporter. We now have one.
Round 3 - Pick 4
Matt Yoder: Jon Gruden, Game Analyst, ESPN
"This guy" can do it all for my network. Be a top game analyst, work with potential draft coverage, provide studio specials, and all of it with unmatched enthusiasm. Except for maybe...
Round 4 - Pick 1
Matt Yoder: Gus Johnson, Play by Play, Fox
Of course Team AA wants Gus Johnson on our side, and I can't risk another two rounds without grabbing him. The draftniks may call it a reach, but this is the pick our fanbase is clamoring for. Here, Gus finally gets his due as a top NFL announcer and his partnership with Gruden will quickly become the most popular pairing in the country.
Round 4 - Pick 2
Paul Pabst: Mike Florio, Wild Card, NBC/PFT
With the 4th pick for the PBR Network we select Mike Florio and his website profootballtalk.com. He's my wildcard pick. He can work with DP in studio, during the week as an info man and year round with his website. Plus... good hair. Booyah!
Round 4 - Pick 3
Richard Deitsch: Trent Dilfer, Studio Analyst, ESPN
A thoughtful and well-prepared studio analyst who deserves a higher profile gig. And gets it with the Deitsch Network.
Round 4 - Pick 4
John Ourand: Ron Jaworski, Studio Analyst, ESPN
I'm rounding out my studio team with the man most people think should still be on MNF: Ron Jaworski. Incredibly well prepared; good on camera; and not afraid to be critical. He'll bring a smart energy to the studio and will be great when paired with Dungy.
Round 5 - Pick 1
John Ourand: Ian Eagle, Play by Play, CBS
My next pick goes to Ian Eagle, who I'm happy to make my lead announcer. He calls games the way they should be called, professionally and basic. He doesn't use catch phrases (Hello, friends) or histrionics (Sorry, Gus). I don't see a comedy show in his future (Artie Lange, anyone?), nor will he be bigger than the game (do you believe in miracles?) He'll just do football.
Round 5 - Pick 2
Richard Deitsch: Mike Tirico, Play by Play, ESPN
I want staffers who can do multiple things and Tirico’s strength is his versatility. Always professional and prepared no matter the assignment, he can be my No. 2 announcer behind Michaels as well as host my studio show if need be.
Round 5 - Pick 3
Paul Pabst: Troy Aikman, Game Analyst, Fox
The rings, the hair, the teeth... Troy Aikman is PBR's new game analyst.
Round 5 - Pick 4
Matt Yoder: Peter King, Reporter, SI/NBC
With the NFL becoming a year round sport, I need an insider that can do it all - break news, work in the studio, and even write for our network website. Peter King may not break the news that Schefter or Glazer does, but he has more tools to bring the AABC.
Round 6 - Pick 1
Matt Yoder: Boomer Esiason, Studio Analyst, CBS
Boomer gets lost in the shuffle amongst the cacophonous Sunday morning shows, but he's one of the best studio analysts in the game. A television veteran that can do his best work at the AA Network not being hampered by an overcrowded set. Most of all, Boomer's not afraid to give a strong opinion. And, if I want to get in the radio simulcasting business, he can even work there too.
Round 6 - Pick 2
Paul Pabst: Jimmy Johnson, Studio Analyst, Fox
The most important things to the PBR Network is Super Bowl rings and great hair. "This guy" has both. Jimmy Johnson will be in studio with DP.
Round 6 - Pick 3
Richard Deitsch: Bob Costas, Wild Card, NBC
There are plenty of talented NFL-specific hosts still available but a great sports network should profile its most memorable subjects with memorable interviews. Thus, I can opt for an agent of the league such as Chris Berman or I can treat my viewers like adults. There is no better interviewer in television than Costas, and that includes news anchors.
Round 6 - Pick 4
John Ourand: Rachel Nichols, Reporter, ESPN
I'm a broadcast network looking to staff my NFL Sundays. I need diversity in my on-air ranks. I have the smartest football show on TV right now. That's why I'm picking Rachel Nichols as my reporter. I'm a TV network; I don't care about breaking news. I'll leave that for my website and Twitter. My version of a TV reporter looks just like Nichols: well connected and hard working. She'll get the interviews I need. And she'll ask the right questions. She also will give my viewers some of the best feature stories in the business.
Round 7 - Pick 1
John Ourand: Phil Simms, Game Analyst, CBS
My next pick is Phil Simms. I can't believe my luck here. How is he still available? I think Aikman and Simms are the two best analysts in the game. Maybe I'll throw Collinsworth on there, too. I love his knowledge of the game. He's especially effective at telling viewers what's going to happen, not just what already happened. Bob Costas in the 6th round is the steal of this draft so far. This pick is second.
Round 7 - Pick 2
Richard Deitsch: Trey Wingo, Studio Host, ESPN
I need a studio host and I can’t go wrong with either Wingo, Rich Eisen or Curt Menefee. But I’m opting for the ESPN-er here because he already has good chemistry with Dilfer and I’ve long been impressed with the professionalism he brings to his daily “NFL Live” show.
Round 7 - Pick 3
Paul Pabst: Kevin Harlan, Play by Play, CBS
Kevin Harlan in the 2 spot on my PxP squad. He brings it on Sunday like Pacino at the end of Dog Day Afternoon. Whatever that means. Welcome to the PBR Network, Kevin.
Round 7 - Pick 4
Matt Yoder: Rich Eisen, Studio Host, NFLN
Only one viable studio host left, and no, he's not a rumblin' stumblin' anchor, but the skilled Eisen, who has made his mark as the face of NFL Network. I have no doubt he'll have good chemistry in the studio with Boomer and my next pick.
Round 8 - Pick 1
Matt Yoder: Rodney Harrison, Studio Analyst, NBC
This was my toughest pick. The AA network needs a defensive voice and Harrison, Marcellus Wiley, and Darren Woodson were all considered. In the end, I went with Harrison's energy to compliment our studio coverage. He, Esiason, and Eisen can provide a nice balance of insight and entertainment.
Round 8 - Pick 2
Paul Pabst: Charles Davis, Game Analyst, Fox
Charles Davis is my second game analyst. Say it with me...UN-DER-RA-TED (clap, clap, clap clap clap). Great analyst who doesn't go cliche and has a good time doing games. Can help out on draft coverage as well.
Round 8 - Pick 3
Richard Deitsch: Andrew Brandt, Studio Analyst, ESPN
I'm done with the yuk fests that we see across the dial on pregame show. I already have Dilfer and I don't need another ex-coach (loudly) delivering mundane insights or another ex-player (loudly) trying to out-Deion his colleagues on set. Brandt has the bona fides as a former NFL exec and he'll take my viewers to interesting places with wisdom and insight.
Round 8 - Pick 4
John Ourand: Brad Nessler, Play by Play, NFLN
It’s obvious that I want a no-frills broadcast booth. That’s why I am happy that NFL Network’s Brad Nessler is still on the table. He’s my kind of announcer. He has a strong voice and his calls are clean and clear. He will work well with whatever analyst I’m going to throw at him. And he doesn’t draw undue attention to himself. My stars are on the field, not the broadcast booth. Nessler knows that.
Round 9 - Pick 1
John Ourand: Kirk Herbstreit, Game Analyst, ESPN
For my final pick, I need an analyst, and there’s nobody left who I really like. I wouldn’t mind pairing Ian Eagle up with Dan Fouts — I think that’s the most underrated broadcast team in the NFL today. I also think Daryl Johnson does a good job with Fox. But I am going to select the best college football analyst on TV today: Kirk Herbstreit. He’s not just a college guy; he’s a football guy. He knows football. But more importantly, he knows how to relay that knowledge to the TV viewer. It would not take him long to get up to speed on the NFL.
Round 9 - Pick 2
Richard Deitsch: John Madden, Game Analyst, semi-retired
Wait, what? No, this isn't a misprint. Madden has worked for Sirius NFL Radio this year and so I'm taking the liberty to go way outside-the-box with my last pick. Here's why: First, I want some buzz for my network and this move does it. Second, I thought Madden was still a good analyst when he left the booth and I have no doubt he's good enough to be a No. 2 at a network. So I'll sign him to a year-by-year deal and if he wants to walk away after one season, I'll bring in Dan Fouts or Brian Billick. My drafting colleagues aren't going to like this (probably because they didn't think of it) but it's a business, fellas. Still, I'll be happy to send each of you a free Madden NFL 13.
Round 9 - Pick 3
Paul Pabst: Howie Long, Studio Analyst, Fox
My final pick. He could beat you up with his jaw. Your wife would leave you to spend just five minutes with him. The PBR Network's second studio analyst is Villanova legend Howie Long. Howie is good on Fox, Dan will make him even better in our studio.
Round 9 - Pick 4
Matt Yoder: Sean Payton, Wild Card, New Orleans Saints
Yes, the suspended head coach of the New Orleans Saints is our Mr. Irrelevant. Payton has been rumored to be finding a home on television during his enforced coaching sabbatical, and who wouldn't want his football mind on their set? While Deitsch is trotting out John Madden, we're blowing his network off the back pages of the tabloids with the most explosive hire imaginable. Not only do we get Payton's first full-length sit-down interview, but his excellent and contemporary coaching insights in the studio. He's moonlighted for ESPN in the past, so he'll be comfortable in front of the cameras. America loves nothing more than a good redemption story, and that will get to play out on our network. And, after Joe Vitt leads the Saints to a Super Bowl victory in New Orleans this year (a Saints fan can dream, right?), Payton just might have enough reason to stick around and enjoy his new gig.
There you have it. Time now for the moment of truth. Vote for which network you would most want to watch and which GM built the best stable of NFL broadcasters. Before you do, make sure to check out each network page for our rosters and a breakdown of the choices.
The Maryland Old Boys (John Ourand, Sports Business Journal)
Deitsch Broadcasting Company (Richard Deitsch, Sports Illustrated)
The AABC (Matt Yoder, Awful Announcing)
The PBR Network (Paul Pabst, Dan Patrick Show)