Cris Collinsworth will team with Al Michaels for NBC's Sunday Night Football telecasts.
By Don Banks, SI.com
Cris Collinsworth makes all the sense in the world to succeed John Madden in the NBC Sunday Night Football color analyst role. But even though we weren't asked, we couldn't help but come up with our top 10 candidates to replace the American pop culture icon who became a last-name-only phenomenon:
1. Cris Collinsworth -- Honest, he was our first choice, too. And everybody knows Collinsworth has already been the NFL's best analyst for many years now, on all his various network platforms. He's hands-down the most qualified candidate to fill Madden's size 14EEE shoes. He's insightful, unafraid of leveling criticism in any direction, and works tirelessly to be as knowledgeable as anyone who's ever been an NFL commentator. As a bonus, he's not afraid of flying.
2. Ron Jaworski -- Jaws is just a good guy to watch a game with. I've actually sat beside him a few times in a press box, and he's as good in that situation as he is on TV. And he'll grab you a Coke if he's headed that way. Jaworski knows the game as well as anyone, and his enthusiasm for sharing his insights is the most Madden-like of any candidate.
3. Matt Millen -- Go ahead, laugh. But before he became a national punch line, and the worst thing to hit Detroit since the Edsel, Millen was a sort of John Madden Jr. in the making. He had that kind of everyman approach to the game, and his appeal was to both the casual and the diehard football fan. When he did the NBC pre-game show during last January's wild-card weekend, I was reminded how good Millen could be when he wasn't drafting first-round receivers.
4. Brian Billick -- A newcomer to the TV talking head game, Billick is a talkative one-time Super Bowl-winning head coach who had a successful and roughly decade-long run calling the shots for just one NFL team. Who does that sound like? If you said Madden himself, circa 1979, give yourself a high-five, and a "Boom!''
5. Troy Aikman -- The three-time Super Bowl-winning Cowboys quarterback isn't just some ex-jock who thinks everybody in the league is a great guy, a great player or a great coach. He calls them as he sees them, has a good handle on what makes up quality analysis, and he's also pretty entertaining in the process. He's probably not quite ready for a job this big, but he has long since left behind the Joe Theisman-types of the NFL broadcasting world.
Impressionist Frank Caliendo doea a great John Madden.
6. Phil Simms -- There's at least precedence for having a former New York Giants star in the booth for the NFL's glamour prime-time game of the week. I mean, it worked pretty well with the somewhat confused Frank Gifford all those years on Monday Night Football. Simms is on CBS's top announcing team, and when he had to miss the occasional game, you could get Boomer Esiason to fill in without anyone being wise to it (blond-haired, 80s-era quarterbacks are interchangeable).
7. Frank Caliendo -- The cherubic NFL on FOX comic/impersonator has been doing Madden better than Madden for the past five years or so. I swear if they had put Caliendo in the NBC booth without telling anyone of Madden's retirement, nobody would have known the difference for at least the first six weeks of the season. And I'm including Al Michaels.
8. Brett Favre -- Please, no. Just resist the flavor-of-the-month club in terms of recently retired ex-players. Favre will cry at the drop of a hat and wind up stepping all over Michaels' set-ups. First he'll decide he wants to do it, and then he'll change his mind and beg off. It'll go back and forth like that for a few years. Who needs it? Besides, Favre working for a company based in New York just didn't pan out so well.
9. Michael Strahan -- It won't work, even though Strahan did show some promise on the FOX pre-game show last season. He's way too tall for Michaels, and they'll have to prop Al up on a booster seat-bar stool when they do those in-game shots of the two of them in the booth.
10. Dennis Miller -- I know, I know. He's way too busy bloviating on Fox News and Bill O'Reilly's show for this assignment. Sounds like a break for all of us.
What's your take?