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Al Michaels thinks Wild Card criticism is ‘internet compost’

Al Michaels labeled criticism of his and Tony Dungy’s game broadcast of the Jaguars’ incredible comeback playoff win over the Chargers Saturday by describing it as “internet compost!”

Michaels said he was “very happy” and is not going to do a game for “over the top YouTube hits.”

“A lot of folks who understand this industry are annoyed with the over-the-top yelling that makes a game sound like an offshoot of talk radio,” Michaels texted The Post. “I’m in that corner, but there are others who obviously think otherwise.”

Michaels and I texted on Sunday as he flew back on a private jet from Jacksonville to his Los Angeles home. Here’s the full exchange.

Andrew Marchand: What did you think of Saturday night’s broadcast?

Al Michaels: Very happy. Had never worked with Tony and it felt extremely comfortable. Was like doing two different games. First half/second half. Tons of fascinating strategy. Nothing like postseason in any sport. Must have gotten a hundred texts from folks who were very happy to see me back on NBC. Read some comments that we didn’t sound excited enough. Internet compost! You know me as well as anyone — no screaming, no yelling, no hollering. It’s TELEVISION! Ellipses and captions are [sufficient] when pictures tell the story.

NBC commentator Al Michaels on the field during an NFL game
Al Michaels said he doesn’t think a TV game broadcast needs him to distract from the action with overenthusiastic play-calling.
Getty Images

I’m not doing a game for over-the-top YouTube hits. What’d ya think?

Marchand: I’d say it lacked energy, which is a combo of your style combined with Tony’s demeanor. If you were with, say, Cris [Collinsworth], it probably goes unnoticed, because he would fill in those gaps. So I do think the combo lacked energy in one of the great comebacks. Your opinion on that?

Michaels: I thought the energy was much better once Jax made it a game. 27-0 makes it difficult to make it sound like more than it is. One of the things that I think makes Tony good is that he doesn’t overtalk and load it up with unneeded blather. He’s measured, but almost everything he says has relevance and poignancy. A lot of folks who understand this industry are annoyed with the over-the-top yelling that makes a game sound like an offshoot of talk radio. I’m in that corner, but there are others who obviously think otherwise. Don’t you find it ironic that the most understated announcer of all-time was the iconic Pat Summerall. And before that — Ray Scott. And lots of folks still yearn for that style. One size doesn’t fit all.

Marchand: I agree. I like accuracy and knowing the rhythm of the game. Summerall was great, but was a system QB. He was perfect for [John] Madden. With the wrong partner, he would’ve needed to adjust or would not be considered an all-timer.

Michaels: Definitely. You know better than anyone that Cris and I had a wonderful rhythm going for 13 years — at least in our eyes. An involuntary separation, but out of our hands, as you were well aware. We made each other better and it was pure joy. That can’t be re-created in one game or one season with a new partner. It takes time. Accuracy and rhythm [is] a great way to put it. I live by that tenet. Blending takes time.

Tony Dungy of NBC Sports during an NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills on September 08, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA.
Ripped on social media for a lack of energy during NBC’s Saturday night broadcast, Tony Dungy was praised by Michaels for his concise and relevant analysis.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

My closing thoughts: NBC has only one NFL game a week, so it needs to figure out this playoff spot so it is not a focus next year.

This is the second year in a row that NBC’s second playoff broadcast has become an issue. Last year, Drew Brees basically sunk his game broadcasting, for now, by freezing during the Bengals-Raiders game.

Saturday night was the first game that Michaels and Dungy worked together. It is not an ideal setup to get to know each other under such a spotlight.

Michaels pines to work with Collinsworth, who probably would have made Michaels’ lower energy less noticeable. But it was Michaels’ job to adjust to the 67-year-old Dungy’s understated demeanor.

At 78, Michaels is a broadcasting legend. He doesn’t need to change, but he needed to hit some of the bigger moments, like the game-winning field goal, with more oomph alongside Dungy, as opposed to Collinsworth.

Michaels was slow to do that on Saturday. Dungy didn’t help, but he’s an inexperienced, low energy game analyst, not possibly the greatest of all-time.

Quick clicks

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay during the NFL game between the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams on December 25, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA.
After deciding to return to the Rams’ sideline, Sean McVay may need to wait a few years before a prime game analyst position opens again.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

• When Rams coach Sean McVay does finally decide to leave the sideline, it could coincide with an NFL TV game analyst job. After last year’s big time merry-go-around, there are no crazy money openings at the moment. Things change quickly and unexpectedly, but the next big job that could be open is NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” after the 2026 Super Bowl. As we previously reported, Cris Collinsworth, 63, signed an extension for $12.5 million per year that will take him through that Super Bowl. However, NBC had Drew Brees in the on-deck circle before he flamed out in his rookie year.

Meanwhile, Tom Brady waits in the wings at Fox Sports. He has a $375 million contract waiting for him after he stops playing. There remain some who don’t believe Brady will ever do it. Greg Olsen, who will call this year’s Super Bowl, has a chance to make it his job for good if Brady doesn’t show up. But if Brady never arrives in the booth and Fox becomes dissatisfied with Olsen at No. 1, then McVay could have another potential big money opening.

• With Kevin Warren leaving as Big Ten commissioner to run the Chicago Bears, two TV names that could be bandied about as replacements are Fox Sports president and COO Mark Silverman and ESPN’s president of programming and COO Burke Magnus.

Big 10 commissioner Kevin Warren is seen following the Big 10 Championship college football game between the Purdue Boilermakers and Michigan Wolverines on December 3, 2022 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
After almost three years as the Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren decided to leave the conference to become the president and CEO of the Bears.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

• MLB hired experienced regional sports TV executive Billy Chambers, according to podcaster John Ourand. This is at the same time that Sinclair/Diamond Sports struggles, with bankruptcy a possibility. Sinclair/Diamond Sports’ Bally Sports networks own the rights to many teams in MLB, the NBA and the NHL, all of whom could be severely impacted if Sinclair/Diamond continues to have major financial issues. It is an emerging story and one that could become one of the bigger ones in sports, depending how it transpires. With the Chambers’ hiring, MLB is trying to prepare itself so it can receive the proper value for its teams’ local rights.

MNF’s big test

Sometimes things are what they seem. Sometimes they are not. This brings us to the renaissance of “Monday Night Football,” its ratings decline this season and tonight’s test for what is the dream wild-card weekend matchup that every network wanted.

This is a big TV story, and here is what you need to know:

The NFL is going to see how a “Monday Night Football” playoff game rates: The NFL views Sunday afternoon as its best viewing window, which is proven by Fox and CBS having the highest overall numbers yearly.

Tonight, Tom Brady vs. the Cowboys will be on ESPN and, importantly, ABC, which will allow MNF to continue to add luster to what was once the undisputed most coveted time slot in football programming.

ESPN has improved its relationship with the NFL, adding Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and the Manningcast. Things are on the upswing, but they aren’t perfect yet.

Troy Aikman and Joe Buck attend the 2022 ABC Disney Upfront at Basketball City - Pier 36 - South Street on May 17, 2022 in New York City.
Adding Troy Aikman and Joe Buck to the ‘Monday Night Football’ booth didn’t improve ESPN’s ratings, but it did help with the network’s efforts to improve its relations with the NFL.
WireImage

Numbers game: ESPN spent $33 million a year to bring in Buck and Aikman, and yet the ratings were down three percent from last year (source: ESPN, via Nielsen) when Steve Levy, Louis Riddick Jr. and Brian Griese were in the booth. Now, this deserves a bit of an asterisk because ESPN didn’t get its best matchup of the year when the Bills-Bengals’ game was canceled in Week 17 due to Damar Hamlin’s medical emergency.

The ratings were still very good, with nearly 14 million viewers per game, which was the second best since 2010 for ESPN.

Why ESPN got the best game: While much has been made of ESPN’s improved relationship with the NFL under Jimmy Pitaro’s leadership as compared to John Skipper, this is not the full story here.

The new MNF playoff game is always going to be the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup. So ESPN was receiving Brady-’Boys or Jaguars-Chargers, no matter what.

The reason this will be the case is because by the end of Sunday night, there will only be one team that doesn’t know who its opponent will be. This is because the 2-7 and 3-6 matchups can change the seeding for next weekend, but after they are completed, the 4-5 games can not.

Understand this: The NFL wants the Cowboys or Brady in the late window next Sunday. The MNF game winner will always play on Sunday because of the short week. If the Jags-Chargers played Monday, the Jags would have to be a Sunday game. Maybe not insurmountable, but not exactly what the NFL would want.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) celebrates a sack
With Micah Parsons and the Cowboys playing Monday night, the NFL will be able to slot them into their coveted Sunday afternoon broadcast position, so long as they get by Tom Brady.
USA TODAY Sports

Another point: ABC/ESPN just had the Trevor Lawrence-led, but television unfriendly, Jaguars on its Saturday showcase the final weekend of the regular season. So to put Jaguars-Chargers on Monday would have been giving ABC/ESPN the Jags twice in a row.

And one more: ESPN lost the Bills-Bengals game, so there has to be some make-up on behalf of the league. This matchup helps, though there probably needs to be a full game returned at some point.

The MNF renaissance isn’t over: Pitaro has gotten a much better NFL deal than ESPN had previously.

Next year, MNF will have late-season flex scheduling, which doesn’t mean ESPN will get the game of the week, but it won’t have rotten tomatoes late in the season. This is big, because Amazon Prime Video, with Michaels and no flexible schedule, may have to sell some “20-year-old Mazdas” to its audience.

Add it all up: Between Buck, Aikman, the Mannings, flex scheduling, more games (which will increase next year with seven extra in various time slots) and its first Super Bowl (Feb., 2027), there is no doubt the ESPN NFL franchise is growing.

ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro speaks at the espnW Summit held at Resort at Pelican Hill on October 3, 2018 in Newport Beach, California.
Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN will get the benefit of flex scheduling for their MNF package starting next season.
Getty Images

That is why Monday night’s Nielsen number is important, because if ABC and ESPN and MNF can deliver, the days of it being the afterthought game could be at an end, returning the shine to what once was the league’s showcase game.

Meet the Mets

WFAN is looking for two positions within its Mets’ radio team, The Post has learned. Wayne Randazzo left to become the TV voice of the Angels, while Brad Heller is not returning, according to sources. For Howie Rose’s new No. 2, FAN really would like someone with Mets’ ties. They will have to be able to do play-by-play, but ideally they want someone who bleeds blue and orange. The idea is to hire Rose’s partner and then figure out Heller’s spot. For the No. 3 spot, FAN wants someone more like Eddie Coleman, who was there every day and could call the games when needed. This role became increasingly more important last year because Rose has cut down on the games he calls during the season, making the third person an even larger part of the broadcast.

International football’s Kraft & Jones treatment

It’s not a coincidence that two of the most important NFL TV committee members/owners and limelightlight-seekers, the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and the Patriots’ Bob Kraft, just happen to appear on your screen each and every time their team is on.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino reacts during day 2 of the FIFA Legends Cup at Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex on December 16, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
It wasn’t just your imagination that FIFA president Gianni Infantino was a seemingly constant TV presence during the World Cup.
FIFA via Getty Images

Watching the World Cup, it seemed obvious that FIFA president Gianni Infantino was receiving similar treatment. The world feed production always showed Infantino, which seemed gratuitous and purposeful. From The Times of London:

“World Cup television crews were ordered to show the Fifa president Gianni Infantino at least once during matches in Qatar and to ensure that he was not pictured while on his mobile phone.

Emailed directives to TV directors spelt out what was expected in relation to coverage of the Fifa president.

The Times has learnt that the directives for the use of Infantino shots came from HBS, the Swiss-based Host Broadcast Service used by Fifa for World Cup games, to directors in charge of match coverage, which is then used by all broadcasters who have bought the rights, including the BBC and ITV.

The memos were specific about how often Infantino’s image should be shown and how it should be used. Fifa declined to comment.”

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