Cris Collinsworth
Source: Getty Images

NBC Sports Almost Had Cris Collinsworth Team up With John Madden in the Booth

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Sep. 30 2022, Published 1:57 p.m. ET

If you saw mentions of him on social media yesterday, you might be wondering what happened to Cris Collinsworth.

Fear not, the man is alive and well — and was yukking it up with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the Dolphins-Bengals showdown yesterday, Thursday, Sept. 29, while his former Sunday Night Football colleague Al Michaels called the game. “That’s Cris Collinsworth, my partner for the last 13 years on Sunday night,” Al said on Thursday Night Football as the camera cut to Cris and Roger.

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But the reason Cris made headlines yesterday was because of a juicy detail from Dick Ebersol’s new memoir, From Saturday Night to Sunday Night: My Forty Years of Laughter, Tears, and Touchdowns in TV.

Dick, once hailed as “The Most Powerful Person in Sports,” is the former president of NBC Sports — and, incidentally, a co-creator of Saturday Night Live — and he’s a member of the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. And in his new book, he has an interesting story to tell about Cris.

Cris Collinsworth almost became play-by-play announcer for NBC, but then Al Michaels came along.

John Madden, Al Michaels, and Cris Collinsworth
Source: Getty Images

John Madden, Al Michaels, and Cris Collinsworth in 2013

In From Saturday Night to Sunday Night, Dick writes that he nearly had Cris — a former wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals — be the play-by-play announcer for NBC football coverage in 2006.

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As Dick recalls (per Pro Football Talk), he had already gotten color commentator John Madden, producer Fred Gaudelli, and director Drew Esocoff from ABC’s Monday Night Football to come work on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. He just needed a play-by-play announcer to pair with John, and “there weren’t any young up-and-comers” from which to choose.

So he tapped Cris, who was then working in Football Night in America, to “begin a crash course in learning how to be a play-by-play announcer.”

Even though Cris thought Dick had “lost [his] mind,” he gave the play-by-play role the ol’ college try. He practiced alongside Merril Hoge, and then worked with Madden during a Patriots-Broncos playoff game in January 2006. But in the midst of that game, Dick found out that ABC/ESPN was willing to let Al out of his contract. So Dick snapped up Al, and Cris ended his brief run as play-by-play announcer. And then, in 2009, Cris became Sunday Night Football’s color commentator after John retired.

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Fans seem glad Cris stuck to his color commentator role.

After Pro Football Talk reported on that anecdote from Dick’s book, Twitter users expressed their relief that Cris and John never teamed up as play-by-play announcer as color commentator, respectively.

“This would’ve been terrible,” one person tweeted.

“Dodged a bullet there,” another wrote.

And a third person tweeted, “What a horror show that would have been.”

Yes, the shade is real when it comes to Sunday Night Football fans, although one Twitter user at least gave Cris faint praise: “I honestly think Chris is a pretty good second voice, but he would have been a disaster as a play-by-play.”

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