If you were making a case for the greatest NFL TV play-by-player of all time, a good way to do it would be to call a record-tying 11th Super Bowl at age 77 — and pretty much nail it.
Al Michaels has outlasted everybody in NFL broadcasting history, outperformed them at this age and on the biggest stage.
Michaels has Tom Brady’d the competition with longevity and success. He’s been on the No. 1 prime-time game for more than three decades and now has tied Pat Summerall, having called 11 Super Bowls.
While Brady famously hasn’t seemingly eaten much of anything outside of avocados during his career, Michaels’ claims to have never consumed a vegetable. Whatever works when you are facing off with Father Time.
Michaels is losing his “Sunday Night Football” job to Mike Tirico, beginning next year. The plan has been in the offing, but Michaels has kept going and going.
And, even though NBC will mostly move on — there is a chance Michaels will still do a few games a year on the network, but not the biggest ones — Michaels plans to continue calling the NFL. He showed why Amazon and possibly ESPN want him still.
In the Rams’ 23-20 victory over the Bengals, Michaels’ words were on point from the first quarter through the fourth.
On the opening score of the game, Michaels said, “Third and three … Stafford … going to the end zone … reaching up and making the grab … Odell Beckham Jr.! … Halfway through the season, they showed him the door in Cleveland, they basically said, ‘Get out of here.’ The Rams took him and he scores the first touchdown of the Super Bowl.”
It was more than four decades ago that Michaels uttered perhaps the most famous line in sportscasting history, “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!” From then to now, he has met the moment.
The Super Bowl sounded like a stroll in the park for him. There was not a nerve to be found, but there were the right words.
When the second half swung the Bengals’ way with a lightning fast sequence of a long bomb touchdown and an interception, Michaels was on top of it: “Jefferson in motion … play action … firing over the middle … picked off! … at the 31-yard line … Awuzieh! … Skowonek couldn’t handle it … And the Cincinnati Bengals in 22 seconds have a touchdown and a takeaway.”
That’s sharp play-by-play.
The Rams would come back and win it. On the game-winning score with less than two minutes remaining, Michaels used an economy of words, “Pass … Kupp … Got it .. Touchdown!”
It wasn’t a classic. Michaels’ energy on calls late in the broadcast were not at his peak. He may not throw 95 anymore, but he is still consistently at 90-92. He can get away with some things because he’s been in our living rooms in prime time for more than three decades.
During the broadcast, there were slight nods that this was Michaels’ last as the lead NBC play-by-player. When Cris Collinsworth came in for the duo’s opening, Michaels said, “Slide in for one final time.” In the postgame, Michaels added he doesn’t know what the future holds.
He is most likely going to move on to Amazon to head up its exclusive Thursday night package that begins on the streaming service in the fall. Amazon has already brought along Fred Gaudelli, who produced Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Michaels now is hoping that an agreement can be worked out for Troy Aikman to be his analyst. Super Bowl-winning coach Sean McVay could emerge as a wild card, if he chooses to walk away. McVay is already high on ESPN’s whiteboard.
If ESPN were to make a play for Michaels’ return to Monday nights, he actually could have a chance to do more big games, including in February 2027.
ABC/ESPN has that Super Bowl. Michaels will be a mere 81.