Broadcasting legend Al Michaels has finished up his first season calling NFL “Thursday Night Football” games for Amazon, and the overall result was a mixed bag.
Michaels was his usual self, which is to say good. Color commentator Kirk Herbstreit was solid for a broadcaster with a background located almost entirely in the realm of college football. The production values were immense outside of some sound engineering hiccups, which is no surprise given the amount Amazon has invested.
But, unfortunately, the whole crew still had to cover “Thursday Night Football,” the primetime slate infamous for often delivering duds between underprepared and/or fatigued teams. The 2022 season did nothing to dispel that stigma, even with Michaels along for the ride.
Michaels addressed the question of the TNF games’ quality in an interview with The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch published Thursday, and he didn’t sugarcoat his answer, especially when it came to the dud of all duds between the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts:
“I think I’m to the point in my life and career, having watched sports since I was 6 years old, I feel what the crowd feels. The Denver-Indianapolis game (in) Week 4 was a dreadful game. No other way to describe it. No touchdowns. In fact, at one point during the game, I said to (analyst) Kirk (Herbstreit), ‘Is it possible this game could be so bad that it’s actually good?’ He’d never heard that from a partner and went, ‘No!'”
Michaels isn’t wrong there, nor he is alone in saying it. The game, a touchdown-less slog with four turnovers, was so unwatchable that a local Denver television station apologized for airing it (TNF games are still broadcast in local markets), with one commentator saying “It burns the retinas.”
There were more bad games though. Michaels called games with three first-half points, lopsided blowouts and performances so brutal they basically erased any optimism about a certain No. 2 overall pick. Some games were good, most were not.
According to Michaels, Amazon took the issue in stride, which you would hope they do considering they are paying $1 billion a year until 2033 for the privilege of streaming the games:
Do you hear anything from Amazon management about this?
“From the Amazon people, nothing but support. I think they understood what this was. We’re making the most of it. I mean, you just can’t oversell something. Do you want me to sell you a 20-year-old Mazda? That’s what you’re asking me to do. I can’t sell you a used car. … I’ve kind of gone down that road a little bit in games that have been bad in the past. But this game was horrifically bad. What were you supposed to do at that point? And away I went.”
Perhaps the “Thursday Night Football” games will finally get better next year. Amazon wouldn’t be the first rights-holder to hope so.
Meanwhile, Michaels will at least get to enjoy a playoff game, as NBC announced Wednesday he would return to call the Los Angeles Chargers-Jacksonville Jaguars wild-card game on Saturday.