Monday, February 18, 2013

History of #1 analyst demotions

<UPDATE 6/9/2016: Added the demotions of Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci as co-#1 Fox MLB analysts.>

<UPDATE 9/16/2013: Added the demotion of Clark Kellogg as lead CBS college basketball analyst.>

CBS analyst Phil Simms received many unfavorable reviews for his recent Super Bowl 47 broadcast performance and some critics have even suggested that CBS might (or should) demote him from the lead NFL analyst position.

phil simmsSimms has been the #1 NFL analyst at CBS for 15 seasons. He started there in 1998 working alongside Greg Gumbel and has been paired with Jim Nantz since 2004. For the three years prior to his CBS stint, he was one of two analysts on the #1 crew for NBC.

The post-Super Bowl speculation regarding CBS and Simms got me wondering about the historical frequency of such a move. So I decided to research cases where a TV network actually demoted its #1 analyst. Specifically, I looked at situations where CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox covered a sport using multiple announcer teams and I focused on the NFL, NBA, MLB, college basketball and college football.

For the purposes of this post, I am defining demotion as a case where the former "A" team analyst returns to the same network the following season on a lower tier broadcast crew.

Based on this research, no lead analyst with the longevity of Simms has ever been demoted to a lower tier crew on the same network. I only found 7 instances where a network demoted a #1 analyst who had been in that position for at least 5 years. In two of those cases, the "demoted" analyst actually moved into a play-by-play position. And in four of those cases, the network made the move to fit a newly hired broadcaster onto the "A" team.

Here is a closer look at those seven demotions ordered by longest tenure:

Tony Kubek (14 years as lead NBC MLB analyst)

Kubek had been the top analyst for the NBC baseball Game of the Week from 1969-1982 working first with Curt Gowdy and later with Joe Garagiola. In 1983, NBC hired Vin Scully as its lead play-by-play voice and Vin wanted no part of a three-man booth. So NBC decided to shift Garagiola into the lead analyst role alongside Scully and demoted Kubek to the "B" team where he worked with Bob Costas. Kubek remained in the #2 analyst role at NBC for 7 years. I believe this ranks as the most controversial lead analyst demotion of all time. On the plus side, Bob and Tony meshed so well together and I still consider them my favorite national baseball telecast tandem.

Bob Griese (12 years as lead ABC college football analyst)

ABC had used Griese as the top analyst for its NCAA games starting in 1987 where he worked with Keith Jackson. Griese remained in that role through the 1998 season. In 1999, ABC shuffled its broadcast crews and went without a true #1 team after Jackson switched to primarily covering west coast games. Griese remained on one of the crews which ABC treated as essentially co-#1. However, the network used Gary Danielson as the analyst for the BCS championship game that year.

Merlin Olsen (10 years as lead NBC NFL analyst)

Olsen had been in the #1 role at NBC from 1979-1988 working alongside Dick Enberg. In 1989, NBC brought in Bill Walsh as its new top analyst and demoted Olsen to the #2 slot. Merlin remained at NBC for only one season before taking an analyst position with CBS.

Bud Wilkinson (10 years as lead ABC college football analyst)

Wilkinson had served as the lead analyst on the ABC NCAA package from 1966 to 1975. He worked first with Chris Schenkel and later with Keith Jackson. In 1976, ABC demoted Wilkinson after it hired recently retired coach Ara Parseghian as lead analyst. Wilkinson remained with ABC for one season calling lower tier games.

Tom Brookshier (6.5 years as lead CBS NFL analyst)

Brookshier had been the lead CBS analyst since midway through the 1974 season when the network moved Pat Summerall into the top play-by-play role. That duo formed the #1 CBS team through the 1980 season. In 1981, CBS elevated John Madden into the lead analyst spot and shifted Brookshier to a play-by-play position on a lower tier crew. Brookshier remained with CBS for 6 more seasons after the demotion.

Don Drysdale (5 years as lead ABC MLB analyst)

Drysdale had been the top analyst on ABC Monday Night Baseball from 1978-1982. In 1983, ABC hired recently retired manager Earl Weaver as the new lead analyst. Drysdale stayed with ABC for 4 more seasons and became the play-by-play announcer on the "B" team.

Clark Kellogg (5 years as lead CBS college basketball analyst)

Kellogg was the #1 analyst on NCAA basketball for CBS 2008-09 through 2012-13. In September 2013, CBS promoted Greg Anthony to lead analyst. Kellogg became the lead studio analyst, but continued to serve as a game analyst on a lower tier crew.

Many cases involving a change to #1 analyst position featured an announcer retiring or moving to another network. Most of the long tenured lead analysts such as Billy Packer, Al McGuire, John Madden, and Tim McCarver were never demoted.

For completeness, here is a summary of the other cases when a network demoted its top analyst:


  Kyle Rote (3 years)
  • #1 for NBC from 1968-1970
  • demoted in 1971 for Al DeRogatis
  • remained with NBC in #2 analyst role for 3 years
  John Brodie (1 year)
  • #1 for NBC in 1977 
  • partially demoted in 1978 when NBC essentially used co-#1 crews of Brodie (paired with Curt Gowdy) and Merlin Olsen (paired with Dick Enberg)  
  • fully demoted in 1979 when NBC made Enberg and Olsen #1
  • remained with NBC in analyst role through 1984
  Bob Trumpy (3 years)
  • #1 for NBC from 1992-1994
  • demoted in 1995 for the duo of Paul Maguire and Phil Simms
  • remained with NBC in analyst role for 3 years


  Sandy Koufax (2 years)
  • co-#1 for NBC from 1967-1968 (Koufax and Pee Wee Reese were on a 3-man "A" crew)
  • demoted in 1969 for Tony Kubek
  • remained with NBC as "B" team analyst for 4 years
  Bob Uecker (2 years)
  • #1 for ABC from 1976-1977
  • demoted in 1978 for Don Drysdale
  • remained with ABC as "B" team analyst for 5 years
 Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci (2 years)
  • co-#1 for Fox from 2014-2015
  • both demoted in 2016 for John Smoltz
  • each remained with Fox in a lower-tier game analyst role


  Tom Heinsohn (4 years)
  • #1 for CBS from 1983-84 to 1986-87
  • demoted in 1987-88 season for Billy Cunningham
  • remained with CBS in analyst role for 3 years
  Matt Guokas (4 years)
  • #1 for NBC from 1993-94 to 1996-97
  • demoted in 1997-98 season for Doug Collins and Isiah Thomas
  • remained with NBC in analyst role for 4 years
  Hubie Brown (2 years)
  • #1 for ABC from 2005-05 to 2005-06
  • demoted in 2006-07 for Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy
  • has remained with ABC in #2 analyst role ever since

college football

  Ara Parseghian (1 year)
  • #1 for ABC in 1976
  • partially demoted in 1977 when ABC hired Frank Broyles - ABC essentially treated both Broyles and Parseghian as #1 analysts by alternating which of them was paired with Keith Jackson each telecast
  • fully demoted in 1981 when ABC made Broyles the sole #1 analyst 
  • remained with ABC as an analyst that year before moving to CBS in 1982
  Pat Haden (2 years)
  • #1 for CBS from 1982-1984
  • demoted in 1985 for Ara Parseghian
  • remained with CBS as an analyst for 5 more years (and was reinstated as the #1 analyst in 1987)


  1. Interesting to ponder these. In Kubek's case, bear in mind that, technically, Garagiola also was demoted, from play-by-play to analyst. But it did lead to the creation of two great broadcasting crews. In 1989, when NBC went into its last season of baseball and Garagiola and the network had parted ways, Scully told the network he would be happy to work with Kubek, but NBC decided to keep him with Costas because they worked so well together and only had one season left anyway.

    1. Thanks for the comments and good point on the Garagiola demotion. FWIW, I was never all that impressed with Joe as an analyst (but of course Kubek was the obvious comparison point and I was a big fan of Tony's analysis on NBC).

  2. Jeff, generally speaking, I agree about Garagiola, but I also think he and Scully made a terrific pair, if only because Scully ran the show and Garagiola worked to fit into the show. I was never that big a Kubek fan because he was almost too nuts-and-bolts. That worked perfectly with Costas and, I suspect, would have with Scully. With Gowdy it became boring (no offense to Gowdy, a great broadcaster, but not entertaining in the way that Scully and Costas are), and with Garagiola there was no play-by-play focus, it seemed to me.

    And thanks--love your site!

    1. Michael, Thanks for the positive feedback on the site! NBC certainly had a lot of talent in its baseball broadcast booths during the 1980s.

  3. Pat Haden, upon being demoted from lead analyst, went to Studio 43 with Jim Nantz and was with him for that one season (1985) on the Prudential CFR, but that didn't last long, as Jim went solo from 1986-89; Jim then became a game announcer and gave way to Greg Gumbel in 43, IIRC.

  4. I'm probably leaving a few out, but I would say Summerall is about the only successful analyst-to-pxp conversion ever. Drydale, Brookshier, Fouts, Garagiola all seemed to wind up being less than sterling pxp men. I think for pxp we really need broadcast professionals. But then again, all they have to do is talk, so maybe not.

    I think it's similar to professional sideline reporters vs. ex-jocks, like in the case of Tasker & Wilcots at the Super Bowl being thrust into a situation (the blackout) vs. Tracy Wolfson, who actually did some investigative reporting and asked some people some questions. But then again, it's also important for the sideline reporters to look pretty, too.

    I'm not all "anti-jockocracy" like Howard Cosell was, but I think the ex-jocks are best at and should be left as analysts giving valuable insight they can offer from their years of playing the game, not trying to describe the action as a play-by-play man or down on the sideline like Eric Dickerson trying to fumble through a pulled hamstring injury report.

    Except for Summerall, he was great. He was minimalist, he would scarely need to say more than the wide receiver's name on a first down reception. He let Madden do all the talking. I'd take him over Joe Buck or a dozen of today's best "professional broadcaster" pxp men. Michaels, Nantz, Tirico, any of them.

    1. Thanks for the comments and good points, Rob. Another analyst-to-pxp conversion which I would add to the unsuccessful category: Frank Gifford (even though he lasted quite a while in that role). And a lower-profile conversion which I would term as successful: Terry Gannon.

  5. Speaking of Garagiola and Scully, I recall the broadcast in which Scully introduced his statistical contribution to baseball . . . the Quality Start (pitching 6 innings or more with 3 earned runs or less). He got only part way through his explanation when Garagiola shouted, "4.5 earned run average ! GIVE ME A BREAK !!" Scully didn't respond, but his invention when on to become a standard part of baseball stats many years later. Garagiola's rude and shouting comment was inappropriate, but Scully politely lapsed into silence. I wonder if Garagiola ever apologized to him.

  6. CBS is moving Phil Simms off their lead NFL commentary team for the 2017 season (if he even stays with the network) and replacing him with recently-retired Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.

    I wonder if Jim Nantz might also get moved off the NFL (maybe to college football, possibly continuing to work with Simms?) and be replaced with a new number-one play-by-play man??

    1. If it so be, then it wouldn't be the first time that Jim Nantz was a PBP on college football-- he first did that in the 1989 season when Greg Gumbel was in Studio 43 in New York (that after Jim Nantz was promoted to being a PBP after four seasons in New York).