Friday, January 10, 2014

Kevin Burkhardt joins rare list with NFL playoff assignment in debut season

Tomorrow, Kevin Burkhardt will cap off his debut season in the NFL TV booth for Fox when he calls the Saints-Seahawks divisional playoff game with John Lynch. In a rare move, Fox gave Burkhardt an NFL playoff assignment during his first season of network TV play-by-play. How rare is this? Such a distinction last occurred 36 years ago. Prior to Burkhardt, the last play-by-play announcer to call an NFL playoff telecast in his first season at the network level was Dick Enberg on NBC during the 1977 postseason.

Since the 1970 merger, I only found 5 cases where a play-by-play announcer was assigned a playoff game in his first season calling the NFL on network TV. Here is the unique list that Burkhardt joins (note: the year refers to the NFL season even when the playoff game was in the following January).

  • Kevin Burkhardt (Fox) - 2013
  • Dick Enberg (NBC) - 1977
  • Vin Scully (CBS) - 1975
  • Gary Bender (CBS) - 1975
  • Brent Musburger (CBS) - 1974

Back in the 1970s, the networks were more likely to spread playoff assignments around to more announcers even with fewer postseason games. CBS actually used two first-year play-by-play announcers during the 1975 playoffs. Another interesting aspect is that the first playoff assignments for Enberg and Scully were conference championships. The others on the list were divisional playoff games.

Even in the years when ABC and NBC have carried a wild-card playoff doubleheader while only using one regular season broadcast crew, the second play-by-play announcer always had NFL network TV experience from a prior season.


  1. Just to note that Scully had just signed with CBS and the division had done a lot of experimenting in the past year or so--promoted Pat Summerall to #1 pbp, for example. The rumor is that Scully had been promised the Super Bowl when he signed, but that remains open to question. Also, that was when Bob Wussler gave Bender the playoff game and did nothing for Al Michaels, and it helped drive him to ABC.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Michael. During his 7 years at CBS, Scully did get 3 NFC championship games. Also, the only playoff booth assignments for Bender at CBS after 1975 were the '78 and '80 wild-card games.