10 Best Broadcasters Who Were Former Football Players

Many players have had greater success in the booth than they did on the field

Jason Witten recently announced that he is retiring from the Dallas Cowboys to become an analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” How he plays with viewers will not be known until Aug.16 when ESPN broadcasts its first game of the 2018 NFL season. If he as good as the 10 individuals on this list, he will have as long a second career as he wants. Here are the 10 best broadcasters who were former football players.

 

10. Dan Dierdorf

After a 12-season, Hall of Fame career on the St. Louis Cardinals’ offensive line, Dierdorf spent 30 years as a color analyst for CBS and ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” Throughout his broadcast career, he displayed a knack for speaking his mind without being offensive. Dierdorf is currently the color man for radio broadcasts for his alma mater, Michigan.

 

9. Tom Brookshier

The beloved Philadelphia Eagles defensive back joined CBS in 1965 as a color commentator and was paired with Pat Summerall in the early ‘70s. The duo was the league’s top broadcasting team throughout the rest of the decade and Summerall once said, "With Brookie, it was more of a conversation, like two guys in a saloon." That may have been part of the problem, as the two of them did spend quite a bit of time in “saloons” and were split up after the 1980 season. 

 

8. Merlin Olsen

One of the most menacing defensive linemen to ever play the game also was one of the most pleasant human beings the league has ever seen. Olsen’s kind demeanor radiated through a broadcasting career that spanned from the 1970s to the 90s and included four Super Bowls. 

 

7. Frank Gifford

The Hall of Famer became a broadcaster for CBS after retiring from the New York Giants. Then in 1971, he joined Don Meredith and Howard Cosell on ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” For the next 27 years, Gifford was the steady hand amongst the cast of characters that have filled the longest-running primetime sports broadcast in television history. To give you a sense of his versatility, he handled play-by-play before switching to color commentary in 1986.

 

6. Terry Bradshaw

After retiring from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1984, Bradshaw joined Verne Lundquist as a color commentator for CBS broadcasts and was an immediate hit with his quick quips and insights. If he had spent more time in the booth, he would probably be higher on this list. However, CBS promoted him to co-host its pre-game show in 1990 and he has kept that same position since joining FOX in ‘93.

 

5. Troy Aikman

The Hall of Fame quarterback went to FOX after retiring from the Dallas Cowboys in 2000. In 2002, he teamed with Joe Buck (above, right) and the two have been the network’s top broadcasting duo ever since. During his 17 years in the booth, Aikman has been as well-liked as an analyst as he was as a player.

 

4. Don Meredith

“Dandy Don” became a color commentator for “Monday Night Football” when it launched in 1970. Among the many innovations of the broadcast was Meredith proving you could provide analysis of the game and be funny at the same time. Since then, many have tried it and only some have been successful, but Meredith showed that it was possible.

 

3. Cris Collinsworth

While Collinsworth was a very good wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, he has proven to be a natural at broadcasting over his nearly 30-year career. In stints with FOX, “Inside the NFL,” the NFL Network, and his current gig with Al Michaels on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” he has been one of the game’s best analysts and its Jiminy Cricket without being obnoxious about it.

 

2. John Madden

The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Madden in 1958, but a knee injury prevented him from ever taking the field. After he retired as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Madden joined CBS and became the most popular color commentator in NFL history. In addition to being only person to ever be the top color analyst for all four networks, Madden’s influence can be seen in video games, broadcast gimmicks, and the mannerisms of other analysts.

 

1. Pat Summerall

Madden’s longtime partner played 10 seasons as a kicker before joining CBS as a color commentator in 1962. The network moved him to play-by-play announcer in 1974 and he went on to become a legend. The unflappable Summerall was the voice of not only NFL games, but The Masters and tennis’ U.S. Open too. He also covered basketball, baseball, hockey and boxing. No other broadcaster on this list put together such a diverse body of work.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.


(Pat Summerall/John Madden photo courtesy of Getty Images; Joe Buck/Troy Aikman photo courtesy of FoxSports.com)

Event Date: 
Wednesday, May 9, 2018 - 10:13

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