Amazon’s Thursday Night Football Sets Off Broadcast Musical Chairs

Al Michaels will become a free agent after the victory confetti blankets the SoFi Stadium turf this Sunday, but the veteran broadcaster says he aims to secure a booth assignment before the 2022 NFL season kicks off.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon during an NBC Sports Super Bowl LVI conference call, Michaels said he has no intention of hanging it up after the Bengals-Rams showdown. “I love what I do. I feel great. I’m not ready for any rocking chair or golf,” Michaels said, when questioned about his personal game plan. “I play enough golf, believe me.”

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Michaels, who on Sunday evening will call the 11th Super Bowl of his career, said that he’ll huddle up with friends and advisors in the off-season. “There’s a lot to reflect on,” Michaels said. “With my contract ending, I know there are other opportunities and options out there for me.”

Among the options on the table is the Thursday Night Football play-by-play gig, which this fall shifts from Fox to Amazon Prime Video. Amazon has been pursuing a partnership with Michaels since last summer, and as part of a more expansive deal with NBC, the online retailer may rent the Sunday Night Football production crew for its streaming slate of primetime games.

While a talent-share program would free Amazon from the burden of having to develop its own in-house production team from scratch, it would also ask a great deal of Sunday Night Football executive producer Fred Gaudelli and director Drew Esocoff. In the event that both NBC vets agreed to handle SNF and TNF duties, they’d effectively be charged with overseeing 35 games each season.

Amazon and Michaels have yet to come to terms on a deal, and while the sportscaster confirmed that “there will be chances to continue” elsewhere should NBC choose to replace him with heir apparent Mike Tirico, his focus remains riveted on the main event. “I do not want to be for one moment a distraction,” Michaels said. “The minute you start thinking about other things it takes you away from [the game].”

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Michaels’ longtime booth partner, SNF analyst Cris Collinsworth, is unlikely to follow him to Amazon. The former Bengals wideout is in talks to extend his contract with NBC through 2025, which would give the network more time to break in Tirico sidekick Drew Brees.

If Collinsworth stays put, it’s uncertain as to who will pair off with Michaels on Thursday nights. At the risk of trafficking in hyperbole, pretty much everyone with a functional larynx has been rumored to be in the running for the TNF color-commentator post, although speculation about Troy Aikman hopping from Fox to Amazon quieted down a bit in recent days. Aikman last week told The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch that the disparity between the massive broadcast TV audience and the work-in-progress that is the streaming game is not something he can necessarily overlook.

Toward the end of today’s confab, Michaels reflected on his first Big Game call, back in 1988. In an era marked by an NFC dominance that was so pronounced that many Americans only gleaned the final score from the morning paper, Super Bowl XXII was a complete snooze. After Washington scored 35 unanswered points against the Denver Broncos in the second quarter, Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf were reduced to “telling stories” for the remainder of the game.

Of course, 1988 was a lifetime ago. (Literally. The halftime show?: Chubby Checker and the Rockettes.) Since then, Michaels has had the good fortune to be present for some magnificent Super Bowls, including the Eagles-Patriots jaw-dropper in 2018, the Pats-Seahawks tragicomedy in 2015, and Eli Manning’s second takedown of Tom Brady & Co. three years earlier.

“Of the 10 [Super Bowls] I’ve done, six have gone down to the wire,” Michaels said. “Hopefully, I’ll get Lucky Seven on Sunday.”

However the future pans out, the easiest commute of his life awaits Michaels when the curtain comes down on Super Bowl LVI. SoFi Stadium is almost a straight shot down the 405 from Michaels’ Brentwood home, and if he floors it, he can probably be in his pajamas in time for the 10 o’clock news.

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