The 25 best NFL play-by-play broadcasters (2023)

1 of 25

Paul Allen

The 25 best NFL play-by-play broadcasters (1)

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When it comes to calling them as they see it, Allen is a gold-medal contender. Calling Minnesota Vikings games since the mid-1990s, Allen is passionate about the game. And he doesn't mind taking shots at some of the home team's biggest stars — like Brett Favre during the 2009 NFC Championship Game. While Vikings fans might have a love/hate relationship with Allen, there is no doubting his knowledge and excitement for the game. Bringing the action to life, never taking a down off, and displaying the same emotion a fan listening might feel.

2 of 25

Jack Buck

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Consider it a bang for your Buck. The pun is totally intended. And we're talking about the first of two Buck family members to leave — or are currently leaving — their mark on the NFL broadcast world. A 1996 recipient of the Rozelle Award, Jack Buck might be best remembered as the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and as a national announcer for the game — earning him the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award. However, one can argue that he was equally as great calling NFL games, which he started in 1964 for CBS (after providing AFL play-by-play with ABC). He voiced the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys television games before calling regional action in 1974 and was the primary play-by-play man for CBS Radio's coverage of Monday Night Footballacross two stints (1978-'84; 1987-'95).

3 of 25

Joe Buck

The 25 best NFL play-by-play broadcasters (3)

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Now, we pass the Buck to Joe. Sure, today's sports fans seem to have a love-hate relationship with his baseball or football broadcasts, mainly because fans feel he caters to the league's big-time stars like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. Buck is arguably the most recognizable and in-demand NFL play-by-play announcer at the moment. He started calling NFL games for Fox Sports when it debuted in 1994, eventually becoming the network's lead voice. He's currently teamed with Troy Aikman. Before this season, Buck, a 2020 recipient of the Rozelle Award, and Aikman jumped ship to ESPN's Monday Night Footballbooth.

4 of 25

Don Criqui

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If we're looking for the ironman of NFL broadcasting, look no further than Criqui . His game-host-like voice was also perfect for calling NFL games from 1967-2013 for NBC and CBS. In the annals of sports broadcasting in the United States, those 47 years delivering play-by-play for the same sport is an unofficial record. In addition to his exceptional work as an NFL voice, Criqui called college basketball for CBS. He also worked 14 Orange Bowls and was the radio voice for Notre Dame football from 2006-17. Criqui was the 2003 recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, given annually by the Pro Football Hall of Fame"for longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football."

5 of 25

Ian Eagle

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Eagle might not be flashy on the mic and hardly ever draws attention to himself, which is the point of any good announcer. However, since he started calling NFL games for CBS in the late 1990s, Eagle has been one of the business's most dependable, insightful, and completely professional play-by-play announcers. He's never been the No. 1 guy at CBS, but Eagledelivers every time. In addition to his stellar NFL work, Eagle calls Brooklyn Nets games for the YES Network and has been a longtime broadcast staple during the NCAA Tournament.

6 of 25

Dıck Enberg

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Like plenty of the legendary voices on this list, Enberg excelled in calling both Major League Baseball and the NFL games. He's a Ford C. Frick Award winner for his decades of doing baseball play-by-play, but Enberg seemed at his most comfortable and best when calling games for NBC and CBS. In addition to his weekly NFL assignments and annual playoff contests, usually involving the AFC during the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, Enberg was on the call for eight Super Bowls. Over the years, Enberg displayed tremendous in-booth chemistry with the likes of analysts Merlin Olsen, Bob Trumpy, and Phil Simms. Enberg won the Rozelle Award in 1999. "Oh my!"

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In addition to being a College and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Gifford enjoyed a stellar second career in the broadcast booth. It began working for CBS during the 1960s but took off when he replaced Keith Jackson as the play-by-play voice of ABC's Monday Night Footballin the early 1970s . For nearly 30 years, Gifford was part of an innovative three-man booth, notably with Don Meredith and Howard Cosell, that made MNFappointment sports viewing. In later years, he took on color commentator duties, but Gifford's laid-back, deliberate, straightforward play-by-play style evened out a group of characters. An Emmy Award winner, Gifford was the 1995 recipient of the Rozelle Award.

8 of 25

Marty Glickman

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A football and track star at Syracuse, followed by a spot on the 1936 United States Olympic team, Glickman was quite the athlete. He might have been an even better announcer during the 1960s and '70s. A longtime broadcaster of New York Knicks basketball, Glickman spent 23 years as the voice of the "New York Football Giants" — notably with ex-Giant Al DeRogatis as his color analyst. Glickman also called New York Jets' games for more than a decade. The likes of Marv Albert and former Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly considered Glickman a mentor for their careers in broadcast television.

9 of 25

Curt Gowdy

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The legendary Gowdygot his broadcasting start calling six-man football in Wyoming. And though he might best be known for his work as a baseball play-by-play voice, Gowdy didn't abandon his penchant for describing the action on the gridiron. He was ABC's voice for the AFL during the early 1960s, then moved over to NBC, where he was the lead voice for AFC football during the 1970s (notably on the call of the "Heidi " game). Gowdy's color commentator boothmates included Paul Christman (at both ABC and NBC), Don Meredith, John Brodie, and Merlin Olsen. He won the Rozelle Award in 1993.

10 of 25

Kevin Harlan

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Football is in Kevin Harlan's blood. His father, Bob, is a longtime Green Bay Packers executive. Kevin, meanwhile, has made his name as one of the best play-by-play men in the business. In 2022, Harlan began his 38th consecutive season calling NFL games (currently for CBS). He's always been on the mic for Westwood One's radio coverage of Monday Night Football and several Super Bowls. A two-time National Sportscaster of the Year award winner, Harlan continues to call college baseball games for CBS and NBA action on TNT.

11 of 25

Charlie Jones

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Jones played tennis in college, served in the United States Air Force, and had a law degree. However, he found his true calling as one of the great sports broadcasters in history. Jones started calling pro football in 1960, covering the AFL's Dallas Texans and the rest of that league for ABC. Five years later, Jones began a highly regarded and successful broadcast career with NBC. First, following the AFL, then the NFL until 1997, when NBC lost the rights for televised AFC games to CBS. Known for his deep but friendly voice, Joneswon the Pete Rozelle Award in 1997.

12 of 25

Bill King

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Wilbur "Bill" King might be best known for his Hall-of-Fame broadcast career with the Oakland Athletics (1981-2005). However, he was a stellar football play-by-play voice for the Raiders during the franchise's time in both Oakland and Los Angeles. King, who also served as the longtime voice of the Golden State Warriors, was on the call for Raiders games from 1966-1992. Known for his handlebar mustache and raspy voice, King's style seemed to be an epitome of the Raiders' hard-nosed, in-your-face brand of football.

13 of 25

Wayne Larrivee

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Those football fans outside the Midwest might not be familiar with Larrivee's work. That's too bad because he's talented enough to be a national star for his football play-by-play abilities. His NFL broadcast career started in Kansas City, calling Chiefs games from 1978-84. From there, Larrivee held the same job while voicing the Chicago Bears, beginning with the team's Super Bowl season of 1985 and lasting until 1998. Since then, he's been the radio voice of the Green Bay Packers. Clear, concise, and always sharp, Larrivee knows precisely when to get excited and when to hold back to let the natural sound do the talking.

14 of 25

Verne Lundquist

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Sure, the venerable Lundquist seems at his best either calling the action at Augusta, on an SEC Saturday football afternoon, or amid the excitement of the men's NCAA Tournament. But before all that, Lundquist was the voice of the Dallas Cowboys, starting in 1967 and running until 1970, when he went national. However, Lundquist eventually found his way back to the NFL while working for CBS during the 1980s and '90s. Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw were in the booth for the famed 1988 NFC divisional playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago, aka the "Fog Bowl." His deep yet warming voice is made for this profession.

15 of 25

Joe McConnell

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When the aforementioned Wayne Larrivee took over radio play-by-play duties for the Chicago Bears in the mid-1980s, he replaced the venerable McConnell, who was on the radio call when Walter Payton broke Jim Brown's career rushing record in 1984. Well traveled, McConnell, starting in the late 1960s, also called games for the Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, and the Tennessee Oilers. Known for his distinct, durable voice and professional approach to every broadcast, McConnell was a five-time winner of the AL/UPI Play-by-Play Sportscaster of the Year Award.

16 of 25

Al Michaels

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It doesn't matter the day of the week, Michaels has called NFL games on just about every night during his career. Currently the play-by-play man for Thursday Night Footballon Amazon Prime Video, Michaels is best known as the voice of ABC'sMonday Night Football(1986-2005) and Sunday Night Footballon NBC (2006-21). Of course, he's also enjoyed legendary status calling Olympic events (who can forget the "Miracle on Ice") and Major League Baseball, for which he won the Ford C. Frick Award. Michaels was the 2013 recipient of the Rozelle Award.

17 of 25

Van Miller

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Miller started his broadcast career by calling high school football action in western New York. From there, he headed a little north to Buffalo, where he became the first play-by-play voice of the Bills, who debuted as an AFL team in 1960. Millerwas also the sports director and even delivered weather forecasts for Buffalo's WBEN-TV/WIVB-TV. With the exception of a six-year absence in the 1970s, Miller broadcasted Bills games for 37 years, retiring from the gig following the 2003 season. He was the recipient of the Rozelle Award one year later.

18 of 25

Jim Nantz

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Arguably the premier sports play-by-play announcer currently in the business. Nantzis the lead man for college basketball, golf, and the NFL on CBS. Since 2004, Nantz has been the No. 1 play-by-play voice of the NFL for the network. Before that, he hosted The NFL Today pregame show from 1998-2003. Currently working with former Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, Nantz calls a game with an almost prosaic approach. He's excellent at setting the mood, tapping into the moment's emotion, and treating every game like a story for which he serves as the qualified narrator. A two-time Emmy Award winner, Nantz won the Rozelle Award in 2011.

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Lindsey Nelson

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The first play-by-play announcer to win the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 1990. Nelson, with his Southern twang of sorts, might be best known as a legendary college football announcer (notably for Notre Dame and Tennessee) and for winning the Ford C. Frick Award. But during the 1970s, Nelson was the radio voice for Mutual Broadcasting System's NFL Monday night contests. He also announced NFL games for several years on CBS television.

20 of 25

Gil Santos

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As we've seen on this list, it's important to highlight local play-by-play greats from around the NFL. Santos is one of the best to fill that category. A Massachusetts sports broadcasting legend, Santosbegan his career covering the New England Patriots as a color analyst in 1966 for WBZ 1030. He took over play-by-play duties in 1971 and held that spot until 1980. Then after an 11-year layoff when the Pats switched radio flagship stations, Santos returned to the call New England games in 1991 (when coverage returned to WBZ) through the 2012 season. Working with longtime partner and former Patriots kicker Gino Cappelletti, Santos and his commanding voice called 759 of the team's games.

21 of 25

Chris Schenkel

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When it comes to sports broadcasting versatility, there aren't many better than Schenkel. Blessed with a baritone voice that was rather soothing and reliable, Schenkel called college football, NBA, Major League Baseball, horse racing, boxing, bowling, and the Olympics — to name a few. In 1952, the DuMont Television Network hired Schenkel to provide play-by-play for New York Giants football. He went on tocall various NFL playoff gamesand provided the first voiceover work for NFL Films. Schenkel was the 1992 recipient of the Rozelle Award.

22 of 25

Ray Scott

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There are obviously plenty of legendary figures associated with the Green Bay Packers. Scott is one of them. He began his play-by-play career with the Packers in 1956, notably calling the famed 1967 NFL Championship (aka the "Ice Bowl") and the first two Super Bowls. Starting in the late 1960s, Scott became the lead announcer for NFL games on CBS, for which he worked four Super Bowls and several league and conference championship games. Scott was honored with the Rozelle Award in 2000.

23 of 25

Brad Sham

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As of 2022, Sham was still the dependable and beloved play-by-play voice of the Dallas Cowboys. His career covering the team from the broadcast booth kicked off as a color man alongside the legendary Verne Lundquist in 1976. He took over play-by-play duties in 1984. In addition to those Cowboys' duties, Shamhas provided national NFL coverage for Westwood One, Fox, TNT, and CBS over the years. A Texas Radio Hall of Fame member, Sham is an 11-time winner of the National Sports Media Association Texas Sportscaster of the Year Award.

24 of 25

Pat Summerall

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Is Summerall the best football play-by-play man in the history of sports broadcasting? If not, he needs to be in the conversation. Following a 10-year NFL career, Summerall did color commentary for games on CBS in the early 1960s. It wasn't until 1974 that he started doing play-by-play, working with Tom Brookshier as the network's lead team. Summerall and John Madden were brought together in 1981. That pair is arguably the most lauded NFL broadcast duo in the game's history. Always the excellent straight man to Madden and his over-the-top antics, Summerallmade the job seem easy. Eventually, the pair shifted to Fox when the network won the rights to cover the NFC in 1994. Summerall retired in 2002, after providing play-by-play for 11 Super Bowls, but returned numerous times to call games into 2010. A National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association's Hall of Fame member, Summerall was the 1994 winner of the Rozelle Award.

25 of 25

Mike Tirico

The 25 best NFL play-by-play broadcasters (25)

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There really isn't a sport that Tirico can't make interesting. His conversational style and knowing when to inflect or demure are why he did play-by-play when ESPN took over Monday Night Football in 2006. His run there lasted until 2015. Currently, Tirico is the voice of NBC's Sunday Night Footballcoverage. Holding down the play-by-play position for two of the most widely watched events on the sports calendar shows just how good Tirico is at his job.

A Chicago native, Jeff Mezydlo has professionally written about sports, entertainment and pop culture for nearly 30 years. If he could do it again, he'd attend Degrassi Junior High, Ampipe High and Grand Lakes University.

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