Why Are Mike Tirico and Drew Brees Calling the Bills-Saints Game Instead of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth?

We have bad news — or, depending on how you feel about the duo, possibly good news — for the football fans who hoped to hear Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth’s soothing voices lure them into a post-Thanksgiving dinner nap.

Although NBC will broadcast the Thursday night matchup between Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills and Trevor Siemian’s New Orleans Saints, Michaels and Collinsworth won’t be on the call. Instead, Mike Tirico and former Saints quarterback Drew Brees will slide in (with respect to Collinsworth) and announce the third and final game of the 2021 Thanksgiving Classic.

Mike Tirico and Drew Brees are filling in for Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on Thanksgiving

As is usually the case in these stories, we want to make it clear that Michaels, who turned 77 earlier this month, is healthy, and he isn’t missing the Thursday night game for illness or COVID or stomach pains after eating too much turkey. 

Michaels and Collinsworth have Thanksgiving Day (well, night) off this year, and that’s not exactly new. The duo haven’t worked the late game on Turkey Day since 2017, back when NBC still had the Thursday Night Football rights. 

Initially, NBC had Tirico, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, and ex-New England Patriots star Rodney Harrison working the Thursday night game in 2018. The trio, along with sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, returned in 2019. 

Interestingly, Tirico and Collinsworth were slated to work together last Thanksgiving. However, the Baltimore Ravens’ COVID-19 problems pushed their Nov. 26 showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers back to Wednesday, Dec. 2, a full six days. 

Tirico and Brees already have pre-existing chemistry from their Notre Dame work

At first glance, it appears NBC is simply sending its Football Night in America panelists into the broadcast booth. That is technically correct, also known as the best kind of correct. 

However, Tirico and Dungy worked together for several years on NBC’s Notre Dame football coverage, so they at least had pre-existing chemistry. The same principle applies to Brees, who is in his first year calling Fighting Irish games alongside Tirico. 

A nationally-televised Thanksgiving showdown between two potential playoff teams is just a bit different than the Fighting Irish hosting Cincinnati or North Carolina. 

Brees and Tirico won’t be the only college announcers elevated in Week 12. The third member of their broadcast team, Kathryn Tappen, will fill in for Tafoya on Sunday, Nov. 28. 

Tirico and Collinsworth, not Brees, will work the Sunday night game in Week 12

Things will look just a bit more ordinary on Sunday night when Brees returns to the studio. We can’t say the same for the rest of the Sunday night broadcast. 

Although Michaels has the entire week off, Collinsworth will be back for the Ravens’ primetime clash with Baker Mayfield and the inconsistent Cleveland Browns. The former Pro Bowl receiver will partner with Tirico and Tappen, a former Rutgers cross-country and track star, on the broadcast. 

Although Tafoya joined Tirico and Collinsworth on the sidelines for the aforementioned Ravens-Steelers game, Tappen does have some experience working NFL games. She served as the sideline reporter when Tirico and Dungy called the Green Bay Packers’ 45-21 victory over the Chicago Bears on Nov. 29, 2020. 

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