CBS analyst Phil Simms received many unfavorable reviews for his recent Super Bowl 47 broadcast performance and some critics have even suggested that CBS might (or should) demote him from the lead NFL analyst position.
Simms has been the #1 NFL analyst at CBS for 15 seasons. He started there in 1998 working alongside Greg Gumbel and has been paired with Jim Nantz since 2004. For the three years prior to his CBS stint, he was one of two analysts on the #1 crew for NBC.
The post-Super Bowl speculation regarding CBS and Simms got me wondering about the historical frequency of such a move. So I decided to research cases where a TV network actually demoted its #1 analyst. Specifically, I looked at situations where CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox covered a sport using multiple announcer teams and I focused on the NFL, NBA, MLB, college basketball and college football.
For the purposes of this post, I am defining demotion as a case where the former "A" team analyst returns to the same network the following season on a lower tier broadcast crew.
Based on this research, no lead analyst with the longevity of Simms has ever been demoted to a lower tier crew on the same network. I only found 7 instances where a network demoted a #1 analyst who had been in that position for at least 5 years. In two of those cases, the "demoted" analyst actually moved into a play-by-play position. And in four of those cases, the network made the move to fit a newly hired broadcaster onto the "A" team.
Here is a closer look at those seven demotions ordered by longest tenure:
Tony Kubek (14 years as lead NBC MLB analyst)
Kubek had been the top analyst for the NBC baseball Game of the Week from 1969-1982 working first with Curt Gowdy and later with Joe Garagiola. In 1983, NBC hired Vin Scully as its lead play-by-play voice and Vin wanted no part of a three-man booth. So NBC decided to shift Garagiola into the lead analyst role alongside Scully and demoted Kubek to the "B" team where he worked with Bob Costas. Kubek remained in the #2 analyst role at NBC for 7 years. I believe this ranks as the most controversial lead analyst demotion of all time. On the plus side, Bob and Tony meshed so well together and I still consider them my favorite national baseball telecast tandem.
Bob Griese (12 years as lead ABC college football analyst)
ABC had used Griese as the top analyst for its NCAA games starting in 1987 where he worked with Keith Jackson. Griese remained in that role through the 1998 season. In 1999, ABC shuffled its broadcast crews and went without a true #1 team after Jackson switched to primarily covering west coast games. Griese remained on one of the crews which ABC treated as essentially co-#1. However, the network used Gary Danielson as the analyst for the BCS championship game that year.
Merlin Olsen (10 years as lead NBC NFL analyst)
lsen had been in the #1 role at NBC from 1979-1988 working alongside Dick Enberg. In 1989, NBC brought in Bill Walsh as its new top analyst and demoted Olsen to the #2 slot. Merlin remained at NBC for only one season before taking an analyst position with CBS.
Bud Wilkinson (10 years as lead ABC college football analyst)
Wilkinson had served as the lead analyst on the ABC NCAA package from 1966 to 1975. He worked first with Chris Schenkel and later with Keith Jackson. In 1976, ABC demoted Wilkinson after it hired recently retired coach Ara Parseghian as lead analyst. Wilkinson remained with ABC for one season calling lower tier games.
Tom Brookshier (6.5 years as lead CBS NFL analyst)
Brookshier had been the lead CBS analyst since midway through the 1974 season when the network moved Pat Summerall into the top play-by-play role. That duo formed the #1 CBS team through the 1980 season. In 1981, CBS elevated John Madden into the lead analyst spot and shifted Brookshier to a play-by-play position on a lower tier crew. Brookshier remained with CBS for 6 more seasons after the demotion.
Don Drysdale (5 years as lead ABC MLB analyst)
Drysdale had been the top analyst on ABC Monday Night Baseball from 1978-1982. In 1983, ABC hired recently retired manager Earl Weaver as the new lead analyst. Drysdale stayed with ABC for 4 more seasons and became the play-by-play announcer on the "B" team.
Clark Kellogg (5 years as lead CBS college basketball analyst)
Kellogg was the #1 analyst on NCAA basketball for CBS 2008-09 through 2012-13. In September 2013, CBS promoted Greg Anthony to lead analyst. The network announced that Kellogg will become the lead studio analyst and will also serve as a game analyst for the upcoming season.
Many cases involving a change to #1 analyst position featured an announcer retiring or moving to another network. Most of the long tenured lead analysts such as Billy Packer, Al McGuire, John Madden, and Tim McCarver were never demoted.
For completeness, here is a summary of the other cases when a network demoted its top analyst:
Kyle Rote (3 years)
- #1 for NBC from 1968-1970
- demoted in 1971 for Al DeRogatis
- remained with NBC in #2 analyst role for 3 years
- #1 for NBC in 1977
- partially demoted in 1978 when NBC essentially used co-#1 crews of Brodie (paired with Curt Gowdy) and Merlin Olsen (paired with Dick Enberg)
- fully demoted in 1979 when NBC made Enberg and Olsen #1
- remained with NBC in analyst role through 1984
- #1 for NBC from 1992-1994
- demoted in 1995 for the duo of Paul Maguire and Phil Simms
- remained with NBC in analyst role for 3 years
Sandy Koufax (2 years)
- co-#1 for NBC from 1967-1968 (Koufax and Pee Wee Reese were on a 3-man "A" crew)
- demoted in 1969 for Tony Kubek
- remained with NBC as "B" team analyst for 4 years
- #1 for ABC from 1976-1977
- demoted in 1978 for Don Drysdale
- remained with ABC as "B" team analyst for 5 years
Tom Heinsohn (4 years)
- #1 for CBS from 1983-84 to 1986-87
- demoted in 1987-88 season for Billy Cunningham
- remained with CBS in analyst role for 3 years
- #1 for NBC from 1993-94 to 1996-97
- demoted in 1997-98 season for Doug Collins and Isiah Thomas
- remained with NBC in analyst role for 4 years
- #1 for ABC from 2005-05 to 2005-06
- demoted in 2006-07 for Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy
- has remained with ABC in #2 analyst role ever since
Ara Parseghian (1 year)
- #1 for ABC in 1976
- partially demoted in 1977 when ABC hired Frank Broyles - ABC essentially treated both Broyles and Parseghian as #1 analysts by alternating which of them was paired with Keith Jackson each telecast
- fully demoted in 1981 when ABC made Broyles the sole #1 analyst
- remained with ABC as an analyst that year before moving to CBS in 1982
- #1 for CBS from 1982-1984
- demoted in 1985 for Ara Parseghian
- remained with CBS as an analyst for 5 more years (and was reinstated as the #1 analyst in 1987)