NFL fans have grown accustomed to the commentary of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth in the booth when NBC is broadcasting a game.
That won’t be the pairing fans hear on Thanksgiving night, however.
Instead, Mike Tirico will be on play-by-play with former Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees providing commentary for NBC’s broadcast of the Bills-Saints game, NBC announced.
Why will this be the Thanksgiving pairing? Sporting News dives in.
MORE: Why did Drew Brees retire from the NFL?
Why are Drew Brees and Mike Tirico calling the Thanksgiving night game?
It is not too surprising to see Tirico on the call for the Thanksgiving night game.
This will be his fifth time up in the booth on Turkey Day, as he has called the 2016 Thanksgiving game, as well as each one since 2018.
However, this will be the first time Brees is up in the booth to provide commentary for an NFL game. Brees has been an analyst alongside Tirico during NBC’s Sunday night pregame show, « Football Night in America, » in his first season off the field.
Brees received a bit of a warmup for booth duties this season as he has provided color commentary for Notre Dame college football games this season.
There are likely a few other factors at play for having Brees in the booth. For starters, the game will be in New Orleans, where Brees spent 15 of 20 seasons as a future Hall of Fame NFL quarterback. The Saints announced on Nov. 17 that Brees will be honored at halftime, with fans receiving a « Thank You Drew » rallly towel and video messages set to be displayed throughout the game.
« My family and I are forever grateful for all the incredible moments we shared together with the city of New Orleans and Who Dat Nation, » Brees said in the release. « What an incredible moment it will be, back in the Dome with the greatest fans in the world. »
The move also continues to fuel speculation that Brees and Tirico might be a future NBC booth pairing, particularly as Michaels is in the final year of his contract with NBC and with Collinsworth having just two years remaining on his deal.
NBC has announced that Mike Tirico and Drew Brees will call the @Bills–@Saints Thanksgiving night game at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock. No doubt that Brees was hired with a long-term eye of him sitting next Tirico in the post Michaels-Collinsworth era.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) November 18, 2021
Where will Al Michaels be in 2022?
Following the end of the 2021 season, Michaels’ contract will be up, and as Super Bowl LVI nears, it appears increasingly likely he will be leaving the network.
Michaels has been linked with Amazon, who is seeking a broadcast crew for « Thursday Night Football » games. A report earlier in the year from the New York Post reported that Amazon is 90 percent sure it will land Michaels for the play-by-play role.
When speaking with Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina on the « Sports Illustrated Media Podcast, » Michaels said that he is « playing out this year » and said that NBC has been great to him.
« If there is a combination for production between Amazon and NBC, that creates a different template here, » Michaels told Traina. « Because in effect, we would wind up overseeing two packages. It’s not a deal yet. I know it’s being discussed. Amazon will probably need a partner for production and we’ll see what’s gonna happen at the end of the year.”
There is no official deal in place between Amazon and Michaels.
Should he leave to join Amazon’s broadcast crew, Michaels would seem likely to be replaced by Tirico on the « Sunday Night Football » boradcast.