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September 4, 2009 7:43 AM

Return of the Talking Heads: Are You Sure You're Ready for Some Football?

Because our members take their football very seriously, the management at the Grill Room have been working feverishly over the past couple of days to get our TVs aimed just right at the great NFL satellite in the sky for the impending 2009 season.

Nothing better than a hearty meal, a German bier or five, and some good ol' football to help wile away the darkening months of a European fall and winter.

And because our discerning clientele know that the only sure-fire way to botch up an expertly prepared main course -- in this case the great game itself -- is a shoddy announcing crew, we have carefully prepared a diner's guide aimed at rating the best and worst of those talking teams from the five networks that will be offering up NFL football fare this year: CBS, FOX, ESPN, NBC and the NFL Network.

We will be updating this guide from time to time over the course of the season, so that our faithful patronage can have the finest viewing options at their disposal. And remember, there is no disgrace in using the mute button from time to time. With a notable exception, the crews these days don't rate with the Pat Summeralls and Tom Brookshiers of yesteryear.

So, without further ado...

Today's Main Course: Talking Heads on a Skewer -- the Grill Room's inaugural preseason rankings of NFL announcers.

With 18 diverse selections to choose from we have rated each accordingly. Dig in:

1) Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, NBC, (pictured above bottom): A treat for the palate. Collinsworth, of course, replaces the venerable John Madden alongside the smooth-as-butter Michaels in the booth Sunday nights. Count on Michaels to bring out the best in Collinsworth, who, thankfully, is one of the few analysts brave enough to actually call 'em the way he sees 'em. We realize that Collinsworth might not jibe with everybody's taste, but in the Grill Room we serve our food spicy and Collinsworth doesn't do bland. This duo should stand alone.

2) Jim Nantz/Phil Simms, CBS: Frankly, there's quite a falloff from the top slot, but there has to be a No. 2... Yeah, Nantz can be appallingly dramatic at times, but he pays attention and might offer more insight than any of the other anchors. Simms plays the down-homey stuff to the hilt, but knows the game and meshes nicely with Nantz.

3) Greg Gumbel/Dan Dierdorf, CBS: Veteran campaigners, both. Gumbel is still as unflappable as they come and Dierdorf isn't shy with the opinion. A former lineman, he also offers some nice perspective along the trenches that the casual fan might miss.

4) Dick Enberg/Dan Fouts, CBS: You'll notice that a FOX announcing team still hasn't made the list. Er, anyway, Enberg is an old pro who always seems to have just one more year left in the tank -- until, oh my, the next year. Fouts blows hot and cold. When he's good he's very good. When he's bad...

5) Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, ESPN: Was tempted to give this one an incomplete grade, but Gruden should develop into a superstar -- that is until he goes back to the sidelines, like all the 'former' coaches seem to do. Tirico is as good as they come in the lead chair and Jaworski does his homework. The three-man booth hasn't worked since Howard, Frank and Dandy Don surrendered the mic too many years ago. This new trio stands a chance.

6) Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, FOX: Hey, a FOX sighting! Rosen and Ryan lead a pathetically and inexcusably weak FOX lineup. Rosen seldom gets in the way of the game and, frankly, is one of the best lead announcers around. He gets saddled with the average Ryan, who is another in a long line of amateurish Madden imitators.

7) Ian Eagle/Rich Gannon, CBS: If only because the dude's name is Ian Eagle...

8) Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, FOX: Buck might just be a genius, but if he were really that smart he'd take it down 50 decibels. Trust us, Joe, we'd still be able to catch your decent observations. Aikman's a nice, polite guy and all, but I have learned nothing from him as an analyst. Moose Johnson would be a massive improvement in this role.

9) Kevin Harlan/Solomon Wilcots, NBC: Because Harlan has some of the great all-time pipes. The guy could make a political debate sound exciting. Hey, there's an idea...!

10) Don Criqui/Randy Cross, CBS: Maybe this duo should have been rated higher. They bear watching, though. Criqui, after all these years, still makes just a few too many mistakes to rise toward the elite.

11) Bob Papa and Matt Millen, NFL: Papa is the solid long-time Giants play-by-player, and will have his hands full with Millen who was the first of the John Madden imitators before leaving the booth to help keep the Detroit Lions franchise in check. The NFL Network televises its first game in Week 10.

12) Bill Macatee/Steve Beuerlein, CBS: Football is not Macatee's strength, though he has always been under-appreciated as an announcer in my book. Beuerlein is improving. Another team that might move up the list.

13) Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa, FOX: Sorry, I have grown sick and tired of Kenny Albert trying so hard to sound like father, Marv. The talented Johnston is wasted here. Who are these people that think Siragusa is so frickin' funny?

14) Gus Johnson/Steve Tasker, CBS: This duo would be the vanilla ice cream on today's menu. Nothing to like, nothing to hate.

15) Chris Myers, Trent Green, FOX: Green is new to the scene, so it's too early to tell. Myers is just OK.

16) Ron Pitts, John Lynch, FOX: Another newcomer, if Lynch brings the pop to the booth he did on the field he could be wonderful. Here's hopin'.

17) Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, FOX: Billick was the biggest disappointment of all last year. You couldn't shut the guy up when he was a coach. Why he is pulling punches now is beyond me. Maybe he's just a hypocrite.

18) Dick Stockton (pictured top), Charles Davis, FOX: Poor Charles Davis. In his rookie year with FOX he gets paired with the Dean Martin of announcers. Stockton is good for at least four serious screw-ups a game. We don't let his kind drink in the Grill Room.

*A nod to Fang's Bites, who's comprehensive blog on the subject of sports TV helped with the assemblage of this guide. The management of the Grill Room retains its opinions, however.

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