If you looked at the list of Fox broadcast crews that called Bears games last season, without any knowledge of how the team fared, you might have thought the Bears finished 7-9, not 12-4.
The network didn’t assign a crew higher than fourth on its depth chart to a Bears game until Week 13, when the No. 2 team of Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis called the game against the Giants.
Until then, we endured the No. 6 team of Dick Stockton and Mark Schlereth, fill-ins Brian Custer and Greg Jennings and the No. 5 team of Chris Myers and Daryl Johnston – twice. The best crew was Thom Brennaman and Chris Spielman, fourth on the list, who called the Buccaneers game in Week 4.
The biggest insult was in Week 15, when the Bears had the chance to clinch the division against the Packers and Fox gave us Myers and Johnston again.
It took Fox until Week 17 to put the top team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on a Bears game. Granted, the duo has fewer Sunday games because of their Thursday night schedule, but where was the love?
The Bears figure to rate higher on Fox’s priority list this season. The owners of the NFC package already have their top crew set to call Bears-Lions on Thanksgiving Day and Cowboys-Bears the next Thursday night. If the season goes as anticipated, we should see more of the first and second crews.
CBS took full advantage of having the Bears in Weeks 7 and 8 last season, putting its No. 2 team of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the game against the Patriots and the top team of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on the Jets game.
With all this in mind, here are predictions of which crews will call Bears non-prime-time games the rest of the season. Some already have been determined. The rest are based on my own intuition, with some personal preference mixed in. Of course, I’m banking on a successful season.
Prime-time games are included to provide a complete listing.
Week 2: at Broncos, 3:25 p.m., Fox – Just like last season, Fox will put Dick Stockton and Mark Schlereth on its first Bears game. I guess the reunion with Vic Fangio didn’t rate highly.
Week 3: at Redskins, 7:15 p.m., ESPN – Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland.
Week 4: vs. Vikings, 3:25 p.m., CBS – Considering how it treated the Bears last season, CBS likely will put Nantz and Romo in this spot. Interestingly, CBS’ two Bears games are with an NFC opponent, and the Bears’ home games against AFC foes are on Fox and NBC. Behold, the cross-flex.
Week 5: at Raiders (London), noon, Fox – Stockton and Schlereth will be back on the call. I guess Khalil Mack’s reunion didn’t rate highly, either. Could these guys be this year’s Myers and Johnston?
Week 6: Bye.
Week 7: vs. Saints, 3:25 p.m., Fox – The late Sunday game is the Buck-Aikman spot, but with the MLB playoffs going on, Buck will be elsewhere. That means Brennaman will be on the call. He has been the fill-in on the top team.
Week 8: vs. Chargers, noon, Fox – Even with a Los Angeles-Chicago matchup, Seahawks-Falcons might get the better billing. The Rams are the L.A. team of choice. I’m guessing the No. 3 team of Kenny Albert and Ronde Barber will be here.
Week 9: at Eagles, noon, Fox – Burkhardt and Davis should call this playoff rematch. They make a good team, even when they’re broadcasting on the Madden video game.
Week 10: vs. Lions, noon, CBS – Nantz and Romo could return to town considering CBS’ weak slate of games. At the very least, we should see Eagle and Fouts, who are always entertaining.
Week 11: at Rams, 7:20 p.m., NBC – Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.
Week 12: vs. Giants, noon, Fox – Even if the G-men are bad again, Burkhardt and Davis should get another late-season Giants-Bears game with a mediocre early slate.
Week 13: at Lions, 11:30 a.m., Fox – Buck and Aikman.
Week 14: vs. Cowboys, 7:20 p.m., Fox – Buck and Aikman.
Week 15: at Packers, noon, Fox – If Buck and Aikman are at Rams-Cowboys, we should get a Burkhardt-Davis trifecta.
Week 16: vs. Chiefs, 7:20 p.m., NBC – Michaels and Collinsworth.
Week 17: at Vikings, noon, Fox – This game could go a lot of ways depending on playoff scenarios. Let’s say the game means nothing because the Bears have the top seed in the NFC clinched. That way, we won’t mind if Myers and Johnston call their only Bears game of the season here.
Note: Sunday games from Week 7 to 17 are subject to flexible scheduling. The Bears can be moved to prime time one more time.