Cris Collinsworth has provided color commentary on Sunday Night Football for over a decade.
According to NBC executive Dick Ebersol, Collinsworth nearly joined the booth in a different capacity sooner.
Ebersol wrote in his book Saturday Night to Sunday Night, via Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, that he considered Collinsworth for the play-by-play role.
While Ebersol already hired John Madden from Monday Night Football in 2006, Al Michaels was under contract with ABC/ESPN. In his search for an announcer to team with Madden, Ebersol didn't identify "any young up-and-comers" to pair with the legendary commentator. The top CBS and FOX play-by-play options at the time were locked into deals.
That prompted Ebersol to call a Hail Mary and give Collinsworth a "crash course in learning how to be a play-by-play announcer." The former wide receiver had signed with NBC to work in the Football Night in America studio.
Collinsworth practiced by calling the live feed of a playoff game with Madden in January 2006. That's when Ebersol discovered ABC was willing to let Michaels out of his contract.
Michaels joined NBC and filled the play-by-play role from 2006 to 2021 before joining Amazon's Thursday Night Football booth this year. Collinsworth replaced Madden as the color commentator in 2009.
A lot could be different if Ebersol executed his unconventional idea. Perhaps most importantly, Collinsworth may have never slid into the booth after letting Michaels greet viewers with a monologue.
Perhaps Collinsworth would have flourished in the play-by-play role, but everything seems to have worked out well for him.