The NBC television network's pregame/studio coverage for their National Football League coverage has had a rather inconsistent history in comparison to The NFL Today on CBS and Fox NFL Sunday on the Fox Broadcasting Company. The following is an overview of the various names and formats relating towards NBC Sports' NFL pregame coverage.
The first official NFL on NBC pregame show was called GrandStand, a program that doubled as a competing sports anthology series to ABC's ABC's Wide World of Sports during the off-season (GrandStand was also a pregame show for NBC's Major League Baseball Game of the Week during the 1976 season). GrandStand premiered in 1975 with hosts Jack Buck and Bryant Gumbel (who joined Buck sometime later in the season). Prior to 1975, NBC would air the public affairs program Meet the Press in the NFL pregame show's time-slot (12:30 p.m. ET).
In 1976, Jack Buck left GrandStand in order to return to the booth for play-by-play (for NBC). Buck was in return, replaced by Lee Leonard, who co-hosted GrandStand with Bryant Gumbel.
In 1977, Lee Leonard left and was replaced by Mike Adamle and Regina Haskins as Bryant Gumbel's co-hosts. Leonard would later become a co-host of ESPN's SportsCenter. For the postgame show, GrandStand kept the Sperry NFL Report, although later incarnations of the postgame show would be renamed the Budweiser NFL Report.
In 1977, NBC dropped the GrandStand moniker in favor of NFL plus the corresponding season. For example, NFL '77, NFL '78 and so forth. Beginning with NFL '80, NBC would pioneer the use of the in-game highlight ("Let's go to New York for an NFL '80 update") NBC would use this particular method of titling their pregame show until the 1987 season. Beginning in 1987, NBC used the title NFL Live!, for which they would use until the end of the 1994 season. ESPN would also use this titling method for its auto racing coverage from 1979 through 1986. In 1987, it became ESPN SpeedWorld.
Bryant Gumbel would host the NFL on NBC pregame show through the 1981 season, when he left NBC Sports for a job on NBC's Today Show. In his final two seasons on The NFL on NBC, Gumbel served as the sole host for the pregame show. Gumbel was subsequently replaced by Len Berman, who was joined by Mike Adamle, Pete Axthelm (who left following the 1985 season), and Ahmad Rashad.
In Len Berman's second season (and what turned out to be his final full season) as the host, Bill Macatee (who left following the 1984 season) and Dave Marash (who left following the 1983 season) replaced Mike Adamle and Ahmad Rashad. Rashad would return to the pregame show in 1984 and continue onward through the 1988 season.
In October 1984, NBC was also covering the World Series between the Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres. Even though one of the games was on a Sunday night, Bob Costas (who anchored NBC's World Series coverage with Len Berman) was still New York to host NFL '84. At the end of the pregame show, Costas said that he was on his way to Detroit to cover that night's baseball game. In the meantime, Bill Macatee filled-in for Costas, providing updates and halftime highlights. Costas later interviewed the Tigers in their dressing room that night.
In 1985, NBC moved its Sunday pregame show to 12:30 p.m. ET no matter what time that market got a game. CBS followed suit in 1986. Previously, NBC and CBS would do 1:30 p.m. ET and 3:30 p.m. ET pregame shows for markets that were only getting 2 or 4 p.m. ET starts.
From the mid-to-late 1980s, NBC would to open their NFL pregame show with a Great Games, Great Moments feature, which re-aired an original clip (i.e. from an NBC telecast as opposed to NFL Films) of one play from an old NBC game.
During the 1986 season, NBC attempted to use a studio audience for the NFL '86 telecasts. This would be dropped after the season.
NFL Live! (1987–1994)
By 1987, Bob Costas had taken over for Len Berman as the studio anchor. During this particular period, Paul Maguire was a part of NFL Live!, which from 1986-1987, only consisted of him, Bob Costas, and Ahmad Rashad. Gayle Gardner would join the team in 1988. Also in 1988, Bob Costas' predecessor, Len Berman would temporarily return to the hosting seat because Costas was away in Seoul to cover that year's Summer Olympics for NBC. Gayle Sierens, who made history as the first female play-by-play announcer in NFL history one year earlier, would join Len Berman while Costas, Rashad and Gardner were in Seoul. Also, Paul Maguire briefly returned to NFL Live! (Maguire left the program for booth work at NBC) during the Olympics period.
Beginning in 1989, NFL Live! consisted only of Bob Costas and O. J. Simpson, who was on the show until the end of the 1993 season. Around this particular period (1989 to be exact), NFL Live! featured the John Tesh composed theme music "Gridiron Dreams". In 1990, Will McDonough moved over from CBS' NFL Today program to join NFL Live! McDonough, would leave NFL Live! after the 1993 season to serve as a sideline reporter and host of their "News and Notes" segment. In 1991, Bill Parcells (who left after just one season for a role as an in-booth analyst for NBC) joined the team.
Bob Costas held the main hosting position from 1984 through the 1992 season. Costas would continue his involvement with The NFL on NBC, albeit in a more limited role such as delivering, pre-taped, intimate, one-on-one interviews. In 1993, Jim Lampley replaced Costas as the host of NFL Live! Lampley would stay in this particular role for the entire 1993 season before leaving the program in favor of going to the booth for NFL play-by-play work NBC. For the 1993 season, "Gridiron Dreams" was replaced by a composition composed by John Colby.
From 1994-1997, former CBS, NFL Today host Greg Gumbel served as the host alongside Ahmad Rashad. Gumbel's predecessor, Jim Lampley moved over to play-by-play work for NFL games on NBC. Meanwhile, a revamped version of John Colby's theme music appeared for this season only. Also, during the span of 1993-1996, Mike Ditka was a regular commentator on NFL Live! A year after Mike Ditka's arrival, Joe Gibbs joined NFL Live!, who stayed on through the 1997 season. In 1994 and 1995, NBC ran an hour long edition of their pregame show before Week 1.
The NFL on NBC (1995–1997)
During NBC's last three years as the television provider of the American Football Conference (1995-1997), the pregame show was simply titled The NFL on NBC. The theme music by Randy Edelman was used for both the pregame show and the game coverage.
In 1995, Joe Montana joined The NFL on NBC but was gone after just one season. Montana was subsequently replaced by Cris Collinsworth, who stayed on through the 1997 season. Mike Ditka left NBC following the 1996 season to become the head coach of the New Orleans Saints and was replaced by Sam Wyche.
Football Night in America (2006–present)
NBC Sports Network (2014–)
- Fancy Figures Vs. Plain Facts
- NFL '85 Commercial (1985) on YouTube
- 1985 NFL Break Los Angeles Rams Denver Broncos on YouTube
- 1987 Week 12 Halftime Report with Bob Costas, Paul Maguire, Ahmad Rashad Pt. 1 on YouTube
- September 11, 1988 NFL Live (NFL on NBC Pregame Show) Part 1 with commercials.wmv on YouTube
- OJ Simpson Narrates the Ohio Football Story 1989 on YouTube
- "Gridiron Dreams"
- OJ wearing THE gloves on Dec. 15, 1990? on YouTube
- Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones & Jimmy Johnson Interview 1994 Super Bowl on YouTube
- Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith 1994 Super Bowl Post Game Int on YouTube
- 1994 Browns at Eagles - 4: Halftime Show on YouTube
- NBC NFL Pregame Show (NFL Live), 1996 on YouTube
- 1995-1997 NFL on NBC Theme