Inside the NFL

Infobox Television
show_name = Inside the NFL
format = Sports
runtime = 1 hour
country = United States
network = HBO (Sept 1977-Feb 2008)
Showtime (Sept 2008-present)
imdb_id = 0331136

"Inside the NFL" is a weekly sports show that focuses on the National Football League. It originally aired on HBO from 1977 through 2008 (following Super Bowl XLII). HBO announced that the show would end its run on its network, and the program was later picked up by the Showtime cable network. Each NFL season, the program airs weekly beginning the first week of NFL season until the week after the Super Bowl. The show principally features highlights of the past week's games that were captured by NFL Films, in addition to commentary and analysis by the hosts, and occasional interviews with current and former NFL players and personnel.


"Inside the NFL" first aired in 1977 and was cable television's longest running series. The show was significant for being the first major sports related program to air on the then relatively new HBO network. Perhaps more significant was the fact that it was the first NFL related program to air on cable. The original hosts were Al Meltzer and Chuck Bednarik.


In 1978, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson joined the program (replacing Chuck Bednarik) as Merle Harmon subsequently replaced Al Meltzer. In 1980, Merle Harmon left as Len Dawson was joined by fellow Hall of Famer and former Miami Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti. In 1990, Cris Collinsworth joined Dawson and Buoniconti as the third host. Several former players and coaches served as co-host throughout this period including Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Glanville.

End of the Dawson–Buoniconti era

Beginning with the 2002 NFL season, the network replaced the aging Dawson and Buoniconti. So, from the 2002–2007 seasons, it was hosted by Bob Costas with former players Dan Marino, Cris Collinsworth, and Cris Carter serving as co-hosts. Bob Costas acknowledged this change in the season's first episode and paid tribute to the former hosts, saying they paved the way for the show to succeed. In addition to the change in hosts, "Inside the NFL" also featured segments featuring comics such as George Lopez, Jim Florentine, Lewis Black and Wanda Sykes.

During the last three weeks of the 2005 NFL season, "Real Sports" host Bryant Gumbel filled-in for Bob Costas. Costas was unavailable because he was in Turin, Italy preparing to cover the 2006 Winter Olympics for NBC.

In a special 30th anniversary episode which aired in December 2006, Len Dawson and Nick Buoniconti were invited back to co-host the show.

Cancellation, rebirth, and move to Showtime

On February 6, 2008, HBO suddenly announced that the show would end its run after 31 seasons. HBO Sports cited increased competition in NFL-related programming since the show's inception as a reason for its cancellation. [ [ "'Inside the NFL' ending 31-year run on HBO." Associated Press, 6 February 2008.] ] Skeptics however, believe that the real reason for HBO's decision to drop the show was due to the increasing cost [ [ HBO is denying that the show was killed to save money. According to, however, HBO was paying NFL Films a whopping $8 million a year for use of the highlights.] ] for usage of the NFL Films produced highlights. In the final episode, a taped montage with highlights from the series' 31 seasons was aired. In addition, former hosts Dawson and Buoniconti did the final signoff as the credits rolled. Bob Costas soon regarded the cancellation by HBO as being a "boneheaded" [ [ Bob Costas calls HBO's axing of "Inside the NFL" a "boneheaded" move] ] move.

On June 3, 2008, CBS Sports and NFL Films announced that "Inside the NFL" has found a new home on Showtime and will air on Wednesdays starting September 10 (9 p.m. ET/PT) on the cable channel. "Inside the NFL" will air each Wednesday throughout the 2008 NFL season through Wednesday, February 11, 2009. It will be produced by CBS Sports and NFL Films. [ [] ] [ [] ] [ [ Jim Nantz is likely to replace Bob Costas as the 30-year HBO series becomes a production of CBS Sports.] ] . On July 6, it was announced that James Brown will host "Inside the NFL", the role Bob Costas had on HBO. Brown will also be joined by lead CBS NFL analyst Phil Simms, retired former Defensive Player of the Year Warren Sapp and the returning Cris Collinsworth. While Sapp is competing on Dancing With The Stars former Pittsburgh Steelers and current NFL Today analyst Bill Cowher will be filling in. [ [ 2008-07-06-inside-nfl] ]


The show was taped in a New York City studio on Wednesday and aired at various times throughout the week beginning Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern Time. Much like other shows on the HBO network, "Inside the NFL" had the freedom to stray from the traditional network format for its program. While the basic elements were the same as any other sports recap show by featuring highlights of the weeks games and discussion of events around the league, the fact that there were no commercials allowed the panel to discuss subjects at length without the normal network time restrictions.


The highlight segments consisted of NFL Films footage of the past week's games with narration by Harry Kalas. This had long been considered a major asset of the show as the game highlights usually exceed the typical 15-30 second token package seen on most major networks. This was the case at least until the NFL Network emerged during the 2003 season and aired shows such as the show "Point After" that showed extended highlight segments.

In the last few years of "Inside the NFL", the show decreased its highlight segments, eliminating some low profile games. This angered some fans as for years the show was a way for out-of-town fans to view extended highlights of their favorite teams.


Aside from the highlights, "Inside the NFL" always focused on in depth interview segments with various players, coaches and front office personnel. Among the notable segments over the years was Cris Carter interviewing former coach Buddy Ryan. Ryan was Carter's first head coach when both were with the Philadelphia Eagles in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Ryan released Carter with his explanation being the infamous quote "All he does is catch touchdowns." The interview revealed what some had learned over the years, that Ryan released Carter because of his substance abuse problems that were affecting his performance. Carter admitted that his release was a wake-up call and saved his life as he became a born again Christian soon after, and went onto have a successful NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings in which he became the NFL's second leading receiver of all-time.


External links

* [ Showtime site]
* [ HBO site]
*imdb title|id=0331136|name=Inside the NFL
* show|id=16602|title=Inside the NFL

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