Tony Gonzalez joins “The NFL Today” on CBS

CBS NFL Today Tony Gonzalez Ryan Berenz

Tony Gonzalez joins The NFL Today on CBS in a major shakeup that has former analysts Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe now looking for new jobs.

CBS NFL Today Tony Gonzalez

With Gonzalez retiring at the end of this past season, there was bound to be a bidding war for the personable and well-spoken future Hall of Famer’s services. Realizing he needed to do all he could to lure the big name to his network, CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus struck quickly.

“Having just stepped off the playing field, Tony brings a fresh and insightful perspective,” McManus said in a statement. “We are excited for him to share his knowledge, experiences and opinions with our viewers. Tony was one of the most respected and hardworking players in the NFL and a tremendous teammate. We look forward to him bringing these attributes to CBS Sports.”

While the addition of Gonzalez should come as no surprise to fans or those in the broadcasting industry, it was the dismissals of Marino and Sharpe that really turned heads.

“While we welcome Tony, we want to acknowledge Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe who have contributed greatly to the success of The NFL Today for more than a decade,” said McManus. “Dan and Shannon are true Hall of Famers on the field and in front of the camera. As they pursue other professional opportunities, we thank them for their hard work and dedication and wish them nothing but the best.”

Sadly, it was a move that had to be made and, quite frankly, should have been done several years ago. CBS never had an issue with drawing big names like Marino, Sharpe, Boomer Esiason and Bill Cowher to The NFL Today. Its issue was that its pre-game panel was littered with knowledgeable but boring analysts.

CBS’ primary network competitor, on the other hand, filled FOX NFL Sunday with outgoing personalities in Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson.

FOX treated its show like it was entertainment; CBS approached it more from a news perspective. The difference in ratings was a reported 1.5 million viewers in favor of FOX. Both shows were great at delivering interviews and analysis, but it was the bells and whistles — along with a lot of humor — that left CBS in FOX’s dust.

Will the addition of Gonzalez make a difference? It’s impossible to say at this point, especially since the network apparently still has one more spot to fill. Gonzalez is definitely a likable person with great football knowledge, but so too were Joe Gibbs and Joe Montana — two Hall of Famers who failed to click with viewers during their previous broadcasting stints.

Sharpe was without question more outgoing than Marino, but his rants and awkward delivery made him the spoof of several Saturday Night Live skits like this:

There was a time when NFL fans flocked to the pre-game shows to get valuable information, but so much of that information is readily available through countless websites, NFL Network and ESPN (which I believe has the best pre-game show on television). CBS appears serious about closing the gap between itself and FOX, but only time will tell if this big shakeup will make a difference.

In the meantime, it at least gives NFL fans like me something to talk about as we impatiently wait for the new season to start in another six months.

Photo: Cr.: Jeff Neira/CBS ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved