When John Madden decided to turn off his microphone after 30 years in the booth, football fans knew his replacement would have some impossibly big shoes to fill.
That man -- Cris Collinsworth -- half-expected Madden to pull a Brett Favre and unretire in time for a new season.
''I kept thinking and hoping ... that I was going to get one of those calls from John that said, 'I was just joking, I'm not really retiring and I'm coming back,'' Collinsworth said.
But the call never came.
''It's not like we're going from a veteran star to a rookie. We're going from a veteran to another veteran star,'' SNF producer Fred Gaudelli said.
Collinsworth has been covering the NFL since 1989, most recently serving as a studio analyst for NBC and the NFL Network. He has provided in-game color before but realizes this transition will be different.
''Sometimes when you're in the middle of something significant or when it's happening to you, you tend to not realize it until much later,'' Collinsworth said. ''But, the treasure that was John Madden's career will be remembered for a long, long time. He'll be remembered for not only the intelligent coaching conversation that he brought to the air every week, but he'll be remembered for making it fun.
''The people that I talk with around the country, they just want me to tell John, 'thanks.' They want me to say how much they appreciate what he meant to them and what he meant to their lives. He was part of the family. He was something that was treasured.''
He was not alone in his praise.
''I had a wonderful seven years with John Madden,'' Michaels said. ''I've said it many, many times that the only regret I have in regard to that partnership is that we didn't get to do it for 27 years instead of seven.
''The one thing that a lot of people don't realize about John ... [is that] he's a really brilliant man. I'm not overstating that. He's extremely well-read, he's a Renaissance man. Some people will think John's just the guy who emits 'booms' and a lot of sound effects, but those of us who've been around him know that he's a fascinating man with a very curious mind.''
After calling Super Bowl XLIII in February, Madden announced his retirement in April. Collinsworth was not expecting the call from NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol that he'd be providing the color analysis this season.
''I was truly stunned,'' he said. ''When [Madden] called such a great game and didn't retire, then three months later the last thing in the world that I was thinking was he was going to retire and that I was going to get this job.''
The Bears will make four appearances on Sunday night: an Aug. 30 preseason game that will showcase Jay Cutler's return to Denver, the Sept. 13 opener at Green Bay, an Oct. 18 visit to Atlanta and a Nov. 22 home game against Philadelphia that is subject to flexible scheduling.
So, what advice did Michaels impart to the man replacing a legend?
''The only thing I asked Chris to work on are his 'Booms!''' he said.