There was little outrage when Michael announced his sudden retirement Wednesday, but there was plenty of confusion. The timing was odd, as was the fact that the team, for which Michael, 62, served as a senior vice president and a public face for more than a decade, declined to comment. On Thursday, as part of The Washington Post’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment within Washington’s front office, seven former team employees said Michael made objectifying and off-color comments about female employees.
“On to the next chapter,” Michael, who declined an interview request, said in a statement announcing his departure Wednesday.
Born in Chicago, Michael grew up in Silver Spring, Md., as the son of Greek parents who ran a cafe in downtown Washington. After graduating from Northwood High in 1974, Michael attended the University of Maryland. He planned to study law enforcement but switched his major to radio, television and film after becoming involved with the campus radio station, WMUC, where he called Maryland basketball games. As graduation approached, Michael turned down an offer to work as the master control director at Channel 2 in Baltimore and instead took a position covering professional golf tournaments for Mutual Radio.
“I’ve never been afraid to work hard,” Michael, who earned $100 per tournament while traveling to events around the country in his own car, told The Post in a 2004 profile.
Mutual Radio hired Michael full time in the early 1980s as a producer. He soon began hosting the pregame coach’s show for Notre Dame football, a role he filled for more than 20 years. When Westwood One purchased Mutual Radio in 1985, Michael was promoted to manage the network’s sports operation. He continued doing play-by-play for the NFL and college football, as well as golf, the Olympics and boxing.
In July 1995, WJFK won the rights to Washington football broadcasts and hired Michael to produce its pregame and postgame shows. He contributed to other team-related programming on the station over the next nine years while also serving as the radio voice for George Washington men’s basketball before he was named sports director and tapped to replace Herzog in the booth in 2004. While many fans believed the team and owner Daniel Snyder were behind the move, Herzog, who became Washington’s play-by-play voice in 1979, said his ouster was a cost-cutting decision by the station.
“For the last month or so, I was asked by the station to increase my responsibilities and try to take the entire Redskins package to another level,” Michael, who would continue in his role as the senior vice president of Westwood One, said at the time. “We’re hoping to improve it, expand it and generate more interest in the broadcast. We’re going to do more on draft day and training camp coverage; we’re going to expand on what we’ve done. I’m thrilled to be part of it. There’s a lot of responsibility that goes along with this, considering how much this team means to the city, and I’m very aware of that. I never really thought it would be a possibility, and I’m tremendously excited.”
Michael spent his first nine years as the voice of the team calling games alongside Huff and Jurgensen. Huff stepped away from the booth before the 2013 season and was replaced by former Washington tight end and fan favorite Chris Cooley. Jurgensen, the last vestige of the “Sonny, Sam and Frank” era, announced his retirement before last year’s preseason opener.
In addition to his play-by-play duties, Michael emerged as one of the most public faces of the franchise over the past 16 years. He began hosting his daily “Redskins Nation” program on what is now known as NBC Sports Washington in 2008 and hosted the team’s weekly coach’s show on WRC. In 2017, Michael became the Washington region’s Pro Football Hall of Fame voter.
As a team employee who had a close relationship with Snyder, Michael was seldom critical of the organization. His homerism was never more apparent than on Fridays during the season, when he would preview Washington’s upcoming game and predict the winner after assigning check marks to denote which team had the advantage in several categories. Michael renamed the intangibles category “Skintangibles” during the 2015 season and gave Washington the edge in every game.
Before incorrectly predicting a Washington win in last year’s regular season finale, Michael made a “big announcement” that would prove more prescient than anyone realized at the time.
“For the last time ever, for the last time ever, Skintangibles,” he said. “Skintangibles in 2020, going to be eliminated. Erase it from your vocabulary."
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