The show's awards include seven Sports Emmy Awards for Outstanding Weekly Show (1988, 1991, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2003, and 2006 seasons) and five CableACE Awards (1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1995 seasons).
On July 14, 2003, ESPN announced that Rush Limbaugh would be joining the show as a weekly commentator when it premiered on September 7. Limbaugh would provide the "voice of the fan" and was supposed to spark debate on the show. Limbaugh certainly succeeded at the latter. On September 28, Limbaugh commented about Donovan McNabb, the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles:
"Sorry to say this, I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
On October 1, 2003, less than one week after that comment, Limbaugh resigned from ESPN. The following Sunday on air Tom Jackson said about Limbaugh:
"Let me just say that it was not our decision to have Rush Limbaugh on this show. I've seen replay after replay of Limbaugh's comments with my face attached as well as that of my colleagues, comments which made us very uncomfortable at the time, although the depth and the insensitive nature of which weren't fully felt until it seemed too late to reply. He was brought here to talk football, and he broke that trust. Rush told us the social commentary for which he is so well known would not cross over to our show, and instead, he would represent the viewpoint of the intelligent, passionate fan. Rush Limbaugh was not a fit for NFL Countdown."
In February 2007, ESPN confirmed an earlier report in the Dallas Morning News that Michael Irvin would not be brought back to the show or to the network. On March 12, ESPN confirmed on its website that Michael Irvin's former teammate, Emmitt Smith would fill Irvin's chair, but that arrangement only lasted one season.Keyshawn Johnson also joined the network and has served as an analyst for Countdown, among other programs.
Around the League: A segment where several live reports from gameday stadiums are received, including last-minute lineup changes and other assorted late-breaking gameday news.
Ditka's Doghouse: A segment where Mike Ditka sends a player or team to his doghouse for a previous week's poor performance, although in 2008 he's also sent a division (AFC West) and even entire states (Ohio and Missouri) to his Dog House.
Fantasy Tips: First introduced in 2006, this segment originally featured Ron Jaworski offering tips to the viewers about their fantasy teams for that week's games. This segment is now hosted by ESPN fantasy analyst Matthew Berry.
Field Pass (formerly known as Sunday Stretch): A segment where players are shown warming for their games.
The Mort Report: NFL "insider" Chris Mortensen breaks down trade rumors, coaching changes, and injuries.
Special Look: (formerly, Playmaking Made Easy) During this segment, the hosts of the show diagram a specific football play on a large green floor resembling a football field with astroturf, and then act it out in slow-motion. The name apparently evolves with sponsorship (i.e. the "Playmaking made Easy" was used under Staples, "Special Look" is used under IBM.
Sunday Drive: Ron Jaworski provides a look inside one particular game, breaking down a key scoring drive from start to finish.
Predictions on the day's game outcomes from the show's on-air personalities.
Tip Drill: This is when Berman gives a different analyst a quick question about certain games of the day.
Gamebreakers: This is at the very end of the show, when each analyst and Berman give two or three players they expect to have a big day. For the 2009 season, each analyst and Berman only give one player.
Late Hits: This is at the end of the show when Chris Mortensen delivers some final news and notes.
Stop It!: Mike Ditka tells viewers things that must be stopped in the NFL, such as chanting Tim Tebow's name while he is the back up quarterback. At the end of each question, Ditka says, "Stop It!"
Where You At?:Introduced in the 2012 season, Carter reveals which players have gone missing, and then asks, "Where You At?". Early on, Jackson assisted Carter.
NFL 32 Segment featuring opinions from the NFL 32 Crew.
Cold Hard Facts: 12 questions answered by Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.
The Eliminator: Berman, Jackson and the rest of the crew picked a team to win the day's game. If the team one picked lost, he was eliminated. The rules were changed later on where one could only pick a team once a season.
Line 'Em Up: two animated characters, Hector the Projector and Victor the Predictor, offered fantasy football tips.
The Mayne Event: Kenny Mayne hosted a segment that parodied human interest stories with a tie-in the NFL. Mayne announced that on Twitter that the segment had been canceled, at least for the 2013 season.