With his playing days over, what can we expect from Tom Brady as an analyst for Fox Sports?
Allow me to venture out on an extremely sturdy limb here and declare that Tom Brady won’t be as successful in his pending NFL-adjacent career as he was as a player.
Bold take, right? OK, fine, maybe not. After all, Brady, who announced his retirement from the NFL Wednesday — this second time presumably for good — is the most accomplished player in football history and arguably in modern American team sports.
In 23 seasons — the first 20 spent quarterbacking the Patriots dynasty — he reached 10 Super Bowls, won seven (six in New England), and broke enough individual records to fill an entire page of agate.
He had peers and rivals at certain stages of his career — Peyton Manning in the early years, Patrick Mahomes or maybe Aaron Rodgers later on — but when all of the accolades and achievements are tallied, Brady stands above and alone.
So about that next career. Brady is sure to have all sorts of opportunities now that his Sundays are free, but one in particular was determined months ago. In May 2022, Brady agreed to a 10-year, $375 million contract to join Fox Sports as its No. 1 NFL analyst.
The news was seismic. Brady was preparing to play his third season with the Buccaneers, having ended his first retirement after 40 days in March 2022. It was unknown until news of his Fox deal broke whether he had any interest in broadcasting at all. And the deal’s starting point was open-ended since Brady, who was 45 this past season, was still playing at a high level and could have conceivably played for a couple more seasons beyond this one.
To be as successful as a broadcaster as he was as a player, Brady would have to be some combination of John Madden, Merlin Olsen, and Tony Romo for the enjoyable first year of his CBS career. That’s not feasible, of course, but it is fair to wonder how good he will be.
His advantages will be his first-hand familiarity with current players and coaches and the fact that as he once put it, he has “all the answers to the test.” Nothing he sees will perplex him. There is little doubt in my mind that Brady will be able to call out plays before they happen — which was a significant part of Romo’s early appeal — if he so desires. His knowledge, institutional and otherwise, is unmatched.
The NFL’s biggest stars have often faltered as broadcasters. Drew Brees, the longtime Saints quarterback, was a bust with NBC. Joe Montana and Emmitt Smith are among the legends who had little to offer in studio roles. Brady is a legendary competitor, of course, and if he commits to excelling at broadcasting, he will.
But initially, will he be able to convey all that he sees in an appealing, concise manner? Will he be anecdotal and authentically self-deprecating? (Wednesday’s retirement announcement, in which he wryly noted that a player gets only one “super-emotional retirement essay” and that he already spent his, suggests yes.)
And how popular will he really be? Patriots fans will enjoy him, but in many NFL cities, Brady is an avatar of crushing disappointment.And how popular will he really be? Patriots fans will enjoy him, but in many NFL cities, Brady is an avatar of crushing disappointment. I can tell you I would have despised Derek Jeter as a broadcaster, even if he were the second coming of Bob Uecker.
These are all questions that will begin to be answered whenever Brady joins Fox. For now, the network has a pleasant problem. Play-by-play voice Kevin Burkhardt and analyst Greg Olsen, who will call Super Bowl LVII Feb. 12, have rapidly developed into an outstanding No. 1 team, maybe the best on any NFL-rights-holding network at this point.
Olsen is everything CBS’s Romo was at first but is no longer — a good-natured, incisive analyst with an uncanny knack for breaking down why a play worked or didn’t work. He is welcome company for those three-plus hours on game day.
Olsen has earned the right to be the No. 1 analyst, but Brady, with his credentials and enormous fame and salary, will usurp him unless Fox goes with a three-person booth.
With Brady signed, sealed, and almost delivered, it is conceivable that the network could use him in some way during this Super Bowl broadcast. From what I gather, Fox was not anticipating his retirement announcement and is still assessing whether it can shoehorn him in.
There were no indications that Fox had plans to use him as a guest on its broadcast — either in studio or in the booth — before he announced his retirement. But now? It would make sense to show off the eventual biggest name on the Fox Sports roster during the Super Bowl pregame show, which should have some wiggle room given that it runs 5½ hours.
The Super Bowl is the most-watched program on television by far every year. Putting Brady in the booth on a live game broadcast that will be watched by more than 100 million viewers would be much too risky given that he’s a novice.
Brady is used to thriving under the bright lights. But those TV lights can be awfully hot. This is one Super Bowl he should not be expected to be ready for.
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