Greg Olsen is interested in the Carolina Panthers head coaching job if approached, sources told Front Office Sports. That’s setting up a big potential hiring decision for Fox Sports.
The Athletic first reported the news about the ex-Panthers tight end on Monday. Billionaire Panthers owner David Tepper could lure away Olsen, and Fox would then face the prospect of effectively replacing its Nos. 1 and 2 NFL game analysts in one swoop.
But Olsen is scheduled to drop back to No. 2 once Tom Brady takes over the lead role during the 2024 season.
“I know (Olsen’s) interested. I just cannot bring myself to believe that it will happen,” said ex-Fox executive turned media consultant Patrick Crakes. “But he also hears in his ear all the time, ‘Tom Brady’s coming.’ So why not work on your future?”
Olsen has repeatedly said he’s OK with giving way to Brady. On the other hand, he’s won critical raves as Fox’s No. 1 analyst, calling the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 57 in February.
That was the most-watched Super Bowl ever, averaging 115.1 million viewers. He and his castmates also called the most-watched regular-season game of all time during last Thanksgiving’s Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants telecast, which drew 42 million viewers.
“If you’re asking me, I think Kevin and I have shown that we can handle a game on any stage – on any day,” Olsen told Front Office Sports last December.
While he’s a good soldier, it will be tough for Olsen to give up calling Fox’s biggest game every week. Just look at the frustration evidenced by Al Michaels having to call some unattractive games on Amazon Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football” after years of calling the league’s best prime-time matchup on NBC Sports “Sunday Night Football.”
Brady is poised to become the highest-paid sports analyst in TV history via a 10-year, $375 million deal with Fox.
But many wonder if the GOAT will ever end up in the broadcast booth. The seven-time Super Bowl winner changed his mind only a month into his first retirement from the NFL. Brady then took a gap year this season to prepare for his 2024 debut.
If that worst-case scenario comes to pass, Fox could promote analysts from its bench, such as current No. 2 Daryl Johnston, Mark Schlereth, Jonathan Vilma, or Mark Sanchez.
It’s a popular parlor game among NFL TV partners to scout the next great TV analysts among current coaches and players.
At the top of network wish lists: Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, and former Chargers and Colts quarterback Philip Rivers said sources.
“I’ve always thought Mike Tomlin, if he ever wanted to do it, would be terrific,” McManus said.
In November 2022, NFL on CBS reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala tweeted that Tomlin was “very close” to moving to TV a few years ago — but decided to stay with the Steelers.
Then there’s the ultimate wild card: Bill Belichick. Despite his surly attitude toward the press, there are NFL Insiders like Peter Schrager who believe he could be the next great NFL TV analyst if he were so inclined. The Hoodie could be looking for a new job after leading the New England Patriots to a 2-9 record this season.
Belichick can be “super, super engaging” if he wants to be, Schrager told Front Office Sports. “He knows the history of the game inside and out.”
The Olsen/Brady scenario at Fox was kicked into motion by the NFL announcer shuffle of 2022.
In March 2022, Troy Aikman and Joe Buck jumped to ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” after 20 years and six Super Bowls at Fox.
Olsen, who’d only joined the network full-time the previous year, was elevated to the No. 1 team with Burkhardt to succeed Aikman and Buck. Fox announced its big Brady hire in May 2022.
Of course, the Olsen-to-Panthers rumors could fade quickly. And Brady has maintained that he will be ready to go with his Fox TV career next year.
Fox gave Olsen a salary raise after his move up to No. 1, said sources. But he’s making nowhere near Brady’s salary of $37.5 million per season. If Tepper, a billionaire hedge fund manager, wants to overpay a rookie head coach, who is Olsen to say no?
The NFL’s second-richest owner, with a $20.6 billion net worth, likes to hand out lucrative deals to his revolving door of head coaches.
For example, fired head coach Frank Reich is expected to pocket $20 million to $40 million in guaranteed pay from Tepper over the next three years. Whatever happens, Crakes believes Fox already has backup plans if they lose Olsen, Brady, or both.
“I imagine they’ll be fine. They’ll get their pick of what’s available. And they always have contingency (plans). They’ll be fine. They’ll figure it out,” he said.
Fox declined to comment on this story.