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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Tuned In: Tom Brady Confirms Start As No. 1 Fox Analyst Alongside Kevin Burkhardt

  • Brady tells Front Office Sports that he’ll join Fox this fall as the lead analyst but will not form a three-person booth with Greg Olsen.
  • Olsen, who has become a fan favorite, will drop down to Fox’s No. 2 crew.
Tom Brady wearing sunglasses.
Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady is coming to your living room this fall. The GOAT himself cleared up any lingering mystery about his future TV plans during an interview with Owen Poindexter on the Front Office Sports Today podcast.

Brady says he’s joining Fox as its lead NFL game analyst and will be working with No. 1 play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt—but he will not be forming a three-person booth with Burkhardt and Greg Olsen, as some have suggested as Olsen thrived this season (which would have aligned with Fox’s handling of Troy Aikman 22 years ago, when they put him in a booth with Cris Collinsworth and Joe Buck), meaning that the former tight end will drop down to the No. 2 crew, likely with Joe Davis.  

“I believe I can provide a pretty unique perspective that I think a lot of people will really like. It’s going to be a lot of hard work. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” the seven-time Super Bowl winner tells FOS. “It’s always about challenging yourself to grow in different areas. And this is certainly one way that I’m doing it.”

Ever since Brady signed a monster 10-year, $375 million deal with Fox, in May of 2022, there have been doubts about whether he’d ever actually take up the lead Fox microphone, which has been held by the likes of Olsen, Troy Aikman, and the late, great John Madden. When Brady announced he was taking a “gap year” this season to prepare, rumors really started flying.

But Brady tells FOS that he has already “developed a great rapport” with Burkhardt. He has nothing but respect for Olsen, the 38-year-old Pro Bowler who earned plaudits for his performance during Sunday’s NFC Championship Game telecast. “I love Greg. Greg’s done an incredible job and he’s got a great future and great career. Obviously already had one as a player, had one as a broadcaster, and anything Greg puts his mind to, he’s going to be incredibly successful as well,” Brady says.

As previously reported by FOS, Brady has been visiting the Fox lot in Los Angeles, meeting with executives and new colleagues, such as Erin Andrews, and amping up his practice reps to learn the TV ropes. He’s also reaching out to other sportscasters, like ESPN’s Troy Aiman, for advice, as the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand first reported. In short, Brady is preparing for TV the way he prepared for the game on the field: with obsessive detail and a fierce desire to be the best.

“A lot of studying, a lot of research, a lot of talking to a lot of friends who are in the business and that have gone through their own growing pains,” he says about his prep. “Reaching out to some of the best in the industry that have given me some great advice and then just going in there and just doing dry runs and practice. It’s been really fun. It’s been a different challenge. Fortunately, I think there’s a database of knowledge that’s been built up over 23 years of sitting in meeting rooms and being in game-plan meetings.”

Fatal Attraction: Networks Can’t Quit Ex-Coaches

With zero NFL franchises having yet offered him a contract, it looks increasingly likely that Bill Belichick will be working as a TV analyst instead of a coach this fall, say network sources. It’s the classic fallback move by out-of-work coaches: a cushy career on TV, a fat paycheck, and a year or two off to recharge their batteries. Remember, for example: After leaving the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton served as a Fox studio analyst for a year before returning to the NFL with the Denver Broncos. (Payton is now the league’s highest-paid coach at $18 million a year after Belichick left the New England Patriots.)  

But what happens when ex-coaches are drawn back to the game? In the NBA, Doc Rivers just exited ESPN’s No. 1 NBA team with Doris Burke and Mike Breen after only a few months on the job to return to coaching with the Milwaukee Bucks. Even loyal ESPN soldier Michael Kay blasted his bosses for the Rivers debacle, saying they had “egg on their face” after firing Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, supposedly out of fear that they’d leave their posts for NBA gigs, and replacing them with Rivers—only to see Rivers walk.

So why do networks keep hiring coaches? Bob Thompson, a former Fox executive, believes “everyone is always looking for the next John Madden.” Kurt Warner of the NFL Network, meanwhile, believes Belichick would be great on TV—as long as he’s willing to criticize his buddies in the coaching profession. And the Hoodie’s never been afraid to play the bad guy. Says Warner, who’s promoting a $1 million sweepstakes via the Bingo Blitz app during Super Bowl week: “Bill Belichick has always been really good at pointing out problems.”

Mike Drops

With the NFL on a TV tear, chances would seem to be increasing that CBS’s Super Bowl LVIII telecast of Kansas City Chiefs-San Francisco 49ers could set a new record for viewership, just one year after Fox posted a record 115.1 million for Chiefs-Philadelphia Eagles. CBS said Tuesday that its coverage of Chiefs-Baltimore Ravens was the most-watched AFC Championship Game ever, with 55.5 million viewers, which beat the previous record, set by New York Jets-Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 23, 2011 (54.9 million). … Meanwhile, Fox drew 56.3 million viewers for its coverage of the San Francisco 49ers-Detroit Lions NFC Championship Game—a huge number, but short of Brett Favre’s playoff swan song during Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints on Jan. 24, 2010 (57.9 million). Can CBS make TV history on Feb. 11? I think Chiefs-Lions would have been a better TV matchup. … Scott Hanson had a great take on his signature weekly line on the NFL Network’s RedZone show. While laboring through the endless TV ads on Conference Championship Sunday, Hanson tweeted: “7 hours of commercial-filled football starts now!”

—Michael McCarthy’s “Tuned In” column is at your fingertips every week with the latest insights and ongoings around sports media. If he hears it, you will too.

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