PHOENIX – “Waiting for Brady.”
That’s not as catchy a title as the new comedy “80 for Brady.” But it accurately describes the mood here among Fox Sports executives and staffers.
According to Fox, Tom Brady won’t appear on the network’s Sunday coverage of Super Bowl 57. But the GOAT’s presence still looms large over Super Bowl week.
While still playing quarterback in the NFL, Brady signed a $375 million, 10-year deal to become Fox’s No. 1 game analyst.
Don’t think even the most senior Fox on-air talents don’t know how much he will get paid – to the penny.
Terry Bradshaw has helped make “Fox NFL Sunday ” the No. 1 NFL pregame show for 29 years running.
But Bradshaw jokingly acknowledged the future is arriving in 2024.
“I’m not looking over my shoulder. But Brady is coming in – for $37.5 million,” he said with a laugh on Fox’s Media Day here Tuesday.
Last week, Brady told Colin Cowherd he’ll join play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt in the broadcast booth in 2024.
That puts current No. 1 game analyst Greg Olsen in a tricky position.
This season, the former NFL tight end has drawn critical praise for his work. He and Burkhardt are poised to call their first Super Bowl Sunday night from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
But Olsen knows he’ll have to drop down the depth chart to No. 2 once Tom Terrific shows up in his Fox blazer.
That means he’ll have to give up his on-air partnership with Burkhardt – and take a back seat while Brady calls Fox’s next Super Bowl after the 2025 season.
This should be Olsen’s moment of triumph. Instead, the Brady questions are coming fast and furious in Phoenix this week.
“If I had a dollar for every question I’ve been asked about him, I’d have his contract,” he quipped Tuesday during Fox’s Media Day event.
The top executives at Fox are also in a delicate spot.
They basically let Troy Aikman and Joe Buck walk to rival ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” to hire the seven-time Super Bowl winner.
At the same time, Fox promised not to pressure Brady to start until he was ready.
Naturally, Fox would love to have the greatest Super Bowl winner of all time as part of its Super Bowl coverage. What network wouldn’t?
But the decision is Brady’s. It appears he needs time to decompress, get his life in order, and do some practice games before he gets behind the microphone.
That also puts Fox’s directors and producers in a challenging position.
They have to say Brady is Tom Terrific. While also maintaining Sunday’s coverage will be just fine without him.
“Everybody loves him. He’s great. To be honest, I don’t have any plans for him in my show right now,” said Billl Richards, who’ll produce 7.5-hour long pregame show.
Olsen-Burkhardt has “jelled” sooner than expected in their first year as Fox’s top NFL team, added Richards. The veteran producer has complete confidence in the two Super Bowl rookies heading into Sunday.
“You would never think ‘first year.’ You never try to make major changes on a Super Bowl year. That’s about as major as you can get. We feel really strong,” Richards said.
Meanwhile, the Brady soap opera has deflected attention from another strong year by Fox on NFL coverage.
During the 2022 season, “Fox NFL Sunday” averaged 4,542,000 views, up two percent over last year and the show’s best full-season average since 2019. The popular pregame show has ranked No. 1 since Fox entered the NFL in 1994.
Fox’s regular season game coverage, meanwhile, averaged 19,422,000 viewers. That was up four percent from last season and the largest year-over-year increase of any network this season.
Despite battling cancer this year, the 74-year-old Bradshaw still knows how to entertain an audience.
On Tuesday, he joked he wanted to die on the air.
“I told Fox if I could just die on the show. Think about the ratings, right? Are we not about ratings? That would be huge.”
On a serious note, Bradshaw “loves” what he’s doing and wants to continue co-hosting “Fox NFL Sunday.”
The 79-year-old Jimmy Johnson echoed those sentiments. He and his castmates text each other and visit each other’s homes, said the former Dallas Cowboys coach. The laughter viewers see on the air is genuine.
“We’re all best friends,” Johnson said.