A few further thoughts on Tom Brady, color analyst of the future, while realizing the ultimate NFL broadcast booth would feature Brady, Bill Belichick, a play-by-play voice who says next to nothing, and a whole lot of sodium pentothal …
The habitual finger-wavers on social media took the news of Brady’s TV deal as an opportunity to suggest that he’s shirking the opportunity to spend more time with his family. That’s silly, even by the bottom-scraping standards of Twitter.
Sure, on the surface it was mildly curious that Brady cited that desire as one of the reasons for his retirement — excuse me, chose to “not make that competitive commitment anymore” — from the Buccaneers before returning 40 days later. But I seriously doubt he was keeping his inner circle in the dark about his intentions. You really think Gisele Bundchen saw Adam Schefter’s tweet and said, “What? Tom, you’re going back to football? I had no idea you were interested in such a thing.”
Brady had all the leverage in the world over Fox, and you can bet he has some language in his deal that allows him to arrive in a road city on the weekend — perhaps even Sunday morning — and fly out immediately after the game. It’s not like he’s going to be scouring for midweek flights into the host city each Sunday just so he can catch a production meeting. Fox will have no qualms about accommodating that private jet lifestyle.
Fox should have no qualms about any of this, really. The $375 million commitment to Brady was eye-popping — the average annual salary is more than ESPN is paying Joe Buck and Troy Aikman combined — but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s a no-brainer for Fox. It doesn’t even matter if he’s all that good in the booth; he just needs to avoid being an abject disaster.
The deal is validated by the value Brady brings as a brand ambassador for Fox Sports. They can and will trot him out to charm potential advertisers and schmooze with executives that the network desires to impress. Considering that Fox shells out more than $2 billion per season for NFL broadcast rights, paying $37.5 million per year to the most accomplished football player of all time as the dimple-chinned face of the company is both a relatively minor investment and a wise one.
But will Brady actually be an enjoyable analyst? You know he’ll get hypercompetitive about it and do his homework on how the best analysts across various sports have approached the gig. To me, his path there is as the Omniscient Football Guy, the analyst who has seen it all, often won it all, and recognizes everything the offenses and defenses are doing — remember, Brady has said he has “all the answers to the test” when it comes to identifying tactics against his offense.
The hard part is going to be articulating that knowledge concisely. Tony Romo’s early acclaim came from “predicting” what the offense was trying to do. I’ve had other ex-QB analysts through the years tell me that’s easy to do, especially since you usually have some on-background insight from the team personnel you have met with. Romo’s true appeal with that was his look-at-this enthusiasm when he did it. I’m not sure Brady, whose sense of humor tends to be corny, can pull that element of it off. But no one should be able to provide more insight.
What’s amusing about all of this is that Fox hasn’t even officially announced its top booth for this year yet. Kevin Burkhardt will be the play-by-play guy, and he is more than worthy of the opportunity. It’s presumed that Greg Olsen will be the analyst, but Fox has not confirmed that yet. I reached out to talk to Burkhardt this past week, but Fox isn’t making him available until it is ready to announce this year’s broadcast pairings.
Remembering a Patriots legend
Gino Cappelletti made his name in New England as one of the first great Patriots players, his career as a receiver and kicker spanning 1960-70. The all-time leading scorer in the AFL, it’s a shame the Pro Football Hall of Fame never had the sense to honor him with his rightful enshrinement before his death Thursday at age 89.
For more recent generations of Patriots fans, the classy Cappelletti is remembered as the color analyst for the team’s radio broadcasts, particularly the 28 years he spent alongside his friend Gil Santos, who often referred to him on air as mon ami.
When I heard the news of Cappelletti’s passing Thursday, the first thought that crossed my mind was of the complete joy Gil and Gino (as every Patriots fan knew them) had in their voices when Adam Vinatieri booted the winning field goal as time expired in Super Bowl XXXVI. As Santos made his perfect call (“… Set to go, snap, ball down, kick up. Kick is on the way, and it is … GOOD! It’s good! It’s good! Adam Vinatieri booms a 48-yard field goal and the game is over and the Patriots are Super Bowl champions! …”), Cappelletti could be heard in the background exclaiming a celebratory “Ayyyy!” Gil got it so right, and Gino’s unfiltered happiness made it even a little bit better.