Former Patriots are dominating sports media like they used to dominate January. Every network seems to have at least one Patriot of championship vintage on its broadcaster depth chart.
Devin McCourty, immediately after retiring, landed arguably the highest-profile NFL studio role on NBC’s ratings-ruling “Football Night in America.” Fellow ex-Patriots safety Rodney Harrison is also part of that show as an on-site analyst.
Devin’s twin, Jason, is a host on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” and has called games for CBS and, along with his brother, on Westwood One.
(Their call, along with play-by-play voice Ian Eagle, of the Chiefs-Ravens AFC Championship game was a welcome respite from listening to Tony Romo babble and Jim Nantz try to provide brief Romo-to-English translations while calling the action on CBS’s telecast.)
Who else? ESPN has Tedy Bruschi and Randy Moss. Fox has Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, though the former is far smoother in a studio role than the latter.
Can’t overlook James White, either. He’s an analyst on the Big Ten Network, host on Sirius XM, and an insightful, good-natured weekly guest on The Ringer’s “Off The Pike” podcast for Patriots postmortems during the season.
And there are scores of other Patriots who have regular local TV or radio gigs, or lesser national roles. Ty Law, who appears on Tuesday’s on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show,” might be the most entertaining guest on Boston’s two sports radio stations.
Of course, those who aren’t fans of the six-time Super Bowl champions are probably weary of the Patriots saturation in the media. Lost to ‘em often when they were players. Can’t avoid ‘em now that they are broadcasters.
Which is a tough break for them. A very tough break. Because the highest-profile Patriot — and arguably the highest-profile player in the history of professional football — will be impossible to avoid when Tom Brady begins his 10-year, $375 million contract to be Fox’s No. 1 color analyst next season.
And a certain recently deposed coach, that one that played a snorting misanthrope so effortlessly during news conferences for 24 years but stole the show every time he appeared on television, also should be on a show rather than a sideline next season. Anyone who doesn’t believe Bill Belichick would be superb on television also probably doesn’t know that he already owns an Emmy, for his work on NFL Network’s superb “NFL 100″ all-time team series.
This is not at all a suggestion that Brady and Belichick should be reunited in a broadcast booth come September. This is an instance where the greatest coach and quarterback in NFL history would probably be better apart, to play to their strengths.
It’s kind of sad that Belichick didn’t land a head coaching job. He’s been part of the fabric of the NFL for so long. But there’s a great opportunity here, not dissimilar from the one Terry Francona found with ESPN between the ignominious end to his Red Sox managing career and his fresh start in Cleveland. A media role would make sure Belichick never slips far out of mind with NFL owners who might get an inkling to hire him.
But what role? He’s been excellent in a studio — don’t you still chuckle at his appearance on “College GameDay” before the Army-Navy Game at Gillette Stadium? — but I don’t think that’s the right path for him. He’s not one, like Rex Ryan, who is going to bleat rapidly aggregated hot takes. He’s not a backslapper like “Coach” Cowher or Jimmy Johnson. What he should really do is find a couple of high-end, low-volume roles that play to his strengths. Maybe a quick Belichick’s Take segment with McCourty on “Sunday Night Football,” where his appearance would feel like a special event if dispersed in moderation. Or a regular appearance on Bill Simmons’s podcast, like Doc Rivers was doing. Or a niche show like Peyton Manning’s “Peyton’s Places,” where he travels around the country visiting interesting places and talking to interesting people — mostly friends of his, such as Nick Saban — about football. He could start his own production company — call it Eight Rings, or Good Luck, Jonathan. And the show title? “We’re on to . . . ” Obviously.
Belichick will have appealing options. Brady long ago chose his path. When he signed his deal with Fox in May 2022, without a clear date for when he would start, skepticism about whether he would ever actually do it was easy to find. It turns out that what he said when he revealed that he would join the booth in the 2024 season — that he wanted time to prepare, talk to ex-player analysts who had succeeded, and figure out what makes a good analyst — was the truth. An executive at another network told me in November that Brady was already doing practice broadcasts at Fox.
Brady is at the phase now where he’s doing some media (FYI, the phone is on 24/7 here, Tom) to talk about how he will approach the job and what he wants to get across, appearing on Colin Cowherd and Pat McAfee’s shows this past week. “I believe I can provide a pretty unique perspective that I think a lot of people will really like,” Brady said to Mike McCarthy at Front Office Sports.
Interestingly, Brady made it clear almost matter-of-factly that he doesn’t want to work in a three-person booth. The well-liked Greg Olsen — who is everything Romo is supposed to be as analyst — will be nudged down the depth chart after two seasons alongside Kevin Burkhardt in the top booth.
Olsen could eventually move to another network. He would make plenty of sense for Amazon. In the longer term, the ideal would be for him to end up as Cris Collinsworth’s successor on “Sunday Night Football,” though that’s wishful conjecture on my part.
Brady’s competitiveness, knowledge, and his increasing willingness to offer candor suggests that he’s going to be an excellent analyst, even if it requires a few weeks or even months for him to find his stride.
It’s really going to annoy fans in other markets when his winning personality in the booth reminds them of how much he won on the field.