There’s no set mold for creating the next great former-player-turned-NFL analyst. Just look at the roundtables on fall Sunday mornings. Terry Bradshaw, Kurt Warner, Randy Moss, Michael Irvin, Michael Strahan, Tedy Bruschi — they’re all great at what they do, yet none of their backgrounds, looks, or demeanors are the same.
So it comes as no surprise that, when The Big Lead asked some of their contemporaries which current player they would most like to work with, the answers varied. Like the diverse group above, it included quarterbacks, cornerbacks, and tight ends. It also included some of the most outspoken players in the sport.
“I want any piece of Baker,” said Kyle Brandt, co-host of Good Morning Football on the NFL Network. “I want Baker Mayfield because he just doesn’t follow the rules. He breaks all those sports media rules that have been around for 25-50 years on the ancient scrolls about, ‘Don’t talk this way about a teammate or an opponent.’ He just doesn’t care and that would be great on the air.”
The Big Lead asked several NFL Network analysts the same question (Which current player would you most want to work with?) at the NFL’s media event celebrating the kickoff of their 100th season and the most common thread was players who have earned a reputation for speaking their minds.
“Josh Norman and Jalen Ramsey, I think they would be fun to work with,” said LaDainian Tomlinson, now a studio analyst on the NFL Network. “I already work with one defensive back, Prime Time [Deion Sanders], and I think those guys, it’s just in their make-up to be good [in broadcast].”
“The reason I say non-quarterback is I think a lot of quarterbacks get a lot of hall passes about understanding the whole concept of an offense and defense, and I’m not sure that’s accurate,” Smith explained.
Quarterbacks tend to be the go-to picks for networks after they retire, especially with the success Tony Romo has had with CBS and the long-term accomplishments of Bradshaw. But the reality is the best analysts are insightful, entertaining, and relaxed in front of a camera– a rare combination that isn’t easy to pick up.
“A lot of players think, ‘I know football really well, so I can just go into the broadcasting business,’” said Rich Eisen, who chose Olsen as the guy he wants to work with. “But it’s very difficult to talk in succinct sound bites and also be natural and lace your commentary with personal experiences and be likable.”
One of the most important aspects of making that transition, according to Tomlinson, is not only working hard, but also seeking out other’s advice. He never tested the broadcasting waters before he retired; when he decided to get into it, Tomlinson said Sterling Sharpewas a big mentor and advisor in his development, not that asking for help was easy.
“The hardest thing is going to someone and saying, ‘Hey, I don’t know how to do it,’” Tomlinson said. “But you have these veterans, guys who used to play, who have been in broadcasting for years and you learn things from them and you hone your skills and make it your own.”
That seems to be the biggest key to any player transitioning into the television world: Originality. Short soundbites can be the difference in how people view you and how your broadcasting career unfolds. It doesn’t matter what position you played or what your background is. If you can be original, if you can bring something no one else does, you can find a home in broadcast and be the next big star.