Greg Olsen is Leaving Very Big Shoes For Tom Brady to Fill At Fox Sports

Tom Brady and Greg Olsen
Tom Brady and Greg Olsen / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

Sunday night's duel between the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions was incredibly exciting football for all audiences. It also served as quite the dramatic send-off for Greg Olsen. It was the final game for Olsen as Fox Sports' No. 1 analyst, even though he has been widely praised since he started in 2022, because the Tom Brady train is coming to town. FOX signed Brady to a laughably large deal after he retired to become the color commentator alongside Kevin Burkhardt in the top booth. It does not matter how good of a job Olsen did; he was always slated to be replaced by Brady in 2024. The network paid far too much money to do anything else.

But, man, Olsen is not setting up Brady for success. Because he is awesome at his job, and if last night was his final call with FOX, then it was a hell of a send-off. Much like last year's Chiefs-Eagles Super Bowl, Olsen impressed in front of a huge audience, and he rose to the occasion when the spotlight was brightest.

His most impressive skill is his ability to break down complicated football concepts in a very small window of time. We saw it last February when Olsen broke down the game-winning penalty called on an Eagles defensive back and explained why he didn't like the call based off how the officials had called the game leading up to that point. He did so between when the penalty was called and when the Chiefs took the next snap, a remarkably small window to hit when the pressure was on. He delivered.

During Niners-Lions, Olsen did that numerous times. Most impressively he absolutely nailed the Lions' clock management challenges in the final two minutes. Between when the game returned from the two-minute commercial break and when the Lions took their first snap, Olsen went into several different hypotheticals to explain why it was so important for Detroit to not use any timeouts. Then, when the Lions proceeded to use a timeout and effectively seal their fate, the viewers were prepared for Olsen to get right on it. He broke down why he thought running the ball was a poor decision based off the reasoning he gave a few minutes prior and emphasized heavily that the subsequent onside kick was basically the end of the game.

Stuff like that can really stand out in comparison to his peers. It was only two weeks ago that Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth, titans of the craft and deeply respected by everyone in the industry, blew the end of the Lions-Rams Wild Card game because they didn't understand the clock management. Detroit got the game-winning first down on the first play after the two-minute warning and the NBC booth did not treat it as such because they mistakenly thought the game wasn't over. That isn't meant to be a criticism. Tirico and Collinsowrth are obviously great at their jobs, mistakes will happen, and sports media people know that math is hard.

But for Olsen and his two years of experience to be on the ball in a similar moment is impressive through that lens. He always is, too. The regular-season tape is littered with such examples. Combined with his skill at breaking down dense packages of information into bite-sized pieces for the audience, well, there's just not much to hate. People will eventually turn on Olsen because that's only natural after someone spends a long time front and center but he checks every box for an elite commentator. He picks his spots, he knows his stuff, and understands situational football as well as anybody on the field.

And now Brady has to succeed that. Those are some extremely large shoes to fill. Not only does Brady need to come ready as an analyst, but he won't be afforded a grace period to accumulate bumps and bruises because he's also Tom Brady! The guy millions of football fans have spent decades hating because he won so often! The fact that it's Brady means it'll be impossible for him to reach the level of popularity Olsen already has. Fox Sports doesn't give a damn, obviously. The broadcast will receive more attention than it did with Olsen and it does not matter if it's positive or negative, it's attention. But the potential for heavy criticism has increased with each passing Olsen game as it becomes more and more clear that the former tight end was born to do this.

Brady could be like that. He could be like Olsen or Tony Romo, walking into the booth as a ready-made broadcasting star. Brady was an immortal on the football field. The possibility remains that he is also preternaturally talented in the booth. But it sure isn't likely. There's a reason Olsen and Romo stand out so much.

Ever since he took the job, Olsen has been consistent-- he understands what the deal is. He knows that he will be replaced by Brady eventually. But his stated goal was to make it as hard as possible for Fox Sports executives. We can safely say mission accomplished. Now the pressure is all on Brady.