Scott Hanson's job as host of NFL RedZone is unique even among NFL broadcasters. He is a lone wolf for seven hours on Sunday afternoons to the eyes of viewers, commentating over the 1 p.m. ET and 4 p.m. ET timeslots for 17 weeks of NFL football. His willpower to regularly go the distance without a single bathroom break is the stuff of legend. All the different networks broadcasting football games have multiple teams of two-three individuals giving the audience all the info they need. Hanson stands alone on NFL RedZone.
At least that's how it appears to us, watching Hanson wax poetic for all of Sunday afternoon on our television screens. In reality, there are usually a few dozen people working around Hanson on football Sundays, some in the studio in Los Angeles, some outside. This year will be different for Hanson and his RedZone team as they, like everyone else, attempt to marry proper coronavirus protocols to functional gameday operations. They will be doing so to put on one of NFL Network's most popular shows, and one that millions of football fans around the country consider a staple of their viewing habits.
In a normal year, Hanson would have spent the last month pouring over preseason tape, familiarizing himself with new players and teams while watching for little tidbits that only a man who has dedicated his career to breaking down football can notice. He and the RedZone team would have gone through a dry run for one week in the preseason to work out any kinks. Then, when the first Sunday rolls around, Hanson launches into the routine he's engaged in for years now. He has a pregame meeting with the RedZone team to break down the day, then heads to the cafeteria to eat dense protein (which helps with the aforementioned battle against bathroom breaks). Then it's off to the races.
Speaking to reporters on a Zoom call on Friday, Hanson told The Big Lead that this year, nothing will be the same.
"Everything about my experience and the NFL RedZone staff's experience on Sunday will be changing," Hanson said. "We're a team. We meet, we get together, and we interface with each other. The way I envision (this) Sunday going down, based on all the new protocols, I am going to see, physically see, two, maybe three live human beings on Sunday. We have 20-30 (people) on the NFL RedZone staff. And I would see almost every one of those people live and interface with them at some point. Our pre-show meeting has now been moved to a Zoom ... It will be limited human contact. Actual, human being, face-to-face close proximity contact."
Hanson explained that it will only be himself and two researchers/spotters in the studio this Sunday, which marks the first week of NFL RedZone in the 2020 season. The RedZone broadcast is, if anything, a fast-paced venture, and Hanson needs a constant stream of information to ensure he gets everything right when he relays it to the viewers. The three-man team of Hanson, Bryan Larrivee, and Tim Guilanians will be responsible for ensuring everything goes smoothly as Hanson appears on-screen breaking down plays left and right.
As Hanson said, there are quite a few people on the RedZone staff. Why choose two researchers to be the only pair in the actual studio with Hanson?
"My microphone is hot very often. Not all the time, but probably more than half the show. My microphone is live," Hanson said. "I need information, and I could get information in my ear piece, my IFB. But I've already got the games playing in my IFB and I've got my producer, my director, potentially the coordinating producer already in my ear. It would be overwhelming to add more voices in my ear. So the system we've always developed is my two researchers can sit it there, and they can maybe mouth something to me. Or, you know, if I didn't see if the review in Cincinnati was overturned, they can look at me and just give me a hand signal or mime something that can communicate information to me. And then I could disseminate it to the audience because very often we had we had it happened where I'm told in my ear.
"So it's kind of a high wire act in terms of the information, how I get it, how I disseminate it. And we decided that those two individuals are critical to being in close proximity in visual sight line to me."
Hanson's excitement for the upcoming season was obvious even through a computer screen as he twirled a football in his hands and enthusiastically described how all the protocols would mesh into a successful gameday performance. But it will be a year unlike any other. As Hanson pointed out during the call, a studio crew doesn't have second or third-string backups in case a key member of the team tests positive for COVID-19 or can't come to work. There will be unforeseen obstacles and challenges coming to the surface as the season progresses.
Despite that, Hanson sounds ready to take on all these hurdles and potential pitfalls. It's part of the job, after all, even if the challenges of the pandemic will be different than any Hanson has experienced before. For all of us, the times are unprecedented -- but if everything goes according to plan, NFL RedZone will be the same as it always was.