What If Tom Brady is a Terrible Analyst?
By Liam McKeone
Tom Brady will eventually retire for real (we assume) and when that day comes he'll be joining Fox Sports as the network's lead NFL analyst. For a moment, those who follow the sports media industry wondered why Brady didn't advertise his services to other networks and create a bidding war. It turns out there was never a need to because Fox agreed to give him an utterly gargantuan contract.
Per Andrew Marchand of the New York Post:
Fox Sports’ deal to make Tom Brady its lead NFL game analyst after he retires is for 10 years and $375 million, The Post has learned.
It is the largest contract in sportscasting history, as it more than doubles both CBS’ Tony Romo and ESPN’s Troy Aikman in average annual salary of $18 million per season.
As noted, Brady will make more annually than Tony Romo and Troy Aikman combined. This contract on its own will be worth far more than he made during his entire NFL career. It's an insane deal for a broadcaster, but FOX was quick to note in all press releases today that Brady will also be a spokesperson for the company, "particularly with respect to client and promotional initiatives." So they aren't just paying for Brady's face on TV every Sunday afternoon. They're paying for the whole Brady brand and the windfall of high-earning opportunities it will inevitably provide.
But ... what if Brady isn't a good color commentator? What if he stinks at something football-related for the first time in his life?
I'm not saying it's a certainty he will be bad. Or even a likelihood. But at least when ESPN paid Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, they knew exactly what they were getting. Brady is a complete unknown in the broadcasting sphere. It's part of the reason why the size of the deal is so stunning. Money like that only gets shelled out for sure things. Fox is making a massive freaking bet that Brady is just that.
It's easy to see why Fox has such high hopes. Brady has always been a personable guy in media appearances but took it to another level after distancing himself from the Patriots' no-personality cult. He's demonstrated a top-tier understanding of how to leverage his voice on social media to get people to like him and buy his products. He flashed some talent when he appeared on a ManningCast this past season. Then you add in that he's the most famous and successful football player alive with two decades of experience to draw upon, and you easily see the vision.
But presiding over a full-length broadcast is a different beast entirely. Brady's public persona is perfectly crafted because he has full control over nearly every aspect of his appearances, from his TikToks to his ESPN+ documentary. Having to think on the go at the speed a broadcast moves is nothing like he's ever done before. It's why Romo got such a massive deal himself. He was preternaturally talented at disseminating information quickly, efficiently, and in a way that made viewers enjoy the broadcast far more than any other. We all know well that Brady processes the game of football at a level few others have ever reached. Can he still do it from a birds-eye view instead of under center?
To be clear, Brady doesn't really need to be *good* to make this a great deal for Fox. There will be a segment of the population tuning in every week specifically to hear what Brady has to say, a unique trait in today's broadcasting world. That alone is nearly invaluable. Brady just needs to be fine, to learn how to make a broadcast pleasant and chime in with factoids every now and again. Between the attraction of his presence and the way Fox clearly plans to leverage their partnership with him for revenue purposes, Brady's contract will prove its worth quickly.
But if he is bad? If he's a detriment to the broadcast and gets hammered every week for his performances? Fox won't look good. They'll still be able to come out ahead in the money department because Brady's brand is just that powerful, but it won't look good to have forked over $37.5 million annually to a guy who can't do the job.
Again, this is not a likely future. Other than the fact that all Brady has to do is point out stuff he's been pointing out to his offensive line for years, his overly competitive nature and notorious preparation will probably drive him to be great at this, just as it drove him to be great on the field all these years. He could very well end up becoming an excellent broadcaster and Fox will look like geniuses for securing his services early despite the price tag coming in north of a quarter-billion dollars.
The possibility of this going sideways is still worth pointing out because Brady is such a wild card. Most guys like him get some practice reps on local TV or in the studio before launching into a full color commentating schedule. There's still time for Brady to do that, admittedly. But he apparently already signed on the dotted line. Fox already made the leap. Time will tell how good of an idea it was to do so before seeing Brady in some kind of action.