Will Fox Create a Three-Man Booth With Tom Brady And Greg Olsen?
Tom Brady's decision to retire puts Fox in the enviable yet still difficult discussion of what to do with Greg Olsen. Assuming Brady stays retired, of course. Olsen has been a fan favorite in his first year alongside Kevin Burkhardt as Fox Sports' new No. 1 booth in the post-Buck and Aikman era. He has garnered great praise during this postseason in particular for his ability to succinctly break down the how and why of crucial plays. He's young, had a great rookie campaign, and clearly has a lot of potential. In any other universe Fox would be in the perfect position right now.
Unfortunately, this universe is the one where the network paid Brady an ungodly amount of money last year to do Olsen's job whenever the QB decided to hang up the cleats. So much money that Brady has to be part of that No. 1 booth. But replacing Olsen with Brady would not only be disappointing for the viewers who grew to enjoy Olsen's commentary this year. It is also a huge risk. Olsen is now a known commodity, an analyst who will be good on most days and great on a few. Nobody knows how Brady will do in the booth with the red light on. Probably not even the man himself.
The worst-case scenario for Fox is shifting Olsen out of the top spot and replacing him with Brady, only for Brady to be bad. That would lock them into a full season of subpar broadcasts and make them a target for an avalanche of criticism for paying Brady so much money without actually knowing whether he'd be any good. Olsen's presence in the No. 2 booth and his work this year would serve as a strong contrast to what the broadcast could have been. It wouldn't be the end of the world but it would certainly be a dominating talking point for the entire season and nobody at the network nor the NFL would love that.
Fox is surely aware of this possibility. Which is why a three-man booth is not only an obvious answer but one that seems inevitable. It would allow the network to have their cake and eat it, too. They get to show off their shiny new acquisition in Brady while keeping the budding young talent in Olsen front and center. One broadcast with those two next to Burkhardt would show off Fox's embarassment of riches in the sports media department. Three-man booths have not had a ton of success in the NFL space but it is doable. Monday Night Football did it for a few years and while they weren't lauded they weren't slammed, either. There was enough success that Fox would try it.
Is this the best outcome for the viewers? Probably not. The audience's ideal world is to roll into next season with Olsen in the No. 1 booth again while Brady cuts his teeth in the No. 2 booth, an arrangement that does everything possible to avoid bad broadcasts on national television. But that's not going to happen. Brady is a $375 million man. He doesn't start as the second-stringer.
The only hiccup here is that Olsen reportedly makes $10 million per year as the No. 1 analyst. Brady will make three times that number when he officially joins the Fox team. Would the network fork over nearly $50 million (plus whatever Burkhardt makes) to engage in a three-man booth experiment that has no track record of strong success? It would be easier for them to move Olsen down to the No. 2 team and save a bit of money, even if it means throwing Brady into the deep end.
Olsen is doing what he said he was going to do. He's making this a difficult decision for Fox. Especially if he kills it during the Super Bowl in a few weeks. Demoting a star analyst who had a great game in front of the biggest television audience of the year is not an ideal situation from any standpoint. The three-man booth allows Fox to save that face while giving Brady experience, effectively pushing all their chips into one broadcast.
It feels like the inevitable decision. For at least one season.