New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Why Brady the broadcaste­r won’t be the GOAT


ATLANTA — Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all time. Tom Brady will not — this is another in the series of bold/bonehead MB prediction­s — be the greatest football announcer of all time.

Fox will pay Brady, who announced his latest retirement Wednesday, $375 million over 10 years to become its lead analyst, plus its “ambassador” in “client and promotiona­l initiative­s.” No idea what the latter part means. Then again, I’ve never worked in TV.

I have, on occasion, watched TV. I watch the NFL a lot — more than any sport except European soccer. I have my favorite announcers. I also have my mute-button triggers. I really like Jonathan Vilma, even if he was a Saint. Kirk Herbstreit seems a misfit alongside Al Michaels on Amazon Prime. I could listen to Cris Collinswor­th read the phone book. But enough about them. Today’s topic is the GOAT.

Having been around him a few times, it’s my belief his genius for playing football will not lend itself to describing football in any revolution­ary way. There is no revolution­ary way. At base, it’s just a former player talking about the sport he played. It’s not so much what the former player says as how he says it.

An analyst can’t seem a know-it-all — audiences don’t appreciate smugness; remember Rick Barry doing NBA games? — but expertise must be apparent, otherwise what’s the point? This can be trickier than it sounds. Was there ever a better behind-the-microphone prospect than Joe Montana? Know how many games he lasted as a broadcaste­r? Nine. He decided it wasn’t for him because … well, it wasn’t.

The way an athlete comes across in a press conference isn’t always a preview of how he/she will be as an analyst. That said, I’ve never gotten the sense that Brady is a sterling conversati­onalist. Would he be a pleasant companion on a four-hour flight? Once past the obvious — “Hey, you’re the GOAT” — what else would you say? “Read any good books lately?” Does Brady read books, other than those he co-writes? Does Brady even fly commercial?

Stars of Brady’s magnitude — there aren’t many — lead silo’ed lives. They’re too famous to mingle with the masses. They’ve gone through life mostly concerned about preparing for the next game. The best commentato­rs have the human touch — Tony Romo when he was in play-predicting mode, Dandy Don Meredith as Howard Cosell’s foil — but football has become so technical that an analyst walks a fine line between informatio­n and arcana.

Fact is, Fox already has a terrific analyst. He’s Greg Olsen, the tight end who used to have big days against the Falcons. (Has there ever been a tight end who didn’t have big days against the Falcons?) His work this postseason has been terrific. He isn’t as folksy as Romo, but he’s not as excitable, either. On a network level, excitement doesn’t play so well. Leave the screaming-inthe-background act to a local team’s radio crew.

Olsen will hit you with factoids — “you have to be trying to move forward to get a clock stoppage when running out of bounds”; “you can’t call back-toback timeouts” — that might edify even the most ardent NFL-watchers. He doesn’t go wild over every little thing every good quarterbac­k does. If I had a dime for every time Phil Simms began a sentence with “Peyton Manning …”, I’d be as rich as Peyton Manning.

Having replaced the nothing-special Troy Aikman, who left for ESPN, Olsen is in Year 1 as Fox’s lead analyst. It could be his Year Last. Fox isn’t paying $375M so Brady can do Texans-Titans at 1 p.m. Fox will do everything in its power to make the GOAT a success. Odd as it sounds, being the GOAT could be the reason Brady fails at this. How does he relate to all us non-GOATs without seeming arrogant?

Most NFL quarterbac­ks work hard to offer little. They do mass interviews twice a week. Any urge to express themselves is offset by the fear of offering fodder to the opponent. Players who play other positions tend to be more engaging. Collinswor­th, a receiver, was a charmer even as a hated Gator. Vilma was a linebacker for Miami; Olsen played at the same school. This isn’t news, but “U” guys tend to talk.

Brady spent 23 seasons trying to be bland. If he becomes Mr. Personalit­y now, it won’t seem real. We the people may not live lifestyles of the rich and famous, but we’re good at spotting a fake.

Not that everything comes down to Brady-vs.Peyton, but TB12 would be advised to do as his legendary rival has — make oddball ads and do a silly little show with a sibling. We don’t need the GOAT to tell us third down is important. We got that already.

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