Tom Brady will join Fox Sports as its lead N.F.L. analyst when his football career is over.
Whenever that may be.
Brady, the seemingly ageless superstar quarterback, is fully intending to suit up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this coming season at age 45. But whenever he does retire, the Fox job will be waiting for him.
Brady will join other prominent quarterbacks from his generation like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tony Romo in gravitating to high profile, and highly lucrative, media careers at the end of their playing days.
Lachlan Murdoch, chief executive of Fox, made the announcement on the company’s earnings call on Tuesday. The play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt will be Brady’s partner.
“It will be a stellar and exciting television career,” Murdoch said, “but that’s up to him to make that choice when he sees fit.”
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Through his 22 years in the N.F.L., the football player has secured 7 Super Bowl titles and a place among the sport’s greatest.
And that timing is very much unclear. Brady tweeted that he was excited but had “a lot of unfinished business on the field with the Buccaneers.”
Brady did announce his retirement after last season, but the decision didn’t take. He decided to come back a little more than a month later. “These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote.
Brady joined the Buccaneers for the 2020 season and promptly won his seventh Super Bowl, after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots.
Even last season at age 44, he led the league in passing yards, touchdowns and pass completions.
Brady once said that he hoped to play until age 45, but he will blow past that after his birthday in August. Lately he has been more vague about how long he might keep going.
Players, and especially quarterbacks, have been courted for decades to transition to the broadcast booth at the end of their playing careers. But the competition to land the next star broadcaster has heated up to the point that some specially coveted players now sign television contracts before they are done playing.
Brees, the former New Orleans Saints quarterback, signed a contract with NBC before his career over, while former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen concurrently announced his retirement and his new job at Fox last year.
Because Fox and CBS televise about 13 games combined each N.F.L. Sunday, each network has several different announcing crews to cover numerous games happening concurrently in different cities.
Once upon a time former players had to at least feign at learning the new job — former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman spent a year on Fox’s No. 2 broadcast team in 2001 before being elevated to the lead team for the last two decades, while former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms began his broadcast career as a part of a three-man booth.
But lately, former players have been immediately plugged into top broadcast teams, with mixed results. Tony Romo immediately partnered with Jim Nantz on CBS’s top broadcast in 2017 and was a revelation with his play predicting abilities. ESPN had far less success with former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who returned to playing in the N.F.L. after a much-criticized year in the “Monday Night Football” booth.
Television networks that show football typically speak with head coaches, quarterbacks and sometimes other players before games to garner materials for their broadcasts, and they are constantly interviewing players. There are also off-season broadcast boot camps for players interested in media careers. From these interactions, networks keep lists of players and coaches who they think will be good on television, and often begin aggressively courting them before their playing careers end.
Speaking well during pre-game chats or five minute interviews is not the same skill set as broadcasting an entire game or talking for hours in a studio, as Witten unfortunately learned. Brady was long seen as having a fairly wooden personality, and for years in New England he probably would not have been a top candidate for a stellar media career, despite his success on the field. But in Tampa Bay he has seemed to relax, showcasing a sense of humor and comfort with the media that Fox hopes he will carry into game broadcasts.
Last year the N.F.L. signed new long-term broadcast agreements worth over $100 billion, and with it came a wild round of talent poaching and contract renegotiations that saw turnover in many of the broadcast booths familiar to N.F.L. fans.
After several years of cycling through uninspiring broadcast teams for “Monday Night Football,” ESPN finally spent big this year to lure both Joe Buck and Aikman away from Fox, where they had called games for 20 years. Burkhardt will replace Buck on Fox’s top broadcast, but they haven’t yet announced who will join him and keep the seat warm until Brady retires.
Amazon, which expanded the number of games it will broadcast under the new N.F.L. television agreement signed last year, poached Al Michaels from NBC and got ESPN to allow college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit to join the booth while keeping his ESPN job. Mike Tirico will take over for Michaels in calling play-by-play for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”
CBS, whose decision to replace the long-serving Simms with the just-retired Romo in 2017 was surprising at the time, now has the most stable broadcast booth in the N.F.L.
Peyton Manning, who was coveted by everybody, opted against joining a traditional broadcast crew, and instead built his own media company and is the face of ESPN’s alternate “Manningcast” presentation of “Monday Night Football.”