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 was over, while the 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 — the 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 the former 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. Romo immediately teamed up 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 the 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 material 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 pregame 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 while playing at Tampa Bay, he has seemed to relax, showcasing a sense of humor and comfort with the sports media that Fox hopes he will carry into game broadcasts.