Suddenly, they’re jockeying around the NFL broadcasting world as if there’s a transfer portal.
Key syllable: JOCK-eying around.
Ever wonder why so many think that just because someone played or coached the game very well, that they’re going to automatically be good at broadcasting it?
Former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Reggie Rucker was actually pretty good at it, until he said during a Cleveland-Cincinnati game in 1984 on NBC that he had dinner the night before with Cincinnati coach Sam Wyche, then quoted Wyche. Later, Wyche, who tended to hate the Browns, said he did not have dinner with Rucker, who later admitted he made the story up.
Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees likely never made anything up during his 2021 season at NBC doing NFL games from the studio and a few from the booth. But he was not nearly as adept at his new job as he was at his old one. Brees, who maybe could’ve been a professional tennis player, has left NBC after not being great at something probably for the first time in his life.
In truth, Brees, 43, left because the studio work required more hours of work and preparation than he anticipated and it took him away from his family too much, which was part of the reason he retired in the first place. He wasn’t that bad, and knowing how he is, he will probably get better at it, perhaps at FOX, which has shown some interest in him and could add him soon for 2022.
FOX reportedly just added Sean Payton, who was Brees’ coach in New Orleans from 2006-20 (minus the 2012 season when Payton was suspended for BountyGate).
They formed quite a team in New Orleans – on the field, not above it. Word is, Payton has not tested great as an analyst yet in broadcast mini-camps and OTAs, so to speak. Knowing how he is, he’ll probably get better, too. And he does have more of an edge to him than Brees, who was often too nice of a guy to be critical during games he was broadcasting, which needs to be done at times.
NBC may have goofed with Brees. He should have been a game analyst instead of a studio analyst. And Payton should start in that role, too, but he is scheduled for studio analysis as well at FOX.
What made Brees and Payton Hall of Fame player and coach, respectively, was their preparation, yes, but also their in-game adjustments. In-game observations at a game is what both would be best at. Game analysis also takes less preparation time than studio work. But, then again, neither of them may ever be any good at either end.
Brees does need to improve. He was also a tad too much milquetoast on TV last season, and Payton, by the way, has a tendency to ramble. But Payton can be interesting and funny. He might make it, if he really wants to go that way.
Many believe Payton will just bide his time for a season or two on TV before returning to coaching. If he takes an NFL head coaching job before his contract with the Saints expires in 2024, the team that hires him would have to compensate the Saints through a trade of draft choices. If he waits until after that contract expires, then he would take over a new team that would keep its draft choices.
It is unclear if Payton will have a one- or multi-year deal at FOX, which tends not to sign NFL talent for just a year. FOX may be just biding its time with Payton as well since the network recently agreed to pay Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady, 44, a reported $375 million over 10 years to be an NFL analyst when he does retire – either after 2022 or beyond.
And we don’t know how good Brady will be in the booth. One never knows. But he does sound a lot like Brees in interviews – straight, not flashy, informative, but milquetoast.
Who knew John Madden would be so great as an announcer? It was like he underwent personality enhancement surgery from his coaching days, but obviously he must have always had that personality. Pat Summerall was also a former player who became a great announcer. Former Saints quarterbacks Archie Manning and Bobby Hebert were great on arrival locally as Saints analysts on radio. Former Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief was not as a play-by-play man.
If Payton does get good at it, he may keep putting off coaching. True to his word duriing his goodbye press conference on Jan. 25, he said he is not coaching this year.
“I think I’d like to do that,” he said of an NFL TV career. “I think I’d be pretty good at it. I still have a vision for doing things in football. And I’ll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point. I think maybe in the future, but that’s not where my heart is right now. Know that my plans are not to be coaching in 2022. That’s just how I feel.”
It should also be known that Payton is not a one-dimensional guy by any means. He doesn’t absolutely need football. He loves movies. He loves watching television that is not sports. He just remarried last June. He has a place in New Orleans. He loves eating out in New Orleans, which is a sporting event unto itself.
Do not be surprised if Payton, 58, enjoys TV work and the less stressful life it gives him so much that he pulls a Jon Gruden, who became a game analyst at ESPN in 2009 after being fired by Tampa Bay at age 45. And his “one-year hiatus” lasted nine years before he returned to coaching with the Oakland Raiders in 2018.
Payton and Gruden are both manic workaholics who each needed a break, and Payton’s competitive ego may bring him back as it did Gruden. Unfortunately for Gruden, he is currently on extended break after resigning from Oakland last October amid an email controversy.
After a gap year times five or so, Payton could returning to coaching in his early 60s
“I’d like to try TV,” Payton said. “That would be something that would interest me.”
It remains to be seen if he and others like him will be interesting to viewers, though.