The big, unexpected news from Tuesday came during a corporate quarterly earnings call. That’s when it was announced that Tom Brady will join the Fox Sports broadcast booth, whenever he retires from football.
Lost in the chatter regarding his $375 million contract is the question of whether he’ll be any good at his next job.
“If I stopped, I think I’d have to find something else that I’m pretty good at,” Brady said in December regarding the possibility of retiring from football.
So how does he know he’ll be pretty good at calling a game? Some have presumed that he auditioned for Fox. Given the leverage he had in negotiations (as evidenced by his compensation), he wouldn’t have auditioned unless he wanted to. Why would he want to?
What has he done to persuade himself he’ll be pretty good at delivering compact, insightful, and entertaining nuggets of information in the 30 seconds or so between plays of a football game? It’s not easy. It’s not natural. It’s tempting to try to cram 10 pounds of information into a five-pound bag. It surely can and will be frustrating to not have the time to make the desired point.
His boyhood idol, Joe Montana, was not very good at it. Plenty of others have tried and failed. Brady’s mammoth deal sets a bar he may never be able to meet, even if he morphs into John Madden and devours an entire avocado turducken.
“Anything he does, he does well,” Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen told reporters on Tuesday regarding Brady’s prospects as a broadcaster. “So if you told me he was going to become a plumber, I would tell you he’ll end up being a great plumber, because that’s just how he approaches things.”
Clyde is right. Brady will do whatever it takes to develop the skills. He’ll surely do practice games. He’ll fly eventual partner Kevin Burkhardt to Montana or Costa Rica or wherever to work on it. And work on it. And work on it. Brady will accept coaching. He’ll make the changes he needs to make. He’ll learn the art and science of calling a game.
The other question is whether he’ll say what he thinks, or measure his words. Consider his surprisingly candid remarks from a June 2021 appearance on The Shop: “What I say versus what I think are two totally different things. I would say 90 percent of what I say is probably not what I’m thinking. Which is challenging, you know? And I really admire people that actually can do that and say what they think, because they invite a lot of things into their life. And I think part of me that doesn’t like conflict, so in the end I always try to play it super flat.”
For $37.5 million per year, Fox should expect that Brady will say what he thinks more than 10 percent of the time.
”I imagine not playing,” Brady said in December. “And I imagine watching football on Sundays going, ‘These guys suck. I could do way better than that.”
Chances are if Brady thinks that during his first game as a broadcaster he won’t say it. But what will he say when the time comes to offer fair criticism of what’s happening on the field? With 22 seasons of playing in the NFL and counting, Brady knows the game better than any quarterback ever has. How much of that knowledge will he dispense? Will he use jargon or will he use words that the average fan will understand?
These are all things to be determined. But, again, he’ll be determined to do the job well. If he doesn’t, he’ll hear about it. Hell, if he does, he’ll still hear criticism. The goal will be to forget about what anyone says and bring the same work ethic, pride, and determination to his next job that he brought to the one he performed for the past two-plus decades.