Tom Brady This week, at the end of his playing career, he will turn his attention to TV, becoming the NFL’s principal analyst for Fox. Unquestionably, he has all the qualities – name, looks, résumé – to break salary records and even overshadow the games he’s covering.
But everyone has to start somewhere, and if history is any guide, Brady will go through some escalating pains like any analyst does.
“People think it’s just a conversation,” said Hall of Famer quarterback Steve Young, an analyst at ESPN. “In the end, like acting, talent is making it look natural. … There is an art in this.
Surely, this is no mystery to Brady. He has spent more than 20 years answering questions on the other end of the microphone, observing how TV people and other members of the media do their jobs, and distributing information – sometimes very little information – in short snippets of sound. Chances are he won’t be overly nervous in front of a camera.
Some in the industry were somewhat surprised, however, by the news that it is already heading in that direction.
“Never in a million years would I have thought it would go this way,” said former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon, who first met Brady when they were teammates on the AFC Pro Bowl team, then recounted many of his games when Gannon was a CBS analyst and Brady was playing for New England.
“You make sense with different people when you walk around and visit with them,” Gannon said. “Some guys are curious. peyton [Manning] he was curious, he asked questions and things about the role and the job, the responsibilities, the program. I never got the feeling that Tom was interested in this. I never got the feeling that he was interested in getting into coaching or the front office.
“You think to yourself, ‘I think he’ll just focus on his businesses and family, and stay away.’ But it’s a good gig. There aren’t many. And if you can get one of those big chairs, honestly, it’s a good life. You can work from home during the week and it’s a bit busy during the season, but it keeps you. at stake and it’s a pretty good transition. Not many people have that opportunity. “
This does not mean that it is easy. In fact, going from being an elite quarterback to someone learning a new career while under the microscope can be quite daunting.
“You go from being good at something to wondering if you’ll ever be good at anything else,” said Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, now an analyst with the NFL Network. “You have to fight that battle just like anyone else who goes from job to job does. You have to build your trust and understand who you want to be.
Warner said it can be particularly difficult not to step on the feet of your former peers, to offer opinions that can hurt feelings throughout the league.
“This is one of the challenges when you enter television: what will I be as an analyst?” Warner said. “One of the hardest things is when you’re a guy like Tom Brady who everyone likes and you want to be liked by people, and you have to understand how to really analyze and be critical of what’s going on, but not be critical of people.
“Everyone is afraid, I don’t want to offend anyone, but I also want to do my job and I want to do it really well. It’s something I’ve struggled with, because I don’t feel like I’ve never attacked someone by saying, “This person is terrible.” But there are times when you say, ‘It’s not very good. They should do this or that. ‘
“I’ve seen people take it personally. You can’t just be a good guy and be really good at this business. Now, calling games can be different from being an analyst in a studio. But at the same time, you need to be able to be critical. … For me, I never attack a person, but I always attack a problem. “
Reporters gravitated to Young when he was a player, and not just because he was the top quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. He was a deep thinker and a great quote. But now he says that when he spoke to the media, his target audience was really his teammates. He had to change his mind when he got on TV – just like Brady wants – and it’s not always easy to do.
“When Tom speaks to the press, he’s a master – like Peyton and others who were great at it, whenever they talked, they talked to their linemen,” Young said. “They were talking to their teammates, trying to keep them close. It was all about this. This is a completely different job.
“I think this is the biggest problem Tom will have. Communication and who is speaking with must change. It’s no longer a way to rally his teammates, which has been a huge part of his success. You’re on TV now and you don’t have the same paradigm. And this is a real change.
“If he goes into work with the same mindset as to talk to his teammates, it won’t work. But I know he’ll have thought through it.”
Then there’s the challenge of calling a boring game, when what’s going on on the pitch isn’t fun enough to keep the audience interested. Every analyst prepares for those.
Gannon still shudders at the thought of the first game he called, Buffalo at Tampa Bay in 2005, when the Bills led by JP Losman only picked up one basket in a 19-3 defeat. Gannon remembers it as the slowest and worst game he has ever called.
“It was that bad,” he said. “I just remember the producer in my ear telling me: ‘Jump! Jump in! ‘ He wanted me to be more aggressive because there were all these awkward pauses. I didn’t understand the timing and the pace “.
The Monday following that game, Gannon got a call from CBS executive Tony Petitti, who provided an unwavering review.
“He asks me: ‘How do you think the game went?’ Gannon recalled. “I said, ‘Everything was fine. Hard game to call, blah blah blah. ‘ He says, ‘Well, here are my thoughts. It is one of two things. You don’t understand the mechanisms, the rhythm and the timing of the transmission. Either that or you have nothing interesting to say. ‘ “
“I said, ‘Trust me, it was the first part, I didn’t understand the timing.’ That was the only time she had to tell me. After that, as soon as the play-by-play guy finished, I thought bam. “
Like any great quarterback – and certainly as Brady will be – Gannon was coachable.