Roughly two months ago, when James Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, he got off to a good start, doing his usual impressive offensive things, which led to a handful of NBA writers, bloggers, and talk show hosts seduced by his whiskers to roll out this rather aggressive take about his pairing with Joel Embid.
“James Harden and Joel Embid are the new Kobe and Shaq.”
Not really. In fact, the only thing sounding more ridiculous were media critics who proclaimed “CNN+ will be the new Fox Nation.”
After the announcement that Tom Brady will become the new lead NFL analyst for Fox Sports when his playing career ends, I heard comments that rival the Harden/Embid prognostication.
Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe and ESPN told Rich Eisen this:
“He certainly doesn’t fit the profile of an entertaining analyst.”
Former ESPN host Dan Le Batard said this on his radio show.
“They gave $375 million to somebody who has never said anything interesting.”
Ryan and Le Batard weren’t the only two, and everyone ripping Fox and claiming Brady will bomb in the booth is missing the point of what Fox miraculously pulled off.
I’ll take it a step further; at $37.5 million per season for 10 NFL seasons, Fox got off light, and when this deal is analyzed in a decade, we’ll see that Brady was ridiculously underpaid and probably worth twice that figure.
Here’s why. Fox did not hire Brady to increase their ratings for NFL games because they don’t need to, and they couldn’t even if they wanted to. NFL broadcasts are the unequaled G.O.A.T. of television ratings now and will most likely be for the rest of our lifetimes. You could take a random Thursday Night matchup between Jacksonville and Detroit, and it would damn near be as big as the Seinfeld finale and get five times the viewers of Good Morning America and The Today Show combined on their biggest rating day of the year.
Americans simply cannot have their NFL appetite satiated sufficiently. Asking Brady to improve NFL ratings on Fox would be like suggesting Warren Buffet pick up a side hustle to increase his net worth. It won’t move the needle.
According to Austin Karp of Sports Business Journal, NFL games were 75 of the 100 most-watched television programs in 2021. Tom Brady will not change that whether he’s great or mediocre.
Now, regarding the premise that Brady “hasn’t said anything interesting,” it’s essential to keep in mind that he wasn’t allowed to say anything interesting for 18 years of his career. He was too busy single-handedly building Bill Belichick’s legacy, creating by himself the narrative that Belichick was the “greatest NFL coach in history” even though he has a sub .500 career record without Brady and has never won a single playoff game without TB.
Belichick placed as much emphasis on personality for his players as the Hollywood Bowl placed on stage security for a Netflix special. Brady wasn’t interesting, funny, or entertaining with the Patriots because he’d be breaking a team rule if he were.
That all changed when he bolted Boston for Tampa. The premise that Brady will not be an exceptional game analyst relies on subscribing to this premise; for the first time in Brady’s professional life, he will consciously choose not to succeed at something. What are the odds that he will not be the most prepared analyst ever to wear a headset, and he will somehow forget what he’s learned from thriving in the NFL for two decades and not be able to communicate appropriately?
If you told me Brady would make millions to be the team doctor for the New York Jets and had to repair ACL tears, then yes, I believe he would fail at that, but broadcasting a football game? He’ll be able to handle it. Don’t kid yourself; Brady will be on par with Collinsworth, Aikman, and Romo sooner than later.
The way Fox is going to score big with their ROI on Brady’s contract is through his role as a brand ambassador. This was a masterstroke by Lachlan Murdoch and Fox. One of the savviest and smart plays I’ve ever seen a network pull off. What he did, was organically attach the Fox brand to Brady’s brand. They will be attached at the hip, and there’s no brand with a higher approval rating or recognition factor than Brady’s. It’s the gold standard. And Brady is obsessed and addicted to the game of football – this deal keeps him in the epicenter of it for the next decade.
I see scenarios where Brady is brought in for corporate meetings for potential advertisers and closes deals for Fox. Don’t you think he could sway a brand to purchase a Super Bowl commercial? Or to renew their advertising commitment for the regular season? Or support other elements of the Fox media business?
The going rate now for the No. 1 color analyst for a network broadcast team on NFL games is $20 million per season. So essentially, Fox threw in another $17 million per year for Brady to align his name, image, and likeness to the Fox brand.
Fox made a brilliant deal, got Brady at a bargain, and it will be even more of a win if Brady surprises his critics and is as dominant in the booth as he still is on the field.
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