The straightforward story of Sunday’s NFC Championship game revolves around unlikely stars.
there Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts24, who entered the season with questions about his ability only to become a candidate for MVP in his now head coaching position. Compared to no less than Michael Jordan.
And then there’s… Greg Olsen, 37, the retired, mostly small-market owner who, due to a wild shakeup in the NFL broadcasting ranks last year, became Fox’s chief game analyst and quickly became a viewer and critic favorite for his insightful, understated way. .
Yes, that’s right, Olsen will be in the booth at Lincoln Financial Stadium describing the work of two professional spirits – each delivering a dream job despite no one really being sold on their ability to do so, only for it to exceed the wildest expectations.
Like Hurts (53rd overall pick in 2020) and Purdy (262nd overall in 2022), Olsen hasn’t been anyone’s first choice for his job.
However, unlike Hurts and Purdy, it is the broadcaster who may not be in control of their professional destiny.
Olsen didn’t become a full-time broadcaster until 2021. He only got a shot at the top job because of it. Longtime Fox partners Joe Buck and Troy Aikman left for ESPN The latest season in a huge financial deal.
Fox promoted Olsen along with plan play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt on a de facto temporary basis.
The long-term plan was made clear last May when Fox signed on to nothing but that Tom Brady To the A 10-year, $375 million contract to be the network’s chief game analyst Right after his football career.
At the time, Brady was expected to play the 2022 season and then, at the age of 45, finally retire. There was speculation that he would actually connect to the games (Tampa Bay’s season ended in the wild card round) and certainly by next month’s Super Bowl on Fox.
However, Brady was undecided whether or not he would play another year. Fox said it has no plans to use it for the Super Bowl and Burkhardt-Olsen will call the game.
However, there is an awkward inevitability hanging in there. Brady is the choice.
“Over the course of this long-term agreement, Tom will not only call the NFL’s biggest games with Kevin Burkhart, but also serve as an ambassador for us, especially with regards to promotional and customer initiatives,” Fox stated last May.
It’s that second part—handling clients and doing promotional work—that helped Brady earn a salary of $37.5 million a year, or twice the $18 million a year ESPN paid Aikman to switch networks.
Tom Brady is, of course, Tom Brady, seven-time Super Bowl champion and world-famous icon. He’s the one who can help close a huge sponsorship deal by playing golf with a corporate CEO.
Greg Olsen is that guy who used to be a very tight end for Carolina.
So it all made sense… until Olsen started capturing audiences this season with his likable, idiosyncratic broadcast style. He has never been better than during these playoffs. He was especially powerful during the heated, perhaps awkward, final minutes of San Francisco’s 19-12 win over Dallas on Sunday.
“Greg Olsen is the best NFL gamer of the week,” ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky tweeted last week. “…prepared. Timely. Clever. Informs. Tells the story. Don’t make it about him but about the game. Phenomenal.”
Fox seems to have stumbled upon the No. 1 color commentator of the future… they’ve already committed a small fortune to their No. 1 color commentator of the future though. Nobody had any idea if Brady would even be a good color commentator.
As a player, nobody is better than Brady. And considering his ability to excel at most things he turns to, it’s certainly plausible that he’d do a great job at his next job, too.
However, being a great player and being a great broadcaster are not the same thing. He did not connect to real games. He does not have the delegates who come from climbing the ranks.
He’s starred in commercials, hosted “Saturday Night Live” and launched a podcast a few years back, but that mostly consists of being interviewed by anchor Jim Gray. Understanding live game is a different animal.
And while the audience may know Tom Brady, that doesn’t mean they’ll love him calling the games.
Of course, Brady was on Hurts/Purdy/Olsen. He was the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, and arrived in New England as a fourth-string quarterback with little hope of beating highly paid veteran Drew Bledsoe.
Given his chance due to Bledsoe’s injury, he never looked back.
Now he’s the man with big names and big money who might get in the way of a man who similarly seized his career opportunity.
Still, there’s almost no way Fox could pay Brady that much money and not have him air his biggest match of the week. That will probably send Olsen to one less game on Sunday and nothing in the highly visible postseason. Or Fox could try a potentially crowded three-man booth.
Either way, it’s still great for Olsen, and Fox would love to have that depth.
It’s also an undeniably weird situation.
Either way, Olsen will be on the mic on Sunday. So enjoy him calling the big game while you can. He’s one of the new NFL stars this season, but unlike the others, he may not be front and center for long.