To understand the 10-year, $375 million Tom Brady deal with Fox Sports, you have to appreciate how the network has looked at itself since its inception and what it would take to entice the greatest quarterback of all time into the broadcast booth.
Fox Sports has always considered itself bigger and badder than anyone else since its inception in 1993, when Rupert Murdoch swiped the NFL from CBS and then paid John Madden $8 million, more than any NFL player at the time, to be Fox’s lead analyst.
Now well-established, three decades later, it prides itself on having Hall of Famers throughout its Fox NFL Sunday lineup. So its thoughts were big and bold when it considered how to replace Troy Aikman, especially after ESPN had just out-Foxed Fox.
Not only did ESPN grab Aikman, but, more importantly, the face of Fox, Joe Buck. It was a Fox move, adding up to a combined price tag of $33.5 million per year.
Fox had a no-brainer replacement for Buck in Kevin Burkhardt as its top NFL play-by-player, but its next best analyst was former All-Pro tight end Greg Olsen.
Olsen may be the next big thing — and he very well now could be Fox’s top analyst next season as Brady is not scheduled to start with Fox until after he stops playing — but Olsen is not considered the greatest player of all time.
Meanwhile, Brady not only had interest from Fox, but also ESPN, according to sources.
ESPN, though, already has Buck and Aikman scheduled to start weekly this “Monday Night Football” season and it has Brady’s top rival, Peyton Manning, and his brother, Eli, for 10 Mondays a year, so it did not have room for Brady on NFL game broadcasts, where network executives assign the most value.
Fox Sports, though, had a need, and its big and bold attitude built around Hall of Famers. There is no telling what type of analyst Brady will be, but he is the greatest quarterback of all time. The NFL is said to have wanted Fox to go for a big play, not run some conservative offense.
Besides Olsen, Fox could have turned to NBC’s Drew Brees, another all-time quarterback. NBC and Brees seem as if they may be willing to break up after one year.
While Brees satisfies the big-name criteria, the fact NBC and he are so willing to split had to be a red flag. Another potential Hall of Famer, Phillip Rivers, had no interest. No matter what, none of them are Brady.
So there Brady was, initially retired when these talks first began. It seemed a longshot at first. It was mentioned in articles, but not something that seemed likely because Fox had shown fiscal responsibility by letting Aikman walk for Tony Romo money of $18 million a year.
When Brady unretired to rejoin the Bucs, Brady fell off the radar as sports media types burned up my phone as we tried to figure out what Fox was up to.
Then on a Tuesday earnings call, Fox’s CEO Lachlan Murdoch announced Brady would be the network’s No. 1 game analyst upon retirement from the NFL. He would also serve as an ambassador in respect to client and promotional initiatives. Several reports about the deal followed, including The Post’s report of 10 years and $375 million.
“What has been reported isn’t an accurate description of the deal and we have not released details beyond what was disclosed on our quarterly earnings call,” Fox corporate spokesman Brian Nick said.
Nick declined to say what was inaccurate.
While sources reiterated the outlay is 10 years and $375 million, the bottom line is that the NFL is the most powerful programming this country has ever had.
Just last year, 75 of the top 100 shows were NFL games. The NFL just completed new 11-year deals with Fox, ESPN, NBC, CBS and Amazon for $110 billion.
Brady, despite being the game’s greatest quarterback, has made a mere $333 million, according to Spotrac, over his 23-year playing career, many times taking less to help his team’s salary cap. The post-playing career scoreboard for the all-time best athletes is often the bank account, and Brady is already up, let’s call it, 28-3.
Oh, and there is this: There seems to be a reasonable chance he could be a broadcaster before he ends his time at quarterback.
While Brady’s Fox Sports contract does not start until after his playing career, let’s say the Bucs are eliminated from the playoffs. Why couldn’t Brady jump in the booth?
Fox has the Super Bowl two of the next three years, including this coming February.
Come this season, Brady, 45 by then, may be playing in the game or talking about it. Either way, he is going to be on your television screen every Sunday. Maybe forever.