If you talked to Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson before Sunday’s epic Super Bowl LVIII about the previous Super Bowls they had called together, you were often treated to some gallows humor. The previous two Super Bowls CBS aired (in 2019 and 2021) with Nantz, Romo and Wolfson on the call were rough watches unless you were rooting for the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We are so due,” Nantz told The Athletic.
Well, they hit a royal flush in Las Vegas on Sunday night. The Kansas City Chiefs’ 25-22 win over the San Francisco 49ers had everything a network could want in a Super Bowl, concluding with an all-time drive by Patrick Mahomes to complete back-to-back championships.
Of course, it’s never too early to think about next season on the internet. (Fox will air Super Bowl LIX from New Orleans next February.) As Super Bowl LVIII leaves Las Vegas, here are five media-centric questions to think about for the next NFL season.
1. How will Tom Brady fare as Fox’s top NFL analyst?
Fox has not offered any specifics as to what they have planned in 2024 for NFL assignments, but Brady has repeatedly said he will join the network for the 2024 season. Fox Sports officials, including the production group of the top team, are working under the premise that the top analyst job is his when he arrives. Here is something else we know: Brady has been on an extended fact-finding mission about broadcasting for months now. Both Romo and Nantz recently told The Athletic that they speak with Brady often.
“Just two buddies talking football,” Romo said of the conversations. “I’m excited for him. Tom will exhaust every resource to be as good at this as anybody. I think me and him have similar traits in that we’re going to try and work as hard as humanly possible to be as good as we can be at anything that we care about. He’s doing that. I think it was a genius decision by him to wait a year coming out and prepare himself. He’s going to do a great job. I think he’s going to be outstanding.”
You can expect plenty of stories on Brady’s work in the booth from me, Andrew Marchand and anyone else with a broadband connection. It’s one of the biggest NFL stories heading into next year given that 1) it’s Tom Brady, and 2) The reach his games will have (Fox has next year’s Super Bowl).
Over the last year, I have spoken with many people who were in production meetings with Brady when he was a player. They were impressed by his ability to communicate football concepts in a clear way and said he was opinionated in those meetings. They described him as someone who could be very funny and occasionally profane and came off like a normal person within a not-so-normal career and life. Brady has amped his media appearances up in the last six months, and you can see the progress of him being comfortable leading conversations as he does here with Steve Young on Sirius XM:
I think he’s going to be better than you might think.
2. What will happen with Greg Olsen?
It isn’t about whether Olsen is qualified to be a No. 1 analyst — he has conducted a clinic over the last two seasons when it comes to being in the shadow of Tom Brady, the heir-in-waiting for the No. 1 analyst chair on Fox’s top NFL team. But the reality is Brady is going to be in the ‘A’ chair for Fox this fall. (Don’t fall in love with the prospect of a three-person booth: It’s not in the cards.)
Olsen and his agent know there are no No. 1 national NFL analyst jobs open at the moment between Troy Aikman (ESPN), Cris Collinsworth (NBC), Kirk Herbstreit (Amazon) and Romo (CBS). Olsen has expressed interest in coaching, and no doubt he’ll see what’s out there on that front. As a broadcasting play, his best move might be to stick around Fox next season on the No. 2 team (while asking for a massive raise to do so).
As I wrote last month: Given Brady’s significant interests away from broadcasting, it seems unlikely he will come close to completing his 10-year broadcasting/ambassador deal with Fox. The network’s NFL package is such that its No. 2 games each week are arguably as good as Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” schedule. Olsen would also be working with an excellent play-by-play voice in Joe Davis and a great sideline reporter in Pam Oliver. Fox gave Olsen the opportunity to be a No. 1 analyst, and the network’s executives deserve credit for putting him in the chair. This is a company-talent relationship that has worked. He would be wise to stay with Fox in the short-term and look at the landscape in 2025.
What’s next for Greg Olsen? Taking Fox’s No. 2 gig behind Tom Brady might be his best move
3. Who will air the NFL’s first Friday night game on opening weekend since 1970?
In its never-ending quest to find consumers outside of the United States to sample its product, the NFL announced this month that the Philadelphia Eagles will be the host team for the NFL’s first regular-season game in Brazil. What matters for this space’s purposes is that the game will be played on Friday, Sept. 6, the first time in 54 years the NFL has played a game on Friday night of its opening weekend.
This becomes a potentially attractive game for a network given you can own the day and you are already guaranteed one of the league’s better national draws with the Eagles. But there are downsides, including the significant production cost for a U.S.-based network to telecast a game 4,700 miles from New York City. There’s a thought within the industry that Comcast would like to air the game given the Philadelphia connection and the prospect of owning the first weekend with games on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. What would be interesting there is whether that’s an NBC game or a Peacock game.
4. How will the NFL react to ESPN, FOX and Warner Bros. Discovery forming a new joint venture to launch a sports streaming service in the fall of 2024?
The NFL says it is in fact-finding mode about what the partnership means for the league, and The Wall Street Journal, in a very interesting bit of news, reported the NFL did not know the deal was coming.
Is that a big deal? Well, The Athletic has reported that ESPN is continuing its discussions with the NFL and other leagues and top digital players on potential partnerships. But I did think Puck’s John Ourand made an interesting note in a recent piece — pay attention to the schedule ESPN gets this fall from the NFL. When ESPN’s relationship with the NFL was frayed, caused in part by ESPN’s aggressive reporting on the league, the schedule ESPN received from the league was, shall we say, not always the most attractive. The relationship is in a much better place, to the point where Disney is in the Super Bowl rotation.
It is to the NFL’s benefit long-term, obviously, for companies to continue to bid on media rights independently, and ESPN, Fox and WBD say the joint venture is strictly about creating a sports streaming bundle and that they don’t intend to negotiate new rights deals together. ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” schedule this fall will give you a small sign of how the NFL feels about this venture.
5. Will Bill Belichick work this year as a television analyst?
When asked for some names of NFL types that the networks will be lining up to hire for the upcoming season, two longtime industry people who make these hires both mentioned Jason Kelce, the recently retired Eagles center and brother of Chiefs star Travis Kelce, and Belichick.
Kelce seems destined for a job — Front Office Sports has chronicled his meetings, and it would be very surprising if he doesn’t end up on a studio show this fall. Belichick has not yet made the rounds around the network carousel, but if he shows interest in a TV job, even as a one-year rental, someone will bite. The NFL Network has done a lot of stuff with Belichick over the years, and they have some fits that would work. Belichick is also very tight with Nick Saban, the Alabama head coach who also recently retired and joined ESPN, and spending a year at ESPN could make for some interesting television between the two.
(Top photos of Greg Olsen, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick: Cindy Ord / Getty Images for SiriusXM; Ethan Miller / Getty Images; Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)