The talking head media landscape of today’s NFL television scene is dominated by former players expounding upon the game that initially made them rich and famous. From Tony Romo to Terry Bradshaw to Randy Moss, there are dozens of athletes-turned-analysts who do a great job of explaining the nuances of the game to regular Joes untrained to notice what makes a play, moment, or individual move so critical to the overall success (or failure) of a team.
Following the smashing success of Romo with CBS, networks are all looking for the next big thing to come out of the NFL. It’s the reason Jason Witten was given a chance with Monday Night Football last year. He wasn’t qualified for the job, but ESPN gave him the platform in the first place because of the potential boon he brought in terms of universal acceptance and trust from the general NFL viewer.
With that in mind, here are the next group of players networks must be salivating over for post-retirement jobs.
Fitzgerald is well-spoken, well-dressed and doesn’t have a single blemish on his professional or personal resume. Add in the fact that he’s a good looking star player who is universally loved (when have you ever heard someone say something bad about Larry Fitzgerald?) and you have the dream scenario for every network looking for the next big star.
Rivers and his southern twang would fit right into the mold of a Tim Tebow type — worshiped in some areas of the country, made fun of in others, but always part of the conversation. His values (like Tebow) would appeal to a mass audience and his knowledge of the game would help him break down the most complex plays. He’s fiery on the field too, and that could play well during debates.
Sherman is outspoken and never afraid to take on hot topics or big brands, no matter what the possible consequences are. While that won’t play on every station (i.e. CBS, ESPN) it could work on a startup (think DAZN/FS1) looking to make some waves and attract some free publicity.
Brees is the ultimate guy-next-door, kind of like Bradshaw. He doesn’t come across as a know-it-all or a freak athlete who was simply blessed with a big body and that’s why he’s good. No, Brees feels relatable and down to earth, with a family that means everything to him, and an I’m-lucky-to-be-here attitude everyone seems to gravitate toward. If he wears Wranglers, so can I. Even if none of those things are true (some must be) his appeal in the Midwest (played at Purdue) and South (won the Super Bowl with the Saints), makes him a prime candidate for networks to throw money at.
Beyond being one of the best defensive players of his generation, an important leg up on virtually everyone else applying for these jobs, Watt has everything networks seek: He’s handsome, articulate, and philanthropic. It’s impossible to quantify the universal goodwill he developed when he raised hundreds of millions for Houston after Hurricane Harvey, but it’s safe to say most of America likes him and would be interested to hear what he says about football.
Ertz seemingly already started preparing for this role when he did all those interviews with ESPN during the Women’s World Cup while his wife Julie helped lead Team USA to the title. America loves power couples, and Ertz could be half of a broadcast power couple if Julie joined him as an analyst. They both have a-ways to go before getting to that point, but Ertz’s California-cool attitude coupled with his natural intelligence (went to Stanford) makes him an interesting candidate down the road.
Miller is a little bit of a wild card here, but his positive demeanor and silly personality could play well on camera. He’s the cool hipster your friends make fun of behind closed doors, but wouldn’t say anything negative about in public. He wouldn’t be the provocateur in an argument, but he could be the guy who responds with a witty zing that gets you laughing. Plus, no one else wears a ten-gallon hat quite like Miller. Just imagine him on TV with one of those. That’s unforgettable.
If Ray Lewis can do it, so can Suggs. They both played with similar brash attributes on the football field and could fill similar roles in the media. We know Suggs isn’t afraid to call players out, and in today’s media landscape, inflammatory statements are where the money’s made. He’s also got the pedigree and stats to back it up.
Half the battle of being good on television is having great stories. From playing with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck to winning four Super Bowls to making some of the most important kicks in NFL history to being coached by Bill Belichick, not many people have a more robust background than Vinatieri. He’s soft-spoken, which doesn’t necessarily play well on camera, but as long as he’s smart and doesn’t constantly put his foot in his mouth, he could be great for an in-studio analyst position.
Rodgers has a star quality you can’t quite put your finger on, but know it’s there. From his commercial success to his success on the field, he’s the new Peyton Manning. Manning got his own show, Peyton’s Places, on ESPN, so perhaps Rodgers would want to follow a similar script. Rodgers has already appeared in The Office and Game of Thrones, so it seems he has the Hollywood itch. Must be all the famous women he’s dated. Regardless, a post-career life in front of the camera seems likely for Rodgers. What it looks like is the only question.