Pop Culture

Greg Olsen Isn’t Satisfied Warming Tom Brady’s Seat: “Make It Hard as Hell for Them to Replace You”

Olsen reportedly makes $10 million a year as Fox’s lead commentator, a figure that will drop to $3 million when he is bumped to the number two role by Brady. Contrary to some suggestions that he could jump to another network next season, Olsen apparently isn’t going anywhere. “Greg will be on the number two team next year when Tom joins Fox,” Olsen’s agent, Peter Raskin, told me in an email. Olsen said his approach to this season will be “no different than it was last year,” but that hardly means he’s tuned out all the noise.

“I’m not gonna sit here and lie to you and give you some cliché answer about [how] I never think about it,” Olsen said of the situation with Brady. “I think that’s all bullshit. We’re all human. We’re all competitive.”

Like Brady, Olsen had his career in broadcasting set in motion before his playing days ended. He did his first audition for Fox in 2015, when he was out in Los Angeles visiting a friend. Two years later, while still playing for the Panthers, Olsen spent his bye week in the booth as a guest analyst for Fox, returning for an encore in 2019. He also dabbled in commentary on local sports shows in Charlotte, where he still lives with his wife, Kara, and their three children.

That may sound like someone who had long been plotting a career in television, but Olsen downplayed his broadcasting ambitions. “It never really was on my radar in any official manner,” he said. “It was never really like one day I said, ‘Hey, I want to get into TV.’ Over time, things came my way, and over that same amount of time, each opportunity became slightly bigger and bigger.”

Olsen called it quits following the 2020 NFL season, using the retirement announcement to also reveal his plans to join Fox. The network immediately paired him with Burkhardt, who had covered some of Olsen’s high school football games as a local reporter in New Jersey.

However he arrived at the job, Olsen has thrown himself into the work ever since.

He spends each week leading up to his assigned game poring over materials prepared by Fox’s research team––team stats and various pieces of media coverage––and uses them to feed his “game board,” a running compilation of notes and nuggets that he finishes by Friday night. The document will inform his commentary during the game, arming him with storylines and context to inject into the broadcast. On Saturday, after arriving in the home team’s city, Olsen spends hours trying “to play the game in advance of the game happening,” he says, rattling off a litany of scenarios to dissect prior to kickoff.

“What are we gonna talk about if it becomes a blowout? What are we gonna be talking about if it’s a close game? What do we wanna talk about if each team scores 30 points? What are we gonna talk about if neither team has scored a touchdown yet, and it’s the third quarter?” Olsen said.

“Your comfort on game day is a reflection of your work all week. There’s nothing that’s gonna happen in that game that you’re not able and comfortable talking about.”

That preparation has shown up on Olsen’s broadcasting tape, setting him apart from lazier peers who show up on Sunday bereft of any meaningful observations. Olsen doesn’t have that problem, but he did once have a bit too much to say. Richie Zyontz, Fox’s longtime NFL producer, helped rein that in, frequently reminding Olsen that he didn’t have to cram every idea into the brief interlude between plays. For Olsen, the broadcast didn’t really start until he heard Zyontz admonishing him in his earpiece. The game is long. You don’t have to get every thought in right away. Olsen acknowledged “trying to tell everybody everything on every play.” Now, if he has three points to make, Olsen will pick just one and save the rest for later.

By the end of last season, Olsen had come into his own. He showed restraint on the mic while winning over fans with his cheery personality and sharp analysis. At 38, and only a few seasons removed from his own playing career, Olsen displays an understanding of the modern NFL without larding his commentary with buzzwords. Olsen knows his shit, but he isn’t showy.

The Super Bowl in February was a showcase for Olsen’s best attributes as a broadcaster. He spent all week preparing to discuss the Philadelphia Eagles’ propensity to go for it on fourth down––something the team did twice on a single drive late in the first half, which culminated with a touchdown to put them ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Products You May Like