The Media Column: Could Greg Olsen eventually land at 'Sunday Night Football?'


stop feeling bad for Greg Olsen

The plight of Greg Olsen is an early candidate for the most overblown sports media story of the year. The ex-tight end shined during the NFL postseason for Fox, staying on top of the action and offering incisive analysis about schemes and strategies. He even criticized the refs for the lousy holding call that effectively handed the Chiefs the Super Bowl.

But sadly, Olsen is a mere place-warmer. When Tom Brady steps into the booth, Olsen will likely move down to the No. 2 broadcast team, cutting his salary in the process. Right now, Olsen earns $10 million annually. As Fox’ No. 2 guy, his yearly salary would be $3 million.

The horror!

All kidding aside, it stinks that Olsen seems to be moving towards an inevitable demotion, because he doesn’t deserve it. He’s the best NFL analyst going today, and there’s no guarantee Brady will be any good. (I mean, there’s no guarantee that Brady will even put on the headset — he says he’ll begin his broadcasting work in Fall 2024 — but that’s another conversation.)

But enough with the sad trombone. It’s clear that Olsen is dedicated to the craft, and as a result, should enjoy a long and prosperous career. At 37 years old, he has a long future ahead of him.

If Brady takes his job, there might be an even better opportunity for him down the line.

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” is the highest-rated show on TV, and could have an opening in a few years.

Once upon a time, Cris Collinsworth was the announcing darling of NFL viewers. The owner of Pro Football Focus, Collinsworth spends his days in the film room, and is able to break down seemingly any complex blocking scheme with ease. Sure, he’s had his embarrassing moments — the long-time analyst said he “never doubted” Roger Goodell’s integrity amidst the Ray Rice scandal — but it’s hard to find somebody more well-versed in the X’s and O’s.

For 15 seasons, he’s been the gold standard.

But his stint at the top won’t last forever. A couple of years ago, it was reported that Collinsworth was negotiating a new deal with NBC that would pay him $12.5 million annually. The contract supposedly runs through 2025, when Collinsworth will be 66.

That seems like the perfect opening for Olsen. He would have another season as Fox’ top guy, and then two seasons in the No. 2 booth before moving onto the premier NFL telecast of the week.

In many respects, Collinsworth is a good comparison for Olsen. As Olsen’s said before in interviews, he’s not an ex-quarterback, and never played for the Cowboys or in New York. That makes him anomaly among top NFL analysts. Tony Romo and Troy Aikman, of course, both played quarterback for the Cowboys.

Instead, Olsen played tight end for three teams — the Bears, Panthers and Seahawks — in 14 seasons. He had an excellent career (three straight 1,000-yard seasons) and played in a Super Bowl. But he wasn’t a household name.

The same can be said for Collinsworth. He played wideout for eight seasons in the NFL, all of which were spent with the Bengals. While Collinsworth enjoyed four 1,000-yard seasons and all played in a Super Bowl, he was far from Jerry Rice.

Collinsworth’s broadcasting career wasn’t glamorous at first. He started as a sports talk show host in Cincinnati before moving to “Inside the NFL” as a reporter. He didn’t receive his big break until 1996, when he joined NBC’s NFL pregame show.

In 2002, Collinsworth started working with Joe Buck and Aikman as part of Fox’s No. 1 booth; but four years later, his analyst work was constricted to “Thursday Night Football.” He landed at “Sunday Night Football” in 2009, when he replaced John Madden.

By that measure, Olsen is already ahead of the game. Even if Collinsworth re-signs with NBC, he won’t be left in the broadcasting abyss. Maybe more opportunities will arise with Amazon, or another streaming platform that pays billions for the privilege of carrying NFL games.

And in the meantime, he’s a critically acclaimed martyr. Not too shabby.


Fox is basically the NFL Network: Fox Sports analytics guy Michael Mulvihill tweeted an insane statistic this week that illustrates sports’ dominance in live TV: From Labor Day through Super Bowl Sunday, 91 percent of all Fox viewing was viewing of sports. And of that total, 58 percent was viewing of the NFL.

At this point, Fox basically exists as a sports TV service. The same can be said for the other legacy networks, CBS, ABC and NBC. Sure, they have iconic morning shows and evening newscasts, but sports keep them afloat, too.

Maybe the legacy networks will eventually abolish all of their lame primetime sitcoms and dramas and just air games every night. Has anybody thought of that before?

Terry Bradshaw and Chris Berman and the nfl old boys' club

The NFL’s old boys’ club: Terry Bradshaw and Chris Berman were both cringey during their Super Bowl post-game duties. Bradshaw fat-shamed Andy Reid on the podium, and Berman strangely referenced Abraham Lincoln’s birthday when mentioning that Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts were the first Black quarterbacks to ever play each other in the Super Bowl.

The NFL is the most ubiquitous cultural institution in the U.S. Yet, it remains an old boys’ club. There are hundreds, if not thousands of broadcasters who would’ve handled those situations more appropriately. But they’re not part of the inner-circle.

the Red Sox' apathy problem

Red Sox’ apathy problem: Respected Red Sox beat reporter Sean McAdam noted this week that only five media outlets — four newspapers/websites and one TV station — were covering the start of Red Sox Spring Training this week. Naturally, that observation led to a fresh round of caterwauling about the Red Sox’ declining popularity.

Spare me.

Obviously, the Red Sox haven’t helped themselves with two last-place finishes in three years, and a maddening newfound penchant for shopping in the bargain bin. But Spring Training doesn’t lack the juice anymore, largely because the landscape has changed. Back in the day, it was an event when stars like Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez emerged from their winter slumbers to complain about their contracts. Social media, and the 24/7 news cycle, have wiped that intrigue away.

Also, Spring Training is pretty long and boring! It’s not economical for media outlets to devote resources towards non-stop coverage of guys stretching and playing catch.

That’s the biggest reason for the lack of buzz, even more than the team’s misdeeds.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA Today Sports