As rumors and reports swirled in January regarding Fox’s Troy Aikman and the overtures he was apparently getting from Amazon to become their new NFL analyst, Joe Buck said that he didn’t want to see “one of my best friends” leave.
“I try not to because it’s been 20 years and I can honestly say, the same hand to the same god, he and I have never had one moment where we have felt like…at least I haven’t, and we talk about it all the time, we’re lucky that we’re good friends,” said Buck on the SI Media Podcast. “He’s legitimately one of my best friends and I think he would say the same about me.
“He knows how I feel. I don’t want him going anywhere. And that’s understood. But at the end of the day, he’s gonna do what he wants to do.”
Sure enough, Aikman did what he wanted to do, though it was ESPN, not Amazon, who made the former Cowboys quarterback an offer he couldn’t refuse. As soon as it was reported that Aikman would be leaving Fox to become the new Monday Night Football lead NFL analyst, that set off a chain reaction of questions and concerns over how it would impact other TV analysts.
Specifically, one of the most pressing questions was who would replace Aikman in the booth with Buck. Greg Olsen was the most logical choice, but there was also some talk around Fox considering a “trade” for NBC’s Drew Brees.
However, it turned out that wondering who would replace Aikman might have been the wrong question. Instead, the more pertinent question appeared to be, will Buck follow his longtime booth buddy to ESPN?
In Andrew Marchand’s initial report in the New York Post, he noted that Buck only has one year of his Fox deal remaining, which isn’t the same as being a free agent, but it’s not insurmountable if he wanted to leave. Turns out, ESPN agreed and it was soon reported that Joe was atop their list for play-by-play announcers to pair with Aikman on MNF.
As author Jim Miller recently pointed out, it is conceivable that ESPN and Fox could come to some kind of agreement that allows Buck to leave early for ESPN, perhaps by trading off some of their lucrative Big Ten game preferences.
But where does Buck stand on all of this? It’s a moot point if he’s not interested in leaving Fox, where he not only gets to call one of the top NFL games each week but also gets the World Series. However, according to his comments this week, it certainly sounds like he’s open to the possibilities.
“I don’t know where I’m going to be next year,” Buck said on the latest episode of his “Daddy Issues” podcast. “I know Troy’s gone — he’s now at ESPN. I’m kind of in limbo. I’ve got another year under contract at Fox. They have expressed interest in keeping me. They also know that was a big partnership that I had with Troy.”
You don’t want to read too much into these things but Buck could have very easily said that he works for Fox and that’s that. Instead, he left the door wide open and seemed to strongly imply he’d be open to an ESPN move if it meant he’d get to keep working with Aikman, with whom he has the kind of rapport that is rare to find in broadcasting.
“The timing you build up and get comfortable with, with a partner. … When I’m doing a game with Troy, I’m never looking at Troy. I’m looking at the field. I’m looking at the monitors in front of me or John Smoltz (on baseball telecasts) or whoever I’ve worked with over time. But I can sense little movements that they do that lets me know he wants to jump in, he wants to say something. … You’re constantly reading body language and taking hints and clues without actually being told ‘I want to talk about this.’
“There’s a comfort level in a job that is extremely intense these days, doing live sporting events at that level for 30, 50, 100 million people at a time. You need to make sure that you’re on the same page with the person working next to you and that person has your back. And that person knows you have theirs. That’s what we’ve built up over 20 years.”
As for whether or not they’ll get to continue building on that in Year 21, we’ll probably find out soon.