Troy Aikman’s leap from Fox Sports has created another top NFL broadcasting opening.
And assuming Joe Buck doesn’t follow Aikman out the door, Fox will have to make a call on whether to promote an internal candidate like Greg Olsen or look outside their current roster. According to a report from Michael McCarthy at Front Office Sports, they’re talking to at least one very recognizable outside name: recently retired Saints coach Sean Payton.
Sources told FOS that Payton could expect a contract worth $10 million annually. Aikman is reportedly set to receive a five-year, $90 million deal with ESPN.
Still, hiring Payton would be a calculated risk. Fox would be gambling that Payton will succeed on TV rather than falling on his face like former “MNF” analyst Jason Witten.
“I think [Fox] takes a one-year risk on Sean Payton – and sees how it goes,” said one source familiar with the network’s strategy. “If it goes well, maybe they ante up, and keep him long-term. If it doesn’t, then Sean Payton returns to coaching.”
There are a lot of factors in play for Fox here. Payton has the kind of coaching resume that we don’t really see end up in the booth anymore; the top analysts currently are mostly former players. Sean McVay is still a hot rumored target for networks (and Amazon), so it’s possible that the trend shifts back towards coaches after the Romo-fed recent player frenzy of the past few years. The Fox job is a very visible one in the coming years thanks to a quirk in the Super Bowl rotation that will see the network broadcast two of the next three Big Games.
Given that upcoming slate, though, Fox likely wants stability as well. Payton has been linked to the Cowboys job for years, and head coach Mike McCarthy has one of the hottest seats in the league. On the other hand, maybe once Payton enters the booth, he ends up preferring that lifestyle. But Fox has candidates like Olsen in-house who they could reasonably promote right now and hope to build the kind of long-term consistency that Aikman offered the network over the last few decades.
Still, if Payton wants to get into television, it feels like he has plenty of options right now to do so.