An interesting part of the discussion around Troy Aikman’s move from Fox to ESPN is what it means for the NFL on Fox broadcast pairings going forward. The play-by-play role there might not be settled, with at least discussions out there about Joe Buck potentially following Aikman to ESPN. Even if Buck does stay, though, it’s not certain who might pair with him: Greg Olsen (seen above in 2018), who was on the #2 Fox team with Kevin Burkhardt this past season, has received some discussion, but so has the idea of bringing in Sean Payton (fresh out of retirement from the Saints) or Drew Brees (who’s worked on college and occasional NFL broadcasts with NBC). Richard Deitsch of The Athletic has a piece, including a comment from “one well-connected Fox Sports staffer,” that speaks well of Olsen’s current chances, though (item #3):
Speaking of Olsen: I’d consider him the leading contender to be Fox’s No. 1 NFL analyst when the season begins next September, but Fox Sports executives are going to continue to look around for a potential No. 1 analyst. As one well-connected Fox Sports staffer told me this week, top management looked at their NFL analyst roster last year as Aikman and Olsen in the top tier, and then others in tiers below. But that’s not a guarantee Olsen gets moved up.
ESPN reported last week that Sean McVay is staying with the Los Angeles Rams, so that takes one potential high-ticket addition off the board. Someone like McVay or former Saints head coach Sean Payton, even with a big name, would always come with significant risk if injected directly into a No. 1 NFL game analyst spot with no television experience. (Tony Romo was a unicorn, and there are more Jason Wittens than Romos.) But what you have read about Payton being pursued is true. I personally don’t see Payton as a slam-dunk No. 1, but people at Fox I trust like his gravitas, his voice, and the respect he has around the league.
…It will come down to this: Do the highest levels of Fox Sports management think Olsen is a long-term No. 1? If the answer is yes, he takes Aikman’s spot.
Olsen only became a full-time NFL on Fox analyst last season following his retirement, but did some work for both them and ESPN while still an active player. So he’s got a reasonable amount of NFL broadcasting experience under his belt, and Deitsch’s point there is a good one; there’s less risk to moving up someone with that kind of experience than hiring someone new specifically for the top spot. (However, with Payton also reportedly under consideration at Amazon, a major money/major role deal may be needed even to get him on board.) And the 36-year-old Olsen certainly could give Fox stability there for a long while if he does well in the No. 1 role.
The play-by-play question here may also be an important part of this. If Buck does follow Aikman to ESPN, that could maybe lead to Burkhardt getting the top NFL on Fox role, and it might make sense to move up the existing booth of Burkhardt and Olsen together. But if Buck stays (and there’s certainly at least a good chance of that, given his history with the network and the ability for him to do both baseball and football there), then maybe that motivates Fox to try and go outside for a new analyst and keep Olsen on the No. 2 team with Burkhardt for the moment.
At any rate, none of this is even close to settled yet, and the amount of interconnected pieces make it unlikely we’ll have a full resolution soon. Fox’s decision on their top booth will certainly be impacted by what happens with Buck, and it may also be impacted by how interested someone like Payton is in actually joining them. But it is notable to read Deitsch’s point here about Fox’s management’s reported high opinion of Olsen, and how that might impact Olsen’s chances of getting that top Fox role.