Here we are again.

Two years ago, Fox had a popular announcing booth with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Neither was close to retirement age. Things seemed good and stable, and then, out of nowhere, the pair was traded off as an expensive fix to ESPN’s rotating door of failed attempts to solidify their “Monday Night Football” booth. The upside for Fox was that they shed themselves off the pair’s pricey payroll as well as gained a Purdue vs. Penn State football game that ESPN had the rights to.

As shocking and bizarre as this move was at the time, it worked! Fans more or less embraced the new lead booth of Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen. The pair was significantly cheaper than Buck and Aikman, and the extra Big Ten game clocked in 3.51 million viewers. Expenses down and revenue up in one move!

But then it happened. Tom Brady to Fox. 10 years for $375 million. The “saving money” thing was out the window and things got weird almost immediately.

Olsen shined as fans generally loved Fox’s new booth while Brady played his final season in the NFL. Brady retired but opted to take a year off before moving over to Fox, giving us this awkward swan song for Olsen as Fox’s lead NFL analyst. Sports media pundits and fellow nerds have long wondered if Brady would actually land at Fox in their number one booth or perhaps find another role at Fox and or focus on other ventures.

Some believed that, behind the scenes, Fox and Brady would figure out a soft landing instead of displacing Olsen, whose replacement could hardly be justified given all of the praise he’s received.  Others pointed to the fact that Brady’s fame, and the fact that Lachlan Murdoch did Brady’s Fox deal himself, and that Olsen would end up as collateral damage no matter what.

With two successful seasons under his belt as Fox’s top color analyst, Olsen finds himself in the awkward position of being demoted for a famous but unproven broadcaster. Will that actually happen?

Let’s take a look at all the possibilities as well as how likely they are to happen.

Fox Options

Scenario: Olsen returns in a three-person booth with Brady

The “easiest” solution would be for Olsen to return to Fox’s A booth alongside Burkhardt and Brady. Troy Aikman’s first broadcasting year was in a three-person booth alongside Cris Collinsworth and that seemed to work well. On the surface, this seems like the optimal outcome. You get Brady’s star power and Olsen stays where he’s wanted. All good, right?

However, such a solution would take a bit of pride swallowing by both Olsen and Brady. Three-person booths are harder to blend and often become a headache, especially if it’s a lead booth.

For this to happen, everyone would have to call some test games (where they announce an old taped game together as an experiment) to see how the chemistry felt. I’m not convinced everyone involved would even entertain that, given their statures. Sharing the top job just isn’t something Olsen or Brady signed up for and the concept has a very spotty history.

Odds:  12-1

Olsen has proven he doesn’t need a third person in the booth. Would Brady even want him there? Plus, it would be the most expensive announcing booth of all time. If it doesn’t go well, someone is going to have to take an L. Still, while it’s very risky, it is an option that might get some consideration.

Scenario: Olsen returns to the booth & Brady goes elsewhere

This is probably the most optimal outcome, especially for fans of Olsen. Brady potentially becomes a studio guy, gets some other floating role with Fox, or just abandons the idea altogether. Peyton Manning has shown how lucrative it can be to sit shotgun on your own sports media entity while not being directly employed by a sports media company. If Brady or Fox started to get cold feet about him displacing Olsen, this is probably one of the most ideal escape hatches, allowing Brady to still get paid while Fox keeps Olsen happy.

Odds:  5-1

This is frankly a very good solution that keeps a lot of people happy, but the devil is in the details. Fox owes Brady a reported $375 million. If he’s not calling games in your lead booth, it’s kind of impossible to justify spending that amount of money. If the number was lower, the odds would be much better that this happens. Brady does have some business media ventures that could offer an alternative path forward between him and Fox, but I’m just not seeing any smoke to say this is what he or Fox wants.

Scenario: Olsen moves into a Fox studio role

Terry Bradshaw made himself into one of the bigger stars in sports media thanks to his transition from calling games to becoming a fixture in Fox’s studio show. Bradshaw was out sick for last weekend’s NFC Championship game and is 75 years old, an age where retirement is certainly plausible. Could Olsen shuffle over to the Fox studio while biding time for a return to the A booth either with Fox or another network?

Odds:  8-1

This is another viable option that Fox would probably be happy with but it’s hard to imagine Olsen would want to remove himself from a role where he’s proven himself extremely capable. This would take a lot of buy-in from a lot of people. Even if you got that, I think the story will linger, especially if Brady gets off to a slow start in the booth. Olsen moving to the studio could open the door for an ongoing headache if fans and media critics openly complain about Brady and lobby Fox for the two to switch roles.

Scenario: Olsen becomes Fox’s lead college football analyst

I feel obligated to toss this out there but it’s really unlikely. Joel Klatt has done well at Fox. He’s a company guy who is generally well-liked by Fox and viewers. He knows what he’s doing in terms of snuggling up to the right coaches, fanbases, conferences, etc. It’s hard to see him getting displaced or sharing the booth with Olsen.

Odds:  100-1

Unless there is some brewing contract issue for Klatt or something unexpected shakes out here, I don’t think he’s going anywhere, nor would he be amenable to a three-man booth. Plus, I don’t think this is something Olsen would even consider.

Scenario: Olsen is demoted to Fox’s B booth

This is more or less the plan for now. Pair Olsen most likely with Joe Davis as the number two team and figure out how to manage the domino effect of moving people around, starting with Daryl Johnston, who will have to find a new booth home.

This keeps Olsen calling games for Fox and essentially puts him on standby in case things go south with Brady. It’s still a bitter bitter pill to swallow if you’re Olsen and the move likely isn’t sustainable long-term.

Odds: 2-1

External Options

Now let’s discuss some options outside of Fox, which would require a lot of things to happen. Essentially, we’re looking at what might happen if Olsen is granted the ability to talk to other networks. Fox would have to grant it, which is no gimme but networks often comply if there is indeed a better fit elsewhere. Compensation, such as the time Disney swapped Al Michaels for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit with NBC, could be required. While these situations create additional hurdles, agents and network executives have jumped over them before.  

Additionally Olsen did hint as his openness to leave Fox for the right job in an interview with The Athletic.

“It’s hard to predict how all that plays out,” Olsen said. “But my end goal is to call premiere games at the top of the ladder and that pursuit won’t change regardless of what happens this next year with my current role.”

Scenario: Olsen ends up at NBC

NBC has proven itself to be quite astute at succession planning, pulling Mike Tirico away from ESPN to replace Al Michaels. They’ve also hit some home runs by adding the likes of Maria Taylor, Joshua Perry, and Noah Eagle. Cris Collinsworth is 65 and, while still popular, is not as well-liked as he was five or ten years ago. The question is, do they have someone in mind for the day when Collinsworth leaves and do they have a timeline for that move? I’m guessing that timeline is 4-to-8 years, which might be worth waiting for as “Sunday Night Football” really is king of the NFL television deals.

But what would Olsen do in the interim? He could do some studio work and fill NBC’s sporadic needs for a second color analyst, which does include playoff games. NBC also has their Big Ten deal and Notre Dame deal, so you could see Olsen in the mix for those, but I’m not so sure NBC would be keen on breaking up Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge after a successful first year. There is a potential good fit here but how would Olsen and NBC bridge the gap in the short-term?

Odds:  20-1

There is a narrow path where this makes sense but Olsen and NBC would have to be REALLY motivated to make this happen, to say nothing of needing Fox to play ball. If Collinsworth was a little closer to retirement, this door would be open a lot more. However, the timing just doesn’t seem totally right.

Scenario: Olsen ends up at CBS

This is an option that some people are starting to give credence to as Tony Romo’s stock has been on a steady decline for the past few years. Romo’s reported $17 million a year is an issue but it’s believed that CBS is going to blow up its stale studio show and that many of the current cast may not return. Beyond a need on the studio side is the revelation that CBS management is not particularly enamored with Romo’s performance of late, with last year’s “intervention” being one of the larger sports media scoops of the year.

Did this year assuage CBS’s concerns about Romo there or have they only increased? Olsen could also fit in on the studio side or potentially replace Gary Danielson on the college side, but both seem unlikely. This only makes sense if Romo is going to be demoted and that’s a big if. Romo is young for a broadcaster and only a few years removed from being celebrated as the best in the industry. I mean how do you demote someone good at their job in the prime of their career… OH WAIT!!!

Odds:  12-1

CBS has done this before with Clark Kellogg and Phil Simms (demoting someone from a lead announcer to the studio). However, they’ve never made that call on someone earning $17 million a year and also at a time when there is considerable scrutiny on the economics of the parent business. If Romo was deeper into this ten-year contract (it’s only Year 3), this becomes a lot more plausible.

Scenario: Olsen ends up at Amazon

If Kirk Herbstreit wanted off his crazy work schedule as well as detach himself from a tough situation with Al Michaels, Olsen would be the obvious replacement. Amazon is believed to be in a strong position to add a playoff game next year so the attractiveness of the job is definitely on the rise. Still, the job isn’t open right now.

Odds:  15-1

I think Amazon is pretty happy with Herbstreit and I get the sense that he is okay with the heavy workload (for now). More likely, the company is focused on figuring out who will replace Al Michaels, so this seems like a long shot.

Scenario: Olsen ends up at ESPN

I almost didn’t list ESPN as an option but I’ve talked myself into including them. First off, Fox and ESPN have shown the ability to make a deal on this front, so that’s one thing. Additionally, ESPN’s new “MNF” deal includes four weekends in which they need a second announcing booth for Monday and Saturday doubleheaders.

Beyond that, it’s ESPN, and they have no shortage of games that need covering and studios to sit in. While not thought of as a college guy, “College GameDay” is potentially a large enough gig to pull someone over from the NFL world (The Reverse Herbstreit). If that took root, calling some of the expanded CFP playoff games would also be in play. There is a bevy of weekday studio things he could do as well. However, I’m not sure being a hot-taker while doing that much work and travel is attractive to Olsen.

Odds:  30-1

Ultimately, I don’t think Aikman would appreciate Olsen lingering that close by and I’m not sure ESPN could carve out a big enough role to make it worth it for either party.


If Brady doesn’t bail on announcing, Olsen is probably best off taking the demotion and sitting tight for a few years. Things could go poorly for Brady and the chances that CBS, NBC, or Amazon might make a play for Olsen will only increase as their needs evolve. This isn’t ideal for Olsen or people fond of his work, but we are where we are and there isn’t much low-hanging fruit here for a solution that leaves everyone happy.

About Ben Koo

Owner and editor of @AwfulAnnouncing. Recovering Silicon Valley startup guy. Fan of Buckeyes, A's, dogs, naps, tacos. and the old AOL dialup sounds