No one in this world is promised anything. Not even the most talented people in the world “deserve” something simply for being good at it. You aren’t “due” a prize just because you worked hard to earn it. But when Super Bowl LVII finally arrives on February 12, it will be the culmination of a path that Fox color commentator Greg Olsen had been forging for quite some time. Ironically, it might also be the end of that particular road for the 37-year-old, at least with his current employer.
The Wayne, NJ native was destined to make a name for himself in the football world from the beginning. A five-star recruit out of high school, he played for legendary Wayne Hills High School football coach Chris Olsen, who also happens to be his father. Greg followed in his brother Christian Olsen’s footsteps and committed to play for Notre Dame. Right before the 2003 season, however, Chris transferred to Virginia, leaving Greg with little reason to remain in South Bend. A few weeks later, he packed his bags for Miami. After dealing with some injuries, Olsen emerged as the Hurricanes’ starting tight end for three seasons and garnered 87 receptions for 1,215 yards and six touchdowns.
Olsen was selected with the 31st overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears and spent four years with the franchise. In 2011, he was traded to the Carolina Panthers and embarked on the stretch of his career he’ll be best remembered for. In his nine seasons with the Panthers, he made three Pro Bowls, topped 1,000 receiving yards three times, played a key role in their Super Bowl 50 berth, and made a case for himself as one of the most prolific tight ends in NFL history. Olsen left as the Panthers’ all-time leading tight end in receiving yards (6,463), receptions (524), and 100-yard receiving games (10).
As his playing career started to wind down, Greg clearly had his eye on the next phase of his career. In 2017, while dealing with injuries, he presciently joined Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis in a Fox Sports booth to call a Rams-Vikings game. From there, the Panthers tight end would continue to pepper his downtime with media appearances, including serving as a guest analyst on ESPN’s Postseason NFL Countdown before the Super Bowl in 2018.
As the injuries piled up for Olsen late in his career, he started making more concerted efforts to kickstart his broadcasting career. Following the 2017-2018 NFL season, he reportedly auditioned for a Monday Night Football role while deciding whether or not to continue playing. He did indeed return to the Panthers but the injuries added up. Olsen now entered a phase where every offseason seemed to bring with it the dilemma of what to do next as well as fresh media opportunities to hone his skills.
Olsen continued his dance between ESPN and Fox Sports in 2019 by returning for ESPN’s Super Bowl pregame coverage as well as appearing in a Fox booth with Kenny Albert to call a Cardinals-Giants game. In late 2019, he seemed to imply that his playing days were over and even did a five-game stint with Burkhardt as an XFL commentator for Fox Sports. However, he eventually signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks.
Olsen appeared in 11 games for the Seahawks but suffered a plantar fascia tear, the last of many injuries that would derail his NFL career from continuing. The inevitable was finally here and the tight end announced in January 2021 that he was retiring and would be joining Fox Sports as a full-time broadcaster.
It would have been relatively easy to presume how the next decade of Olsen’s career would play out. Given his expertise and knowledge as a player coupled with his clear interest in becoming a broadcaster, he could settle into a nice spot on Fox’s No. 2 or No. 3 team, biding his time while Joe Buck and Troy Aikman play out their careers as the network’s A-team. Perhaps one day down the road, Olsen would get the chance to replace Aikman in the No. 1 booth, but not for a long while.
Of course, we all know how that played out. Aikman left for ESPN and Buck followed, leaving a massive hole that Fox needed to fill. Olsen was floated as a potential replacement for Aikman early on just as Burkhardt was floated as a replacement for Buck. And so, the duo was elevated to the No. 1 spot, which included calling the Super Bowl. Olsen had reached his destination way ahead of schedule.
However, just as soon as Olsen reached the pinnacle of the industry, the threat that he could lose it emerged. That threat being the $375 million that Fox promised Tom Brady to pair with Burkhardt as soon as he retires (which, is now). While there’s a pretty strong contingent of NFL viewers and media members who don’t see Brady’s appeal beyond his name, it’s hard to imagine Fox would make such a spectacle of the announcement and not want to follow through.
Olsen, for his part, hasn’t been shy about his frustrations over the situation, though he’s making the best of it, offering up hopes that Brady keeps playing long enough for Greg to prove that he’s irreplaceable.
While some wondered if Brady might make his Fox booth debut during Super Bowl LVII, that’s not the case. And there’s certainly a decent chance that Brady never actually makes it into the booth, thereby making this entire exercise moot. However, given the timing of Brady’s second retirement announcement, that discussion is likely to dominate the media cycle for the next two weeks.
In the meantime, Olsen is positioning himself as one of the premiere NFL analysts working today. At a time when Aikman is shuffled off to Monday nights and Tony Romo’s star is fading, Olsen is emerging as a pretty hot NFL broadcasting commodity. And if he can call a good Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles in a few weeks, he might just make it clear that if his best isn’t good enough for Fox, it will surely be good enough for one of their rivals.