When it was reported that Troy Aikman seemed likely to leave Fox for ESPN, the big question was who would join Joe Buck in the booth as part of Fox’s No. 1 NFL broadcasting team. Turns out, the question we should have been asking is who will replace both Buck and Aikman as both of them now appear to be ESPN-bound.
The obvious answer might be the most likely one as well. According to Andrew Marchand, who broke both the Aikman and Buck stories, the “internal favorite” to take over as Fox’s top NFL announcer is Kevin Burkhardt.
As Marchand notes, this is no small decision as Fox has two of the next three Super Bowls. The notability of the game announcers has become an important decision, not unlike who sings the national anthem or performs at halftime. There’s value in having name announcers in the booth to casual viewers and, while Burkhardt has certainly put in the time and earned his spot, he’s not exactly a household name.
Will that matter ultimately? It could, especially with Al Michaels floating out there waiting to sign his Amazon contract. Michaels has called 12 Super Bowls and would likely love the chance to surpass Pat Summerall for the most ever.
However, if Fox does elevate Burkhardt, the most obvious decision would be to also elevate second-year analyst Greg Olsen with him. The duo spent last season together and, by most accounts, acquitted themselves fairly well. Olsen was already a “leading contender” to replace Aikman according to Richard Deitsch, though so much has changed since then that it’s hard to know if that remains true.
We also know that Sean Payton has been a top target for Fox and who knows where all of this announcer madness leaves those negotiations. According to Marchand, it’s more likely that Payton would end up working in the studio, at least at first.
If Fox would want to get a former player with national visibility in the booth, there’s always the possibility of trading with NBC for Drew Brees, but so far that appears to just be conjecture. Also, are we sure Drew is ready for primetime?
Given the unprecedented merry-go-round that has been turning for NFL announcers in the past couple of months, it would be folly to say for sure how this will all shake out for Fox. If their major concern is who will give them the best broadcasting product right away next season, the smart money would be on elevating Burkhardt and Olsen. But if their biggest concern is who they put in the booth for those upcoming Super Bowls, all bets are off at the moment.