Succeeding Joe Buck and Troy Aikman is hard enough, but Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen have had to do it with Tom Brady’s looming presence.
Olsen is in the awkward position of having to be Brady’s placeholder at Fox until the quarterback eventually decides to retire from playing. And Burkhardt is in the awkward position of needing to remain loyal to Olsen, but impartial, knowing Brady is set to be his future broadcast partner.
As Burkhardt and Olsen prepare to call this weekend’s NFC Championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, the broadcast duo joined Richard Deitsch’s sports media podcast to discuss their first season as the No. 1 crew for Fox. During the interview, Deitsch asked Burkhardt about having to be “Switzerland” as Olsen’s current partner, but Brady’s future teammate.
“Greg’s my dude,” Burkhardt said. “I’ve known him for a long time. We get along really, really well. I love the guy. But in a business sense, when this all happened, obviously, I texted with Tom and that was it. That was the last time I texted with him because quite honestly I’ve got enough to do right now. I can’t be thinking about Tom Brady when the next two games are the most important of my personal career.”
“After the Tom stuff broke, Greg and I had a talk,” Burkhardt recalled to Deitsch. “I said, ‘Hey, here’s one thing I know we can control: We can go out this year and kick ass and have a great time. We’re doing the Super Bowl this year, and let’s just see where it goes.’ I can’t be here playing the middleman, being like, ‘When are you coming in, Tom?’ It’s just not in my best interest. Quite honestly, that’s his decision. I’ve obviously seen Tom a lot during games. We’ve had Tampa a bunch this year, and he’s been great with us. But the last communication I had with him about broadcasting was whenever that was in the summer.”
It’s a messy situation that Fox created, naming Burkhardt and Olsen as their team to succeed Buck and Aikman, while also signing Brady to a $375 million contract to replace Olsen whenever he decides he’s ready to do so. To their credit, Burkhardt and Olsen have relished the pressure, quickly establishing themselves as a worthy No. 1 NFL broadcast team for Fox. But Brady’s looming presence will remain a topic of interest until he’s no longer looming, either because he overtook Olsen’s role as lead analyst for Fox, or because he relinquished his pending deal, as some have predicted.
Olsen acknowledged on Deitsch’s podcast that he would be interested in a three-man booth if it keeps him from getting booted from Fox’s No. 1 broadcast team. But would Fox really want to pay Brady $37.5 million per year to be their lead analyst and have to pair him with a second analyst? Whatever happens, if Brady does end up following through on his future as an analyst with Fox, he’ll enter the booth with added pressure because of the chemistry that Burkhardt and Olsen quickly established. Then again, being counted out and having to perform with a chip on his shoulder is nothing new to Brady.