Fox’s Week 10 telecast of the Washington-Lions matchup only went to the Michigan, Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland viewing areas of the country, but Aqib Talib’s debut in the broadcast booth with play-by-play announcer Dan Hellie got quite a bit of attention on social media and sites covering sports media (including this one).
Talib retired from the NFL less than three months ago, so he’s still close to the game and knows many of the players and coaches currently working in the league. That came across in his commentary, along with an unconventional style that was conversational and enthusiastic rather than polished and technical. Some viewers didn’t care for it, but many more enjoyed hearing something different on an NFL telecast.
On Washington, D.C.’s The Team 980, host Kevin Sheehan said Talib was “outstanding” and “a potential future star as an analyst.”
Team 980’s Kevin Sheehan thinks Aqib Talib is a potential star as an NFL TV analyst: pic.twitter.com/qcnNlfcth8
— The IC Workstation (@ClippelBoardy) November 18, 2020
As part of his newsletter, Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand spoke to executive producer Brad Zager, who oversees production and operations for Fox Sports, about the process that led to Talib making his broadcast debut this past Sunday.
Yes, Fox needed more broadcast teams with eight games on its schedule due to The Masters getting early afternoon coverage on CBS. But Zager talked to Talib about getting into broadcasting last year, while Talib was finishing his final season with the Los Angeles Rams. Following Talib’s retirement, the network had him virtually audition with Kevin Burkhardt during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Afterwards, Burkhardt told Zager that he was impressed with Talib, even if he didn’t fit the mold of a traditional TV analyst. ‘If Burkhardt had told me that he was unprepared and unprofessional, Kevin’s words would have gone a long way,’ Zager said. ‘We were all on the same page that there was something different here.’
In a video posted to the NFL on Fox Facebook page, Hellie asked Talib how he felt about his first game in the booth.
“It was pretty to easy to just talk without notes, relay the coverages, relay how to beat them, things like that,” Talib said. “What was difficult was the speed of the game. This was the fastest football game I’ve ever been a part of, man. Keeping up with the subs, knowing when to talk, when not to talk, that was the hard part.”
With the remaining 2020 NFL schedule essentially set, Talib might not broadcast any more games this season. Zager wouldn’t commit to giving Talib more assignments. But he certainly noticed the positive reception among fans and media.
We should probably expect to see Talib back in the booth when a spot becomes available. Here at Awful Announcing, we’ll be keeping an eye on when he’s scheduled to return.