LOS ANGELES — Throughout his legendary NFL career, quarterback Tom Brady has been calculated and careful in speaking to the media, giving measured responses and — unlike a lot of players — rarely making controversial off-the-cuff comments.
But when his playing career is over, when he’s in the broadcast booth for Fox, he won’t have the luxury of staying mum. He’ll be expected to critique players and his old teams, and that’s not always a comfortable assignment.
After Brady revealed his plans this week to become Fox’s lead NFL analyst once he’s done playing, The Los Angeles Times spoke to three prominent quarterbacks — former Most Valuable Player Rich Gannon, and Hall of Famers Steve Young and Kurt Warner — about their similar moves to TV and their thoughts about their seven-time Super Bowl-winning colleague making the transition.
Here’s what they said:
On difficulty of criticizing players:
— Rich Gannon: “It’s hard. You say something critical, and then the following week you’re doing the same team on the road, or you have the same team at home. And these guys hear everything. So you go and you’re critical of a quarterback, and then you go in the next week in the production meetings. I’ve had experiences like that, where guys have bunny rabbit ears and they’re real sensitive and pissed off.
“But I’ve always tried to come at it from a standpoint that I don’t want to be condescending. I don’t want to come off as arrogant. I don’t want to come off as a real negative guy. There’s a way of saying a guy made a bad decision, like, `Hey, in that situation you simply can’t make that throw.’ That’s different than saying, `This guy’s awful. This is terrible.’ So there’s a way of doing it and being respectful.”
— Steve Young: “My philosophy was, I was the first one to tell me that I sucked. It’s professional football. So there’s a standard. To me, you have to hold people to a standard. And Tom should feel this dramatically, because he has a standard that he has to hold. You can’t have cheap shots, but you just hold people to the standard of professional football. If you’re not living up to it, you’re the first one who’ll say something about yourself, and you can also say it about other people.”
On covering your former team:
— Gannon: “I’d do the Raider games, this was back when I first started, and the Raiders would get blown out by Denver. It was awful. I had to say, `This is bad.’ Well, then I’d get in the car and social media would just go crazy, people just hating on you like, `Aren’t you supposed to be a Raider guy? Raider Nation, blah, blah, blah.’ Don’t you understand? My job is to be neutral.”
On showing personality:
— Kurt Warner: “When I first got in, I told myself that I’m going to show less personality and more football, because I want to be ultimately known as a smart football guy. I want to separate myself with the football part of it. Once people start to respect that, now I can show a little bit more personality and character. There are some guys out there who say, `I’m going to create this personality, and that’s what’s going to sell me.’ And it works for some guys. That’s not what I wanted to be.”
On what might surprise Brady about the job:
— Young: “Historically, if you do games you’ve got to go in on Saturday or Friday night, and you don’t get home until Monday or even longer, depends on how different networks do it. But I suspect that Tom’s probably figured out a way to cut that down.
“The job of quarterback is about owning the data, and I think that’s where Tom will thrive. He has to own the data — names, coaches, the philosophy. That stuff he’ll eat up. I don’t know if it will be a shock for him.
“The only thing is, it’s not a one-to-one comparison to having a conversation with somebody. It’s like any entertainment, you’ve got to hit the notes. We’ve seen people who are great conversationalists who have flailed at trying to do this. Some people are like, `So-and-so will be great,’ and then it’s like, well, no he’s not great.”
— Warner: “At the end of the day, for the roles we’re talking about like Tom and Troy [Aikman], you just have to be good at what you do. I don’t necessarily think in those roles you have to be so different. You just have to be good at it. If you’re a good football guy and you can communicate that, you have things to say and can break it down so the audience hears you. …
“The people who are die-hard football fans want someone who’ll teach them the game. They want someone who will tell them what’s going on in front of them in a way that makes sense to them and entertains them more than, `I need this big personality.’ I think that’s why Troy is so good. He’s got a big-game feel to him. He’s not ever over the top. But he’s just good football.”
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