The NFL’s “Broadcast Boot Camp” enters its final day tomorrow. Â This year the program is only available to former players due to the ongoing labor strife. Â That means former Denver Broncos Nick Ferguson and Maurice Williams will be among the 16 participants at the fifth annual tutorial/seminar/crash course in talking football for a living. Â The top performer at this year’s event will serve as a studio analyst for NFL Network’s U.K. presence on Sky News.
Certainly, it’s worth wishing Ferguson and Williams the best of luck in a potentially new career surrounding football. Â A number of former Denver Broncos have done extremely well for themselves as commentators. Â Tom Jackson, Mark Schlereth, Shannon Sharpe, John Lynch, and Dave Logan are among those that made the transition, and with the exception of Lynch, who now has one season under his belt, have thrived for multiple years.
Frankly, the train from the field to the booth is a lot more crowded than it used to be. Â Twenty years ago, it was pretty easy to find game analysts who didn’t play the game at the professional level. Â That’s not the case today as basically every color commentator used to be a star on the field. Â While that may seem like a welcome sign for former players looking to join broadcast teams, it is really an indicator that the odds aren’t in their favor unless they don’t mind starting small. Â Figure it this way: in non-bye weeks there are only 14 games played on CBS and FOX. Â Take five of those games off the board as Nantz/Simms, Buck/Aikman, Gumbel/Dierdorf, Â Stockton/Davis/Mora, and Albert/Johnston/Siragusa are all pretty locked down teams. Â So now you have nine game analyst spots left.
Some of the names filling those seats last season: Brian Billick, Steve Tasker, Kurt Warner, Dan Fouts, Rich Gannon, Solomon Wilcots, and the aforementioned Lynch. Â No offense to Ferguson or Williams, but all those guys carry a lot more name recognition. Â Let’s also not forget the star-power occupying the various sets of pre and post-game studio shows. Â In the end it adds up to a whole bunch of former players vying for what in reality is a handful of seats in front of the camera.
However, should Ferguson, Williams, or some of the other participants at this year’s Broadcast Boot Camp (Antonio Freeman and Amani Toomer are notable names) find themselves in a TV gig, there are a few key things to remember. Â As someone who has personally spent Â the better part of a decade in television broadcasting, here are a few tips on style.
Stick with what you know
The most recent edition of Real Sports on HBO codifies this point with Tiki Barber who is now banking on an NFL comeback after a failed television foray. Â Tiki’s problem is he tried to go “all in” as a newsman. Â There’s a reason it takes journalism degrees and several decades in small markets for people like Matt Lauer to make it onto Today. Â Actual journalism is difficult work believe it or not. Â Just because you have the “look” or the “voice” doesn’t mean you are a journalist capable of functioning on national television. Â Stick to the X’s and O’s of football. Â A perfect example of this is Michael Strahan. Â The guy was getting buzz as a great TV personality years before he left the league. Â He didn’t try to exceed those expectations by pursuing a full-on reporting gig…he just met them by talking about football in a fun, articulate, and natural way. Â That’s allowed him the opportunity to avoid a somewhat odd retun-to-the-glory-days quest. Â If you were known as having a magnetic personality in the locker room, it’s okay to keep that magnet focused on football once you enter television.
Good Mentors: Michael Strahan, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Lynn Swann