ESPN Legend Mike Golic Isn’t Giving up on Drew Brees’ Broadcasting Future: ‘I’m Not Judging a Guy When He Just Starts’

Article Highlights:

  • ESPN legend Mike Golic isn’t giving up on Drew Brees’ broadcasting future just yet
  • Social media widely criticized the veteran quarterback for a lackluster broadcasting outing on Super Wild Card Weekend
  • Golic also explained how Tony Romo’s instant success put Brees — and other inexperienced analysts — in an uncomfortable position 

Despite not playing in the 2021 NFL Playoffs, Drew Brees nonetheless emerged as one of Super Wild Card Weekend’s biggest losers. Such is life when one is a color commentator on a nationally-televised postseason game.

Social media widely criticized Brees for a lackluster performance on NBC Sports’ coverage of the Las Vegas Raiders-Cincinnati Bengals playoff game. In the era of instant gratification and feedback, ESPN legend Mike Golic isn’t throwing in the towel on the idea of Brees eventually becoming a stellar color commentator. 

Mike Golic isn’t giving up on Drew Brees’ broadcasting future just yet

ESPN's Mike Golic in 2013 and NBC Sports' Drew Brees in 2022.
Mike Golic (L) isn’t giving up on Drew Brees just yet | Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images; Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Brees’ broadcasting career technically began months before he retired. NBC Sports signed the Super Bowl 44 champion to what was essentially a futures contract in the spring of 2020, ensuring the network would add him when the iconic quarterback finally retired.

Brees hung up his cleats in January 2021 and spent this past NFL season working on the Football Night in America studio show; he and Mike Tirico, who is expected to become Sunday Night Football’s primary play-by-play voice next season, also called Notre Dame football games. Suffice to say; Brees at least had some commentating experience, including a Buffalo Bills-New Orleans Saints game on Thanksgiving night, when he and Tirico worked the Raiders-Bengals playoff showdown.

Social media wasn’t impressed with Brees, who often went multiple plays without talking and appeared reluctant to criticize the officials. On the Jan. 19 episode of the Sports Media with Richard Deitsch podcast, Golic defended the retired quarterback and urged others to withhold permanent judgment. 

“When Drew started doing the Notre Dame games, people would tweet at me, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘Listen, I’m not judging a guy when he just starts.’ He’s a walk-in Hall of Famer, but he’s now in a different world of learning timing and everything that goes with a TV broadcast, which he’ll learn. He’ll learn in time.”

Mike Golic

During the interview, Golic reflected on his early days on ESPN Radio in 2000, a time when only the Chicago market carried the show, which later became Mike & Mike. The Notre Dame graduate said the limited instant critical feedback allowed him and eventual partner Mike Greenberg to work through the program’s early issues.

“The day is gone where you can learn a little bit,” Golic said. “They’re not going to start on a smaller show. They’re going to get thrown right into the mix.”

Golic also addressed the problematic trend that Tony Romo started in 2017

In the spring of 2017, CBS gambled and hired former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who had never worked in broadcasting, to replace Phil Simms on the network’s No. 1 football team. 

Romo’s enthusiasm and play-calling ability made him an instant star. When Brees joined NBC or when ex-Cowboys tight end Jason Witten retired to call Monday Night Football games in 2018, both arrived with the expectation that they too would quickly impress in the booth. For the record, Witten lasted only one year on MNF before he returned to the Cowboys.

When he spoke with Deitsch, Golic specifically mentioned Romo and how the three-time Pro Bowler’s immediate success affected how networks now utilize former players. 

“Sometimes companies will say, ‘Oh, we’re not hiring people because of their names.’ That’s bull. They take stars. I get it. I understand it,” Golic said, later adding, “The thought process is to bring in these guys right off the field as Romo was able to do it. That’s what they’re trying to recreate.”

NBC has invested far too much in Brees to give up on him now

There is no shame in being honest. Brees underwhelmed on Super Wild Card Weekend and proved he won’t have the instant success that Romo had nearly five years ago.

Don’t expect NBC to give up on Brees after one mediocre performance, though. He earned rave reviews for his work alongside Tirico on Thanksgiving night and is reportedly earning over $6 million per year. If he wants to be on NBC Sports’ football coverage next season, he’ll be there, although likely in the studio with Maria Taylor and Chris Simms. He is also slated to call Notre Dame games next year.

Tirico is expected to replace Al Michaels as the SNF play-by-play voice next year and work with Cris Collinsworth; as of publication, there have been no credible reports about Brees joining them in a three-man booth. NBC could spend the next few years grooming Brees as someone who can either replace Collinsworth or become a trusted studio voice.

If things don’t work out for Brees at NBC, history has at least shown he has dominated after switching teams. That sound you hear is ESPN preparing to open its checkbook.

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