The expression about it not really being work if you enjoy what you’re doing applies to retired Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw. It wouldn’t be a Fox NFL Sunday without a huge smile and a hearty laugh by Bradshaw while working alongside fellow Hall of Famers Jimmy Johnson, Howie Long, and Michael Strahan.
Each and every week qualifies as the proverbial last laugh for Bradshaw, who endures on TV 26 years after a Fox Sports executive was warned not to hire Bradshaw because he was “an idiot.”
Terry Bradshaw’s NFL achievements were impressive
Comparing statistics for quarterbacks from different eras is an exercise in futility. The fact that their yardage totals or touchdown numbers have been eclipsed by others doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana.
Terry Bradshaw is another QB whose numbers pale in comparison now to more recent greats, but Bradshaw can point to four Super Bowl rings from 1974 to 1979. He was the first signal-caller to win three and then the first to win four, cementing his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989, his first year of eligibility.
Bradshaw saved some of his biggest days for the biggest stages. Three of his modest seven 300-yard passing days came in playoff games. His career regular-season numbers for 14 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers included a 107-51 record as a starter and 212 touchdown passes.
Bradshaw was also 14-5 in playoff games while leading the star-studded Steelers before retiring after the 1983 season.
Terry Bradshaw jumped right into broadcasting
Terry Bradshaw, now 73, has spent more than twice as many years in television studios as he did on NFL fields. Fox Sports viewers have come to know him for a down-to-earth delivery style that includes feigning ignorance or poking fun at himself.
CBS scooped him up to serve as a color commentator on games immediately after Bradshaw’s retirement from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The network moved him into The NFL Today studio on Sundays beginning in 1990, and he would remain there through the 1993 season.
Along the way, Bradshaw continued with an acting career that began in his playing days when he appeared in Hooper in 1978 and The Cannonball Run in 1980. He has also shown up in numerous television comedies over the years.
Bradshaw and the entire CBS Sports crew was hit with a stunning development after the 1993 season. Rupert Murdoch, who had launched Fox’s television network in 1986, made the bold move to outbid CBS by a substantial margin for the rights to NFC games.
The Fox Sports boss was advised not to hire ‘an idiot’
A story by The Athletic delved into the coup by the nascent Fox Sports division to wrestle NFL games away from CBS. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is frequently credited with encouraging Fox Sports to enter the fray. The result was a winning bid substantially above what others offered.
The move was brilliant. Fox’s TV network was having trouble lining up affiliate stations in local markets. Once CBS lost the NFL, numerous stations flipped their affiliations. It translated into boosts in credibility, viewership, and advertising rates for Fox.
Fox executive David Hill, a veteran of building departments from scratch, was given seven months to pull together the logistics. The network didn’t hold the rights to any other sports, so he had to hire a technical crew and on-air talent while developing the look of the telecasts.
Hill immediately hired John Madden and Pat Summerall, the top CBS game crew. When it came time to assemble a studio crew, Hill again poached CBS by signing Terry Bradshaw.
“I was told by various unnamed Fox executives that he was an idiot,” Hill told the website. “Now, again, I’ve done this three times before, and I knew what to look for. Terry was at the desk with Greg Gumbel (at CBS) and he got up to go to a monitor or telestrator in the studio. And he didn’t walk, he strutted, and he had this kind of, ‘I know what I’m doing’ arrogance about it, which I love.”
Hill hit a home run. Riding the advantage of covering games from the NFC, whose teams are mostly in larger markets, Fox NFL Sunday has won the ratings battle every season since it launched.