The exploits of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb into the realm of the media since his retirement have been described in many ways. Cliché-filled, self-congratulating, even incoherent.
It looks as if he’ll be bringing all of that to Sundays.
Fox announced its NFL broadcast teams for this year, and they include McNabb being paired with Dick Stockton for NFL broadcasts. In addition, he’ll be rotating with former Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn and former Raiders, Jaguars, and Bills linebacker Kirk Morrison as well as McNabb.
Side note—Brady Quinn as an NFL analyst? It feels like yesterday that he was drafted out of Notre Dame and Browns fans were pinning their homes on him to be that team’s savior. He’s nearly 30 years old and is already an analyst for NFL on Fox.
C’est la vie.
Anyway, on McNabb, this is indeed his latest foray into the media. His previous work on Fox Sports 1, which turns 1 (year old) next week, is what likely landed him this job. In addition, #5 is still an afternoon drive-time host with Mark Malone on NBC Sports Radio. He recently re-upped with NBCSR to continue doing that show.
The games that are worked by Stockton are usually lower on the weekly NFL on Fox totem pole than those worked by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, the signature announcer/color commentator duo for Fox. So it is likely that he will only be providing commentary for, at most, six regular season games this season.
How McNabb is able to transition what he does on NBC Sports Radio and Fox Sports One into an NFL television booth is yet to be seen, or better yet, heard. But, if he is to be successful as an analyst, then there are a couple of things he better fix quickly.
Firstly, he better prove to fans that can actually be a credible broadcast commentator. One of his most infamous moments as an NFL player was in 2008 at the back end of his Eagles and NFL career that he didn’t know an NFL game could conclude in a tie—after a tie against the Cincinnati Bengals.
He may not have known at the times that games could end in ties, but he probably did know that quarterbacks (like himself) could have ratings below 60…like he did that game.
There are still plenty of NFL fans and viewers of Fox Sports One who remember that low moment in his career and still believe that he has a perceived lack of true knowledge for the game, despite the fact that he played at the game’s most scrutinized position.
It’s one thing to be an analyst for a radio network that is still gaining its level of traction across radio across the country or a new sports channel that is doing the same thing. Everyone on Sundays will be watching the NFL on Fox (as well as CBS and NBC) and one slip up of the tongue on air or any possible absence of insight into plays will be roundly scrutinized by everyone.
And, it will probably get McNabb’s name in a Monday Morning Realist column during the season where it doesn’t belong.
The second thing he better do is adjust to being in the broadcast booth. Studio analysts are generally more well-reserved than color commentators, at least those that fans will want to tune into. Why is Gus Johnson a much beloved announcer among college football, college basketball, NFL, and soccer fans? Because when he’s calling a game, he nearly exudes the average fan. There can be occasions where Johnson is so energetic you wonder how much coffee he drinks before takes the mic.
No one is saying McNabb has to watch endless hours of Gus Johnson video or emulate John Madden or Cris Collinsworth. Just learn how to transition from a studio and radio personality into one that can be insightful and entertaining to listen to throughout the course of an NFL game. Insight, an entertaining personality, and tremendous on-air chemistry equal success as a broadcaster. It is why we hear (in my Carrie Underwood NBC Sunday Night Football voice), “Al and Cris are the best on TV!”
So, someone needs to send this column directly to #5 and he ought to take this advice on what fans expect from color commentators. Insight, an entertaining personality, someone not in love with his own voice (another criticism of McNabb’s on Fox Sports One) and on-air chemistry with broadcasters and reporters all lead to success as a color analyst.
Oh, and one more piece of advice for McNabb. We all remember during Super Bowl XXXIX (39) in Jacksonville when that “stuff” emitted from your mouth. That was called projectile vomit.
Word of advice—don’t allow that to happen on the air either.