Going into television is thought to be one of the most popular career choices for NFL players post-retirement, but not everyone has what it takes to succeed. Fred Gaudelli, the producer of “Sunday Night Football” on NBC, explains that athletes must not only have a complex understanding of the game, but they must be willing to devote themselves to learning an entirely new craft — at a fraction of the pay.
“For a lot of these players, this is a monumental paycut. No one is leaving the field, with the exception of a very, very few, and commanding anything close to $1 million. So it’s whether they want to work as hard as they worked as football players, for what most of America would think would be a great salary, but certainly a salary that’s well beneath what they’ve been used to making.”
There are some players that have a huge advantage when it comes to television, and unsurprisingly it’s the guys that are expected to have encyclopedic knowledge of their playbooks,
“I think quarterbacks and head coaches have the advantage because they have to know what everyone does. They have to know clock management, they have to know how to play at the end of a game, and they have to know how all those things work intuitively to be good players or good coaches. Those are the really the only two positions that require that kind of knowledge.
“If you’re a defensive tackle, [generally] you only know a very specific role. If you’re a linebacker you may have no idea what a quarterback or wide receiver does. A quarterback has to know about the management of the team in the sense of how the locker room is controlled, or not controlled.”
So what does Gaudelli think about some of the NFL players that could eventually transition to TV?
- “The big fallacy is they’ve all grow up watching football on television their whole lives, and on TV it looks pretty easy. When you’re watching at home there’s no indication of how much preparation went into this and how much homework they had to do, and I’m just talking about the game. There’s also the preparation of being a broadcaster and making sure that you’re getting your opinions out in a timely fashion, that you’re wording things correctly, that you’re speaking proper English, that you can handle all the technical sides of the television business. Those things are invisible when you’re watching a game. “Every person I’ve ever worked with who came off the playing field no matter what the sport, when I started working with them, they were like, ‘Wow, I never knew you had to put this much work into it.’ It’s really no different than any other profession. If you really want to get to the top, you have to learn it inside and out, and then you really have to dedicate yourself to its craft. And not everyone wants to do it.” Get more NFL news on the Sports Page >
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