Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on joining ESPN, Tom Brady’s Fox deal

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, the new announcers of ESPN’s Monday Night Football after more than two decades together at Fox Sports, are keenly aware of the free-agency frenzy they’ve been involved in recently and have their replacements at Fox burdened.

The Post, which was not a passive observer of this trip, asked the duo on an ESPN conference call Monday how well they keep up with all the media chatter.

Buck interrupted him with a laugh: “You guys got the stuff under control?”

“I really can’t deal with that. I don’t want to disappoint anyone over there at The Post — Joe usually lets me know what’s happening,” Aikman said.

Buck interjected that he sends Aikman the “Cliff Notes” on the stories.

“But I guess my reaction to that is that it was interesting to see what all happened,” Aikman said. “There has been a lot of movement and discussion in recent years. It’s turned into quite a business for [Post columnist] Andrew Marchand.”

The idea that Tom Brady, having retired from football, would replace Aikman at Fox was not at the forefront of his mind.

Troy Aikman and Joe Buck arrived at ESPN's campus on Monday.
Troy Aikman and Joe Buck arrived at ESPN’s campus on Monday.

“As for Tom, I didn’t think he would do that, but I think he’s going to be great,” Aikman said. “I have a great relationship with Tom and love it when we name his games. I’ve had a chance to get to know him better since he went to Tampa with the NFC. I think he’s going to be fantastic and it was a great attitude,” said Aikman.

“I was just as surprised as everyone else, and I’m in this game with the announcer movement,” Buck said.

He marveled at how quickly things have changed in sports media in a relatively short space of time: “Someone said to me the other day, ‘We as fans need someone to tell us where all these sports presenters end up.’

“Everyone has moved and changed their place. Amazon is involved. You have a great team. My dad passed away 20 years ago and I think he would be stunned if he came out of the grave right now and said, ‘Wow! Is that what goes on in this business?”

Troy Aikman and Joe Buck via a media zoom about joining ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”

“It comes back to supply and demand and a known amount. As much as I wanted to work with Troy and continue that relationship, I think that’s what got ESPN excited. If I can speak on their behalf, they get a booth that they know what they’re going to get when opening day comes in Seattle.”

He was no longer convinced that Brady would shine in the dressing room after a great career on the gridiron.

“As for Brady, would anyone ever bet that guy’s great at anything? In doing so, he virtually cornered the market. But it’s a new thing, and with new opportunities come new responsibilities. I think it’s going to be a steep learning curve and I think he’s going to be fantastic. I tend to root for everyone. I’m really happy for him.”

Later in the conference call, Aikman was asked about the biggest hurdles to becoming a great broadcaster. He said that knowing football is important but elements like television and timing are more important for the role.

Tom Brady will be attending the Fox Sports booth after his retirement
Tom Brady will be attending the Fox Sports booth after his retirement
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Aikman said that working with talented producers and directors behind the scenes is also paramount, and that there are former athletes who have failed on the airwaves who might have thrived had they worked with better off-air workers.

“As for Tom, I have nothing but respect for him,” Aikman said. “He’s won everything he’s done in life and there’s no reason he won’t do the same. The reason I think he will be good is because he will work. The reason he’s played so long and won seven Super Bowls is because he doesn’t take shortcuts. And he won’t do it on the air.”

Regarding leaving Fox, Aikman said that throughout last season he didn’t think it would be his last year there.

He explained that most of his conversations centered on splitting time between “Thursday Night Football” on Amazon and Sunday afternoons on Fox, but there was eventually a deadlock on how many games he could make. Ultimately, ESPN got involved in the negotiations.

“It was an opportunity that ultimately suited me best,” Aikman said of joining ESPN, noting that he would still get postseason games and Super Bowls. “But I didn’t think that would even be possible until just after the Super Bowl.”

Buck mentioned that he and Fox had amicably split after the network released him from the final year of his contract to join Aikman at ESPN.

Buck was looking forward to his successors, Kevin Burkhardt and Joe Davis, replacing him in declaring the Super Bowl and World Series on Fox.

He said talks about the split had lasted “maybe a month” — and Fox understood how badly he wanted to join ESPN for personal reasons as well as professional ones.

“It’s fitted so well into my life to be selfish and personal about it,” Buck said. “But having a wife [Michelle Beisner-Buck] who has been working here for 7-8 years and has little boys at home, it made a lot of sense to simplify and strip down things in my life. And coming on Monday Night Football and doing it with a well-known figure in Troy just made all the sense in the world.” Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on joining ESPN, Tom Brady’s Fox deal


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