Fox or Amazon? Troy Aikman’s career is at a crossroads, but he won’t change his style
Troy Aikman may or may not be calling his last game for Fox Sports in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers.
But rest assured it won’t be the last time you see or hear from Aikman, the Hall of Fame three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys who has replaced the late John Madden as the most trusted voice to call America’s favorite game over the last 21 seasons.
Aikman is a broadcasting free agent.
He is weighing offers to return to Fox, jump to Amazon Prime and do the new Thursday night package on that streaming service or do both.
“Those conversations are happening now,” Aikman said. “And I’m really being as honest as I can be about it. I really don’t know what it’s gonna look like when it’s all said and done and it does get settled. As to whether I’ll be working for Fox and Amazon, whether I’ll just be working for Fox or whether I’ll just be working for Amazon. I really don’t know what might happen.”
Might Sunday’s championship game tilt be his last game on Fox?
“It could be, yeah. I don’t anticipate that but it could be,” Aikman said.
Aikman has done both Sunday and Thursday the past four years as part of his deal with Fox.
But in 2022, Amazon Prime Video will carry 15 Thursday night games exclusively on its service — something that will run through the 2032 season.
Reports are already surfacing that former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton is being considered as a possible Aikman replacement by Fox.
It’s all up to Aikman and he said a decision will come sooner than later.
A hefty raise is on the table as well thanks to another former Cowboys quarterback in Tony Romo.
Romo earns roughly $17.5 million per year as an analyst for CBS. Aikman reportedly makes $7.5 million annually with Fox.
Whether he comes close to Romo’s $17 million or not, there is no question that Aikman remains the gold standard for NFL broadcast analysts.
He is classic, reliable, comforting and consistent with the presence of being able to hit it big when necessary.
It’s similar to his NFL career where Aikman entered as a can’t miss prospect, going No. 1 overall to the Cowboys in 1989.
He was considered the prototype and he lived up to his potential.
Aikman didn’t put up gaudy and flashy statistics because that’s not what the Cowboys offense called for.
But he did deliver three Super Bowl titles en route to a Hall of Fame career.
Similarly, Aikman came into his broadcast career as a highly touted prospect following his retirement from the NFL in 2000.
It didn’t take him long to climb into the No. 1 chair as the lead analyst on the league’s top-rated network for broadcasting games.
While a Sports Emmy has shockingly eluded him over the years, the respect from his peers and fans in and out of the industry has not wavered over the past 21 seasons as evidenced by the current tug of war between Fox and Amazon.
And then just like now, Aikman has always been true to himself by being his natural self. He believes less is more.
“I just feel that my job is to cover the game in a way that doesn’t detract from the game, and hopefully doesn’t take away from the audience’s enjoyment of the game,” Aikman said. “And at the same time, try to explain what’s happening and yet not overdo it.
“I don’t think the fan in general wants to hear on every single play why that worked or why it didn’t work. I think you can get a little too technical. I try not to do that. So I tried to do the game the way I think I would enjoy listening to it.”
Aikman says he has tried to be honest and fair to the participants while also being informative to the audience.
He acknowledges that there may not be a lot of bells and whistles to his broadcast, compared to others in the industry, but again that’s in keeping with his personality.
“I think it’s just not you know, it’s not who I am,” Aikman said. “I mean, I’m not someone who has ever been interested in the fluff. I’m pretty direct to my personality away from the booth in life. And I think that carries over into broadcast.
“I don’t feel the broadcast is about me. I don’t think people tune in because I’m calling the game. I don’t think people tune in for me to take the attention away from what’s happening on the field and put a spotlight on myself. It’s just not it’s not who I am. It’s not what I think the audience wants.”
Aikman and his longtime partner Joe Buck will have fun with the broadcasts based on what’s happening on the field. They are there to inform and analyze. But not make it about them.
The entertainment should be on the field, not in the booth.
“The entertainment is taking place between the white lines,” Aikman said. “It’s reality TV in its purest form, and people are drawn to that. Entertainment is drama. Entertainment is suspense. Entertainment isn’t necessarily two guys in a booth, trying to be funny for the audience, to see if they can get the audience to laugh.
“If it happens organically then I think it’s great. But I’ve listened to too many games, where the broadcasters feel that they’re serving a role that’s supposed to take priority over what’s happening on the field and it’s annoying to me.”
Most important, Aikman is still having fun broadcasting games.
While he has grudgingly moved on from his seemingly now-dead dreams of becoming an NFL general manager and is launching his own light beer — Eight, named after his former number, will be on tap in bars and restaurants in February and in stores in March — he knows he is now a television lifer.
“This year was probably the most fun I’ve had, as much as any season I’ve had in the 20 years before,” Aikman said. “Yeah, I still get excited about game day. I love my job. You know, I’ve been doing this Thursday-Sunday schedule for the last four years. I still enjoy the process.
“People asked me how long I’m going to do it. I really don’t know. I’m having a lot of fun doing it. I’ve got a great job. I love my job. You know, it’s arguably the greatest job in the world.”
It’s just a matter of where in 2022.