Your eyes do not deceive you. That is indeed Randy Moss on your television screen working as a broadcaster for FOX Sports 1. Just don’t call him an NFL analyst.
“I don’t like that term,” Moss says, on the phone from FOX’s studios in Los Angeles. “I just like being called part of FOX Football Daily and our Sunday show. I am not part of the media. That’s not my label, and I don’t want it to start now. I love the game of football, and this is just a new way for me to be part of the game. Everything from the makeup to the studio to the lights, camera, action, I am enjoying everything. I like to adventure out and learn new things, and this gives me the opportunity to keep learning.”
Sorry, Randy, you are part of the media when you accept a check from Rupert Murdoch. And given the perception that he wanted little part of the media during his career, the likely Hall of Fame wide receiver is the most intriguing NFL broadcasting hire of the offseason. For years, FOX Sports has envied ESPN’s ability to dominate NFL conversation from Monday morning through Sunday night, and now with the launch of FOX Sports 1, the company has a daily television platform for new talent such as Moss as well as its current stable of NFL studio talent and game analysts.
The signature NFL show on FOX Sports 1—FOX Football Daily—will air year-round from 6-7 p.m. ET. The on-air talent features names familiar to NFL viewers, including host Curt Menefee, insider Jay Glazer and former NFL chief of officiating Mike Pereira. The newcomers are Moss, five-time Pro Bowl defensive back Ronde Barber, former New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita and eight-time Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher. There will also be appearances (mostly on Friday and Monday) from longtime FOX NFL Sunday staffers Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson and Michael Strahan, as well as FOX NFL analysts such as Troy Aikman, John Lynch and Tim Ryan. Joel Klatt will host the show once a week for Menefee and also serve as the show’s lead college football analyst.
“The easiest way to convey what we want to do is to take the tone and the depth of our Sunday pregame show and run it across the week,” says FOX Sports executive producer John Entz.
How did Moss end up at Homer Simpson’s network? FOX Sports vice president of production Jacob Ullman reached out to Joel Segal, Moss’ agent, upon hearing that the wide receiver might be interested in television work after a limited role with the 49ers last season in which Moss caught 28 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns. That conversation led to a conference call with Moss and FOX Sports executives, who were impressed by the receiver’s knowledge and enthusiasm. Next came a dinner in Los Angeles with Moss, followed by a one-day audition on August 1 at FOX’s L.A. studios. During the audition Moss was asked to give his opinion on a series of NFL topics, and FOX Sports executives came away impressed. “We had always heard from his coaches that he was a brilliant football mind, and that didn’t always fit with the media’s portrayal of him,” says Entz. “The things we are always looking for are likeability and credibility. He has the credibility based on how successful he was at playing. The other part is harder to tell, and we found him to be likeable.”
Moss said broadcasting never crossed his mind when he was a player, and he had no idea if other networks were interested. “All I know is my agent brought FOX to the table and said they were looking to bring some guys on a new show,” Moss said. “I told him to get more information on it, and here we are today.”
It’s a limited sample size, but Moss has been interesting television so far. He’s bright, with an engaging manner of speech. Moss will be a regular on FOX NFL Kickoff, a one-hour Sunday morning pregame show that debuts Sept. 8 on Fox Sports 1 at 10:30 a.m. ET (the show will air in its regular time slot of 11:00 a.m.-noon ET starting the following Sunday), and he’ll also make occasional appearances on FOX Football Daily. The network already thinks enough of him that a FOX Sports spokesman told The MMQB on Wednesday that Moss will make regular appearances on Fox NFL Sunday, the network’s long-running pregame show, throughout the season.
“He and I share a dressing room at the FOX studios, and he constantly talks with me about getting better,” says Menefee. “I tell him to just be himself and, just as when he was a player, he will improve with more reps. I genuinely think he has the long-term potential to be the Terry Bradshaw or Charles Barkley of his show. You don’t want to tinker with that by trying to get rid of his West Virginia accent or having him speak from prepared notes. I believe with his desire to be good, if we just let Randy be Randy, he has the potential to be something special. He truly wants to be good at this.”
One obvious question for viewers is how FOX Sports 1’s NFL programming will differ from the thousands of hours of NFL content on television. Like the Kardashian clan, pro football studio shows continue to proliferate. (For instance, CBS Sports announced this week that it would air That Other Pregame Show, a four-hour Sunday NFL show on CBS Sports Television.) Menefee said FOX Football Daily will take a more casual approach to the league than FOX NFL Sunday, which isn’t exactly the PBS News Hour to begin with. “Expect a lot more storytelling about what’s going on behind the scenes,” Menefee says. “It will be about guys having conversations instead of making pronounced statements. We will talk strategy, game planning, but don’t look for a lot of X’s and O’s being broken down via telestrators.”
Moss echoed that when asked how comfortable he would be criticizing players or coaches. “That’s one thing I am not going to try to stir up, a lot of criticism,” Moss says. “The reason why is I tried to stay away from it during my career. I love the NFL and everything they provided for me and my family. For me to get on this TV and start critiquing and talking negative about players and coaches, that’s not my thing.”
As for competing head to head with ESPN, FOX Sports 1 executives are realists. Consider: The 6:00 p.m. ET airing of SportsCenter Monday drew 613,308 viewers, while FOX Football Daily had 127,613 viewers in the same time slot. “I don’t think anytime in the near future we will be worried about the FOX Football Daily ratings,” says Entz. “We will obviously look at them, but we are judging this show and this network by how it looks, how it feels and the quality of the programming. The best way to me to determine success is to feel like FOX Football Daily is a unique show and fulfilling our expectations. It’s obviously very early, but we think it has a high ceiling. It is not a case where the jury is out. We are already are high on the show.”
FOX is putting a heavy load on analysts (Barber, Fujita, Moss, Urlacher) with zero television experience, but Entz believes they have surrounded the group with enough TV veterans in front of and behind the cameras. Ask Moss how good he can be at broadcasting, and he laughs and says, “Man, the sky is limit. But it’s not based on me. It’s based on what the people behind the closed doors think. If they [his FOX colleagues] were rookies and the head coach or owner asked me to show them the skills of how to be a wide receiver because we need them on Sunday, that is something I would do. Now I’m in their business, and I need for them to take me by the hand and show me the way.”