While it’s still astounding, it shouldn’t be surprising to see so many former New England Patriots players on our television sets as talking heads.
It seems like no matter where you look these days on television, you’re bound to see a player with New England Patriots ties on your screen.
Rob Ninkovich, Randy Moss, Damien Woody, and Tedy Bruschi have all found second careers as television analysts with ESPN after retiring from the NFL.
Ninkovich spent of his eight of his 10 playing years in the league with the Pats, Moss spent three seasons and change with the team (including the unforgettable 2007 season), Woody spent five years in New England, and Bruschi of course played his entire 13-year career with the Pats.
Rodney Harrison (six seasons as a Patriot) is a commentator on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Willie McGinest (12 seasons as a Patriot) is a TV analyst for the NFL Network. Christian Fauria (four seasons as a Patriot) is a college football TV analyst for CBS Sports Network.
And of course, Rob Gronkowski was ever-so-briefly a color TV analyst for Fox Sports last season before un-retiring to team up with Tom Brady down in Tampa Bay this year.
Is it a coincidence that so many players with Patriots ties have gone on to second careers in television after retiring from playing?
Most definitely not.
While not all of these individuals were drafted by the Patriots originally, all of them spent a good chunk of their careers playing under Bill Belichick while fully immersed in the New England culture.
Many of them won Super Bowls as Patriots, and nearly all of them enjoyed their most productive and successful campaigns as NFL players while subscribing to the mythical “Patriot Way.”
Former Pats under Belichick have the NFL IQ necessary to succeed as analysts
Two things, then, can be said of all these individuals: They were either drafted by Belichick to begin with because the New England head coach recognized their inherent intelligence and high football IQ as college prospects, or they were brought into New England for those very same reasons.
Not every Patriots trade acquisition or veteran free agent signing has panned out. Even someone as terrific at talent evaluation as Belichick has whiffed on occasion (Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, etc.). Belichick also has his fair share of draft busts over the years as well (Chad Jackson, Ras-I Dowling, etc.).
But overall, after six Super Bowl wins and nine appearances in the big game as New England Patriots head coach, it’s hard to argue against Belichick’s well-earned reputation as a master evaluator of football players.
The seven or eight players listed above may very well have ended up in broadcast booths and television studios after their retirement from the NFL if they’d never played under Belichick with the Patriots. Who’s to say one way or the other, honestly?
To their credit, all of these men offer higher-than-average insights into the game, and they’re all charismatic in their own way and polished and professional while on camera. They certainly wouldn’t need Belichick or the Patriots culture for any of those intangibles.
But you have to believe that their success on the field while with New England — and their raised public profile while playing for the Patriots under Belichick — has been a boon to their employment opportunities post-NFL retirement, too.
There are plenty of great NFL players who languished and toiled outside the national spotlight on teams like the Lions, Browns, Jaguars, etc.; if they had all the same professional TV analyst qualifications and chops as the guys listed above, do you think they’d still get offered the same opportunities?
I don’t. Frankly, I think playing for the Belichick/Brady-era New England Patriots essentially mints you in a different way than playing for the Titans or the Vikings.
And no matter how good of a player you were — or how great of an analyst you could be — you might not get in the room with the TV executives and decision-makers to start with unless you have the “brand recognition” that comes from playing for a winner like the Patriots.
To that end, it makes perfect sense that so many former New Englanders have gone on to successful second careers in television.