SBJ/January 16-22, 2012/Media

Who's next?

What players and coaches could we see talking about football instead of working it on the field in several years — and how might they do? Here’s a field of candidates, with thoughts on each from the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily staff.

Hines Ward: He’s outspoken, articulate, probably wouldn’t, ahem, dance around any issues even if they did involve the league’s stars — and the 14-year veteran is about to become available.

Donovan McNabb: Always a polarizing figure but also always strong in conveying his points to the media in interviews. He hasn’t been afraid to speak his mind on issues.

Peyton Manning: He could be the next Gary Danielson and Cris Collinsworth rolled into one. In the booth this fall for CBS coverage of an SEC game, he was a natural: friendly and charming but also extremely insightful. At one point, he could call correctly whether the defense was blitzing or dropping back into a zone just by looking at their pre-snap body language.

Chris Cooley: Redskins tight end is already an established personality, thanks to blogging and online video, but he’s not your standard TV talking head. Would any network be willing to put him in front of a live mike every week?

Nnamdi Asomugha: He’s been one of the top cornerbacks for years, so whatever he says, there would instantly be credibility behind it. Also, he’s used his playing platform to push his philanthropic endeavors and community service work, so he’s used to speaking in front of people. That could help him make a seamless transition.

• Darnell Dockett: He falls under the “loose-cannon” label taking from his Twitter account, but that means he would be the guy to keep viewers entertained with his comments: not afraid of going after anyone, fiercely defending his points and perhaps saying things for shock value.

• Andre Carter: Patriots defensive end is from a football family, and he’s both smart and articulate. There’s never enough of that on Sunday mornings.

• Domonique Foxworth: NFLPA executive committee member knows the game and its issues, as evidenced during last year’s labor talks. Well-spoken and familiar with media communications.

• Jeff Saturday: See Foxworth.

• Rex Ryan: Like all good analysts, you’ll either love him or hate him. He’ll say anything and he loves the attention — and besides, some might say he could be looking for work sooner rather than later.

• Chad Ochocinco: Clever, direct, quirky — just some of the ways his Twitter followers could describe him. He’ll never sugar-coat, and it could be a ratings bonanza if all those followers were to become his viewers, too. Of course, a 2011 season with 15 receptions and one TD has muted him a little.

• Tim Tebow: He’s confident, articulate and (in case you’ve been asleep for the past four months) people tend to talk about him. Somehow, he gets people fired up without even trying.

• Drew Brees: He has that air of dignity and calmness about him — sort of a Merlin Olsen-type who is more concerned about the game than cracking jokes and hamming it up. Of course, to match Olsen, he’d need a modern-day Dick Enberg as his partner, and that’s tough to find.

• Brian Urlacher: Torchbearer for Midwestern toughness. He falls into the Mike Ditka mold as a player and might do the same as a TV personality.

• Jake Delhomme: An excitable personality but also a genuine kind of guy — and he has that crazy Cajun thing going for him. (Hello, Terry Bradshaw …)

• Ray Lewis: Passion. Figure that he’ll give 100 percent on screen and expect the same from the rest of his talking-head colleagues. Perhaps he’s the next Shannon Sharpe: Maybe not born for TV work, but so respected as a player and so recognizable that one of the networks will take him in as soon as he retires.

• John Fox: The next Jimmy Johnson? He has credibility and a good sense of humor and will tell it like it is, without being caustic.

• Reggie Bush: The next Tiki Barber? Smart guy, good work ethic, winning smile, but maybe a bit flashy for audiences to identify with.

• Shawne Merriman: The next Howie Long? Just the right mix of humor and gravity, with a great on-screen presence.

• Corey Chavous: Now retired, he works on his own draft website. During his playing days, he was regarded as both a student of the game and a mentor for younger players.

• Troy Polamalu: A likable guy who has an edgy look, great name recognition and is very TV/PR friendly. Perhaps an appeal to younger viewers?

• Bill Belichick: You’re probably screaming, “What???!!” But take off the hoodie, work on voice inflection and you would be surprised how engaging he could be. Some of his press conferences are lessons on the game, and his weekly “Belestrator” segments on “Patriots All-Access” are must-watch for fans.

• Brett Favre: What would an NFL list be without No. 4? He’s still out there. Probably always will be. We all watched when he played. Why wouldn’t a network think he’d keep drawing eyeballs if it were to have him on their set?

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