It’s been 18 months since we updated our list of the top NFL analysts, journalists and opinion makers. Here’s how things go before Tom Brady arrives in 2035.
1) Bomani Jones (ESPN/HBO)
In a field awash with groupthink, Jones stands out as a unique voice. He is well known for his comments on the intersection of sports, culture and race. When you comment in this area, Jones is unmatched.
But putting him in that box alone would be a disservice to his talent, so well displayed on his excellent podcast. Few recount the not-so-important but equally-delightful intersection of silliness and hilarity that helps transform the NFL from a multibillion-dollar sports enterprise to something approaching the art of the performance.
Jones moves easily from commentary on the sordid to schemes, as happy to point out a quarterback’s flaws as he dismantles the draft system.
With his ESPN contract set to expire, Jones will become sports media’s most coveted free agent.
2) Mina Kimes (ESPN)
NFL Live is comfortably the most informative and entertaining football vehicle currently on the network. Kimes, along with Dan Orlovsky, Marcus Spears and Laura Rutledge, analyzes the game from every angle: the Xs and O’s, the analyses, the roster construction, the locker room dynamics and everything in between. NFL Live delivers the usual bombshell and blast of hot air that dominates the sports media landscape, but retains space for subtlety and nuance. At the origin of the show, there is the desire to explain the “why” to the public. And Kimes’ mastery of analysis, combined with her fandom, makes her the perfect person to explain why – Why team X is doing Y, and why Y should/could/could bother a fanbase.
ESPN’s output across all sports is now steeped in hot takes, a result of the network’s Stephen A Smith-ification (which isn’t always a bad thing!). Kimes is one of the rare analysts to persist in a reasoned and thoughtful analysis.
3) Jenny Vrentas (New York Times)
In the era of “Mister Editor”, Vrentas reporting has been crucial. For those who follow this stuff, you’ll notice a lack of reporting from league rights holders on the allegations against Deshaun Watson and the walking controversy that is Daniel Snyder and the Washington Commanders.
Vrentas was there when Watson’s accusations first came to light. And she went on to write a number of follow-up articles that include independent corroboration of an allegation by an accuser who did not sue Watson, revealing the extent of Watson’s accusations and outlining the role of Houston Texans in securing nondisclosure agreements. for their former quarterback.
4) Domonique Foxworth (ESPN)
Foxworth stands apart from pundits who refuse to address the NFL’s flaws. He’s a former player, turned Harvard Business School grad, turned NFLPA executive, turned TV analyst. His resume on and off the pitch makes his situation different. He does not do need ESPN, nor TV payday. This allows him to blaspheme the church from within – which could mean to show the uselessness of art. Given his track record, Foxworth is happy to go from collective bargaining issues to breaking covers to challenge one of the league’s biggest stars over his dishonesty. The world leader has no one else who can fit into all three roles.
5) Billy Gil (Meadowlark Media)
It was a banner for 18 months for Billy ‘Guillermo’ Gil of the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. The NFL owns the Sundays but Gil owns the post-game Mondays. His weekly pointless soundtrack, a recap of the best shots of bot coaches and players, remains brilliant.
Far from the orbit of the league partner Walt Disney Company, Gil is free to approach the league from new angles. He was the defining voice of the NFL’s first musical, The Big Game. A musical about brain injury, Brandon Staley and RedZone’s Witching Hour shouldn’t work, but it certainly does.
Gil is also the co-host of the indomitable podcast STUpodity, where he covers the league through conversations with the greats and the good, including Joba Chamberlain, Greg Cote and Kenny G. As always with Gil, give him the ingredients you you like, and watch it cook.
6) Diante Lee (Athletics)
Football is a complex game, but top analysts at X&O find ways to guide audiences through the maze by making it simple. No one does it better than Lee.
Lee is still a coach and his analysis of the game is designed to teach rather than show his own credentials. Now a mainstay of The Athletic Football Show, Lee eliminates footballers as much as possible while delivering the insight that touches the erogenous zones of every football nerd.
7) Gregg Rosenthal, Dan Hanzus, Marc Sessler (around the NFL)
You can’t separate the three main hosts of the Around the NFL podcast and TV vehicle. Blending humor, analysis and ruthless honesty, the trio have built a true one-stop shop for fans. The show is the UK’s No.1 NFL podcast, drawing fans into the circus tent with glee, before offering insightful observations and updates on the league as a whole. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the series has done more for the growth of the game internationally than the league sending a Jaguars team to London each fall.
8) Pat McAfee (The Pat McAfee Show)
McAfee has become the go-to for fans and journalists to hear what star players really think. Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s chief moaner, has a weekly residency/therapy session with McAfee throughout the season.
McAfee’s role is different than anyone else on this list. Part stand-up comedian, part heel, part former gamer, part talk show host, McAfee’s Everyman persona gets those around the game to open up in ways we don’t hear. normally – even if he doesn’t feel he has to push the guests away. Is it journalism? No. Is he trying to be? Of course not. But by allowing players to express themselves unhindered, it has helped break down the barrier between the stars who populate the league and those who watch them.
9) David Samson (nothing personal)
Samson is the former president of the Miami Marlins MLB team, which now hosts Nothing Personal on CBS. Samson is a controversial figure in Florida: he was one of the pioneers of using taxpayer dollars to fund the billionaire owners’ toy, drawing funding for the Marlins stadium from taxpayer dollars. And it’s still used as a sounding board by homeowner groups looking to squeeze as much taxpayer money as possible.
Since leaving the Marlins, however, Samson has carved out a niche for himself as the leading voice covering sports affairs and internal franchise operations in the United States and beyond.
Former executives operate under a code of omertà. They don’t want to reveal trade secrets or criticize former colleagues and rivals in case they are invited back into the inner sanctum. Samson is different. He delights in revealing the underside of major sports. Whether it’s internal NFL politics, stadium funding, the dynamics of locker room governance, Samson provides information often hidden from the public.
10) Aqib Talib (Fox/Amazon)
As wages skyrocketed for the second man in the pit, their performance plummeted. Tony Romo spends most of the regular season ringing him, only bringing his A-game for the playoffs. Troy Aikman is solid but unspectacular. Ditto for Cris Collinsworth. Greg Olsen is a rising star at Fox, but one that should be dropped when Tom Brady joins the network.
Talib is the strongest break with the status quo. Its less-than-refined style may not be to everyone’s taste, but it offers a different perspective than traditional game-day vocals. Amazon grabbing Talib for national release was a smart move. He’s already pinched Romo’s playing crown and more than matched the former quarterback’s infectious enthusiasm.