Kevin Burkhardt, left, and Greg Olsen will call the top matchups every NFL Sunday on FOX.
By Richie Zyontz
FOX NFL Lead Producer
Editor’s Note: Richie Zyontz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and the lead producer for the last 20 seasons. He has more than 40 years of experience covering the league and has produced six Super Bowls. Throughout the 2022 NFL season, he will provide an inside look as FOX’s new No. 1 NFL team makes its journey toward Super Bowl LVII.
The NFL is made for television. The expert commentary, the sounds, the slow-motion replays all make for the ideal viewing experience.
It looks easy, but it takes a village of talented people to execute. Everyone has opinions on what they like and don’t like with a particular broadcast.
Throughout the 2022 season, I will take you behind the scenes with our top crew at FOX as we wind our way toward Super Bowl LVII.
For 20 years, I was blessed to work with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, Hall of Fame broadcasters and good friends. There was such an ease with which we broadcast games because we all knew each other so well. Director Rich Russo and I were always in step with Joe and Troy because, over the course of many, many games, we built up trust and good will.
That comes with time and shared experiences. Now the goal is to do the same with Kevin and Greg.
Comfort and trust are crucial in the relationship between the producer and the announcers.
Despite the frantic pace and sensory overload that exists in every TV truck, it’s imperative to project a sense of calm so that your on-air voices can be at their best. They don’t need to know of any problems behind the scenes. Nobody likes working in a stressful environment — I certainly don’t.
But we sure do get tested every now and then.
Once during an NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia, the wires from our cable camera — the camera suspended over the field and remote-controlled — got tangled on one of the goalposts.
Imagine the horror watching this goalpost swaying back and forth, expecting it to fall across the end zone. Luckily, it occurred while we were in a commercial break, and with the amazing efforts of our engineers, the wires were disentangled within the two-minute pause.
The game proceeded as if nothing happened, and I could put the Tums away.
The technical crew is the backbone of every production. They do all the heavy lifting while we simply slide in and sit down to work. I’m so grateful for our crew, some of whom have been with us for more than 20 years. They make the pictures sparkle and the sounds pop. Their engineering knowledge is amazing.
Visitors to the production truck are overwhelmed with a sea of screens and buttons.
Visitors to the production truck are usually awestruck as they gaze upon a wall with dozens of monitors and work stations with hundreds of buttons.
The most impressive sight is the board that sits in front of our technical director Colby Bourgeois. The technical director, or TD, might be the most important member of our entire team. Nothing comes across your screens at home without Colby hitting the right button — and he has about a thousand to choose from.
Colby operates that board calmly and collectedly. In February, he will TD his sixth Super Bowl. We couldn’t imagine doing one without him.
Technical director Colby Bourgeois will work his sixth Super Bowl next February.
The Maiden Voyage
Preseason broadcasts are challenging. Lots of unknown players playing. Lots of known players not playing.
We were fortunate to have a storyline fall in our laps with Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray. On our video call with him earlier in the week, Murray and his coach, Kliff Kingsbury, confirmed that the fourth-year QB, who wasn’t slated to play, would don a headset in the fourth quarter and call the plays. That is preseason gold.
It provided some decent theater as Arizona’s offense actually performed better with Murray calling plays than his normal play-caller, Kingsbury.
Our graphics room, led by Casey Garland and Jason Thornberry, offered up a telling statistical graphic which made that very point. (Arizona produced its only two touchdown drives in the 24-17 loss with Murray calling the shots.) Kevin and Greg were able to dive into explaining the value in having Murray wear the headset.
It takes a full team working behind the scenes to bring an NFL broadcast together.
Another positive aspect of preseason games is our ability to interview players on the sidelines. Erin worked the Arizona side and interviewed Murray, Budda Baker and Zach Ertz. Tom got Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews of the Ravens. These interviews aren’t allowed in regular-season games.
The interviews with tight ends Ertz and Andrews were terrific, with the former tight end Olsen watching from above and chiming in.
All in all, the opening game made for a fun and valuable night.
Russo and I got to learn the rhythm and pacing of Kevin and Greg. They got to hear new voices in their ears. We all start to figure out the in-game shorthand needed to effectively communicate between booth and truck. But we all left feeling comfortable and positive for what lies ahead.
The journey starts for real Sept. 11, when we have the Packers visiting the Vikings (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) in Week 1. Talk to you then.
Richie Zyontz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and the lead producer for the last 20 seasons. He boasts more than 40 years of experience covering the NFL.
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Source: FOX Sports