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Jason Garrett makes the rare leap from coach to broadcaster

John Madden left coaching and turned football analysis into an art form. Today, though, trading one's coaching headset for a TV headset is almost unheard of.

Ready or not, the USFL kicks off Saturday. The original USFL is the most successful professional alternative to the NFL since the AFL, lasting from 1982 to '86, and the USFL 2.0 aims to do what the XFL, the AAF, and the XFL 2.0 did not -- last a second season.

Saturday's kickoff game between the New York Generals and the Birmingham Stallions will be the first (pre-scheduled) simulcast football game since Super Bowl I, airing on both NBC and Fox. (The Week 17 game between the New York Giants and New England Patriots aired on the NFL Network, NBC and CBS, but that was arranged as the Patriots sought the NFL's first 16-0 regular season.)

Fox and NBC will split duties throughout the season, and on NBC's roster of game analysts is former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. This is interesting for two reasons.

First, Garrett spent nine and a half seasons as the head coach of the Cowboys, and in that time the most notable thing he said as a public speaker was nothing. In fact, Garrett made a conscious choice to be so bland in his press availabilities that his persona became that of a robot

This was a choice by Garrett, and so it will be interesting to see if he unbuttons his collar in the TV booth to display the knowledge he accumulated over 16 seasons as an NFL quarterback and 17 as a coach. In fact, many assumed the man Garrett backed up in Dallas, Troy Aikman, was too bland to succeed in TV based off the interviews he gave as a player. Aikman is now the highest-paid analyst in sports television history.

And that brings us to our second point. Aikman, now the lead analyst for ESPN, played quarterback. So did CBS's lead NFL analyst, Tony Romo. So did ESPN's lead college football analyst, Kirk Herbstreit. And ESPN's No. 2 college football analyst. And ESPN's No. 3 college football analyst. And Fox's lead college football analyst.

In fact, a FootballScoop analysis (shown below) of more than 50 game analysts across all major NFL and college football networks, only two are primarily known as coaches -- Mark Helfrich for Fox college football, and Glenn Mason for Big Ten Network. A third, Rick Neuheisel, also calls select college games for CBS but primarily works out of their studio. (The other USFL analysts, for both NBC and Fox, were all players.)

Considering the outsize influence coaches have on the way the game is played, digested and consumed, it's worth asking why so few trade one headset for another.

One sports TV industry source theorized that the money has grown so much in coaching over the past decade or more that it's changed the calculus for the recently-out-of-work coach. A coach fresh out of years of 100-hour weeks can now afford to take a year or more off before jumping back in, he doesn't necessarily need to take a job in broadcasting to support himself. 

Also, the industry has grown to a point where, say, a Gary Patterson can take an off-the-field job that offers the same down-shift in intensity that broadcasting does while remaining tethered to the team day-to-day atmosphere. Players don't have a similar option; either you play or you don't. 

"Players, if they have any kind of media savvy at all, they're all going to scout out broadcasting. They have to be intentional about it. Coaches aren't that way," the source said. "They're making more money than they used to, staffs are bigger. I don't think it's networks preferring the opinions of players over coaches, it's just a bigger pool." 

"If you've got $10 million coming to you because you just got fired, you're not out there at the filling station asking if they're looking for window washers. You have to do it because you love to do it," Bill Curry told me. Curry spent 11 years calling college football games for ESPN following 17 seasons as the head coach at Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky. 

Another aspect, Curry said, that could keep a coach out of broadcasting is simple self-preservation. A coach using broadcasting to occupy time between coaching stints could be forced to criticize a colleague he'd one day like to hire. 

"I was pushed constantly to criticize the coaches more. I loved the guys we worked for (at ESPN), but I told them I'm always hard on what the coaches call, but I'm not going to say this guy's stupid and unqualified. Unfortunately now, that's what sells," Curry said. "I refused to end the career of one of my colleagues and there was tension because it was thought I wasn't hard enough on the coaches. I thought I was hard on the play calling, but I was not hard on the person." 

Curry later returned to coaching to found the Georgia State program, and retired for good in 2012. 

"Coaches understand when something doesn't go right, there's lots of study and research that goes into a game plan. You don't want to be critical of a decision because you don't know the work that went into it," AFCA executive director Todd Berry said. "I've heard from coaches that said the networks said they need to be more critical, to take the coaches to task and they don't want to do that. I did a little of it and I was very turned off by it. I had fun that day but then I'd hear from the network, 'We want you to be more aggressive,' and I just didn't feel like I had the knowledge base to do that."

Still, in an industry that was shaped by the late John Madden, it's puzzling why TV networks haven't proactively sought a coach's viewpoint. Amazon attempted to lure Sean McVay from the Rams sideline to its TV booth, but he opted to defend his Super Bowl title. Other than that, though, the TV booth is the one place in the football world that's almost entirely coach-free. 

Perhaps Jason Garrett stuns us all and becomes the next Madden. Or, more likely, he'll remind us all why so few coaches are interested in broadcasting, and why so few broadcasters are interested in coaches. 

NFL Game Analysts

ESPN
Troy Aikman -- quarterback

Amazon 
Kirk Herbstreit -- quarterback

NBC
Cris Collinsworth -- wide receiver

CBS
Tony Romo -- quarterback
Charles Davis -- safety
Trent Green -- quarterback
Adam Archuleta -- safety
James Lofton -- wide receiver
Jay Feely -- kicker
Tiki Barber -- running back

Fox
Greg Olsen -- tight end
Mark Schlereth -- offensive line
Jonathan Vilma -- linebacker
Daryl Johnston -- fullback
Mark Sanchez -- quarterback
Aqib Talib -- cornerback

College Football

ESPN
Kirk Herbstreit -- quarterback
Todd Blackledge -- quarterback
Greg McElroy -- quarterback
Dusty Dvoracek -- defensive tackle
Dan Orlovsky -- quarterback
Robert Griffin III -- quarterback
Rod Gilmore -- defensive back
Kirk Morrison -- linebacker
Kelly Stouffer -- quarterback
Rocky Boiman -- linebacker
Rene Ingoglia -- running back
Dustin Fox -- cornerback
Hutson Mason -- quarterback
Jay Walker -- quarterback

SEC Network
Jordan Rodgers -- quarterback
Deuce McAllister -- running back
Matt Stinchcomb -- offensive line

ACC Network
Tim Hasselback -- quarterback
Mark Herlizch -- linebacker
Roddy Jones -- running back

NBC
Drew Brees -- quarterback

CBS
Gary Danielson -- quarterback
Aaron Murray -- quarterback
Rick Neuheisel -- coach
Aaron Taylor -- offensive line
Ross Tucker -- offensive line
Randy Cross -- offensive line

Fox
Joel Klatt -- quarterback
Spencer Tillman -- running back
Mark Helfrich -- coach
Brock Huard -- quarterback
Robert Smith -- running back
Petros Papadakis -- running back

Big Ten Network
J Leman -- linebacker
Anthony Herron -- defensive end
Matt Millen -- offensive line
Glen Mason -- coach
Ben Leber -- linebacker

Pac-12 Network
Glenn Parker -- offensive line
Jeremy Bloom -- wide receiver
Yogi Roth -- wide receiver

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