Sports media: Former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt shines as everyone’s analyst

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Dave Wannstedt, with host Luke Stuckmeyer, explains a play from the Patriots-Bears game using a touch screen on “Touchdowns and Takeaways” on NBC Sports Chicago. The show airs at 6:30 p.m. Mondays when there isn’t a conflict with a game. | NBCSCH

Dave Wannstedt could have his own television channel. That’s how packed his weeks are as a football analyst.

Wannstedt, who was the Bears’ coach from 1993 to ’98, makes eight regular appearances a week. He’s on three TV networks and a radio station. He works from Chicago and Los Angeles.

And he never dreamed he’d be doing any of it.

“I figured that I would coach until I fell over dead,” said Wannstedt, 66, who coached college and pro ball for 39 years. “I never thought about doing anything other than coaching.”

Yet, you can find Wannstedt talking football six days a week.

On Mondays, he’s on the new “Touchdowns & Takeaways” on NBC Sports Chicago. On Mondays and Wednesdays, he’s at the Big Ten Network, where he appears on “B1G Football & Beyond” and “Inside the Game.” He’s in studio on The Score twice a week, Tuesdays with “Mully and Haugh” in the morning and Thursdays with “McNeil and Parkins” in the afternoon.

Also on Thursdays, he records the Pro Football Weekly TV show at NBCSCH. And on Saturdays and Sundays, he’s in Century City, California, for “Fox College Football Pregame” and “Fox NFL Kickoff.” He takes the first flight to Los Angeles on Friday morning and returns Sunday night, though this week he left Wednesday because FS1 carried a game Thursday night.

“He doesn’t really need to do any of the things that he’s doing,” said Kevin Cross, NBCSCH vice president of content. “He does it because he enjoys it and he wants to be really good at it.”

And Wannstedt is good at it. He’s an educator when it comes to imparting his football knowledge, and he had formal training with renowned voice coach Arthur Joseph upon joining Fox’s college football coverage for his first media job in 2014.

He also prepares as though he were still a coach, organizing and researching his material on Tuesdays at the Wrigley Building office of his agent, Bryan Harlan. He watches video of the teams he analyzes and of himself, making sure he’s explaining his points clearly and not being overly technical.

But you can’t learn personality, and Wannstedt has it in abundance. On “Touchdowns & Takeaways,” he’s demonstrative just breaking down a play. On the radio, he regales listeners with stories from his coaching days. You feel his passion for football. It’s almost as though he’s coaching you. After all, he signs his emails “Coach.”

“One thing about coaches is, once they’re done coaching, they’re better analysts,” said Harlan, who reached out to Fox and others after Wannstedt’s last coaching job in 2013 with the Buccaneers. “Dave fit that bill. When he was coaching, he was a little reserved. Once a guy is done and he can talk freely, they become much better analysts.”

“Dave is so well-liked by the audience because of his engaging personality and honest opinions,” said Mitch Rosen, The Score’s operations director. “Since he coached the Bears, I really think his popularity has sky-rocketed with sports fans in Chicago.”

When he coached the Bears, Wannstedt didn’t have the success of his predecessor, Mike Ditka. He went 40-56 and won one playoff game. But he didn’t have nearly the adversarial relationship with the media that Ditka did. Still, Wannstedt said he wasn’t exactly himself.

“I was very guarded and always concerned about what I said,” Wannstedt said. “I was always more than cooperative, more than friendly, but I was guarded with my personality in the media. I always felt like it had to be business-like.


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“Once I was done coaching and I started exploring the media, I came to the conclusion I’m really not worried about a coaching job anymore. I’m not worried about saying something. I want to have fun with it and let my real personality come out. Once I made that decision, it really has been pretty easy.”

Wannstedt has taken to heart the advice Fox gave him when he started: Be factual and take your audience into account.

“They said we want the people watching saying, ‘I would love to go to a bar and watch a game with this guy,’ ” Wannstedt said. “I always think about that. That’s the audience that I’m talking to.”

“He relates to the people on the other side of the camera. He’s not just talking to a camera,” Cross said. “He enjoys being with people. You see him out and about, he’s very personable.”

If you live downtown, you might see Wannstedt out and about. He lives within walking distance from all his jobs in Chicago.

He’ll leave town when the regular season ends and return to his home in Naples, Florida, where he’ll rest up for another packed football season. He’ll also go on a couple of fishing trips with longtime friend Jimmy Johnson, with whom Wannstedt coached at five stops in college and the pros.

During the season, the two visit over coffee at the odd time of 4 a.m. Pacific on Sundays in the green room at Fox studios. Before they prep for their respective pregame shows – Wannstedt’s show precedes Johnson’s “Fox NFL Sunday” – they talk about the games they’ve watched and retell the stories they’ve shared.

“It is kind of comical,” Wannstedt said, “because we sit in there and now everything is, ‘Why’d they call that play?’

“We talk about everything. All the places that we coached and all the fun stuff we did. It’s a good time.”

Wannstedt is having a very good time in his second career.

“It’s not a job to me. I do this because I enjoy it, I love it,” Wannstedt said. “And hopefully that comes out.”

Remote patrol

  • Jason Goff, formerly of The Score, is co-hosting the morning show on SiriusXM’s new Big Ten channel. Goff and Anthony Herron, a football analyst for The Score, are on from 6 to 9 a.m., with an encore broadcast immediately after.
  • The Jets-Bears game Sunday is receiving top billing from CBS. The No. 1 crew of Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson have the call.
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