Fox’s Kevin Burkhardt is the not-so-secret sauce behind Greg Olsen’s success

Lost in this paralysis about analysis is Burkhardt, whose ascent has been more unlikely than Olsen’s. Twenty years ago, Burkhardt left broadcasting to sell cars.

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Kevin Burkhardt, Erin Andrews and Greg Olsen will call the Super Bowl on Sunday for Fox.

Michael Ainsworth/AP

Kevin Burkhardt called it.

About 16 months ago, I spoke with Burkhardt, then Fox’s No. 2 play-by-play voice, about his new partner, Greg Olsen. They were preparing to call the Bears-Browns game, which wound up being Justin Fields’ first NFL start and an unmitigated disaster — but that’s not important right now.

Olsen, the Bears’ 2007 first-round draft pick, was entering just his third broadcast that season, though he had called five XFL games with Burkhardt in 2020. But Burkhardt had heard enough of Olsen to have an opinion.

“He’s gonna be a star,” Burkhardt told me. “He wants to be great, and he wants to be a great teammate. He fits right in with our entire group seamlessly, and he’s been with us for two games. He comes up with ideas, we bust each other’s chops. We have a long way to go, but it’s been a really fun start.”

And it has continued. Neither could have possibly imagined they’d be preparing this week to call their first Super Bowl on Sunday between the Chiefs and Eagles. But after a game of broadcaster musical chairs saw Fox’s top crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman leave for ESPN, here they are.

Olsen has been in the spotlight for his outstanding analysis and the awkward position Fox put him in by hiring Tom Brady to eventually replace him. Brady said this week he won’t begin his broadcasting career until 2024, giving Olsen a reprieve. Interestingly, Fox’s next Super Bowl is after that season.

Lost in this paralysis about analysis is Burkhardt, who won’t be going anywhere when Brady arrives. His ascent has been more unlikely than Olsen’s. Twenty years ago, Burkhardt was toiling in small-town radio in his native New Jersey, earning little pay while working tons of hours. His career going nowhere, he left broadcasting to sell cars.

But Burkhardt kept sending tapes to radio stations in New York. He finally caught on with WCBS part-time, then WFAN full-time. His big break came in 2006, when SNY hired him to be the field reporter for Mets games. Viewers adored him, and Fox noticed him. In 2013, the network paired Burkhardt with then-analyst, now 49ers general manager John Lynch, and the rest is history.

Burkhardt is great calling play-by-play. Perhaps working at the same network as Buck rubbed off because they’re similar. Like Buck, Burkhardt often lets the camera and the crowd do the talking. He’ll describe a big play with few words, then step back. That’s how it should be done on TV.

He and Olsen are a perfect match. It must help that they have a shared history. At WGHT, a 1,000-watt AM station, Burkhardt called some of Olsen’s football games at Wayne Hills High School, where Olsen’s father, Chris, was the coach. Burkhardt joked to me that one of his first production meetings was with Chris, who would break down film with him.

When Olsen auditioned with Fox in 2014, Burkhardt did the play-by-play. They teamed up for real in 2017, when Olsen served as an analyst during a Panthers bye week.

Burkhardt doesn’t have the desire to dominate a broadcast. He’d rather pass the baton to Olsen, who has taken it and run. Burkhardt is naturally easygoing, and that’s how he sounds on the air. He’s a pleasant listen. But he can crank up the volume when necessary.

Fox deserves a lot of credit for their talent evaluating and matchmaking, and Olsen deserves credit for putting in the work. But this Super Bowl booth starts with Burkhardt. That same day I spoke with him, I spoke with Olsen, and it was clear how much he appreciated his broadcast partner.

“I know a lot of people say this, but the reality is the team I got put with has set me up to be successful,” Olsen said. “I just have to follow Kevin’s lead. He makes everything so smooth and easy. It’s so clear with every broadcast that Kevin has no ego. He wants to make his partner sound good and feel comfortable.”

That’s exactly how the audience will feel Sunday.

FOX’S SUPER BOWL SUNDAY LINEUP

10 a.m. – “Skip & Shannon: Undisputed Super Bowl Special”

With Skip Bayless, Shannon Sharpe and Jen Hale.

11 a.m. – “Road to the Super Bowl”

Watch how the Chiefs and Eagles made it to the Super Bowl through the lens of NFL Films.

Noon – “Fox Super Bowl LVII Pregame”

The casts of “Fox NFL Sunday” and “Fox NFL Kickoff” combine for 5 ½ hours of programming.

5:30 p.m. – Super Bowl LVII

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen will call the action, Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi will report from the sidelines and Mike Pereira will provide rules analysis.

9 p.m. – “Fox Super Bowl LVII Postgame Show”

Postgame coverage continues afterward on FS1.

FOX’S 10th SUPER BOWL BY THE NUMBERS

13 – Pylon cameras

20 – Miles of fiber and cable installed on Super Bowl grounds

29 – Field-level microphones

29 – Super Bowls covered between Fox NFL lead game director Rich Russo and Fox NFL lead producer Richie Zyontz (5th for Russo as lead director, 7th for Zyontz as lead producer)

94 – Cameras covering Super Bowl LVII (44 game cameras, 18 pregame cameras, 16 robotic cameras)

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