First things first: If Tom Brady or Peyton Manning ever conveyed even a scintilla of interest in a post-NFL TV job, the football-airing networks would make a beeline for their services at Chris Johnson--like speeds—and that's CJ2K circa 2009. But if you want a winner in the Brady-Manning derby, it's Peyton by a landslide. Every network with an NFL contract has a list of players and coaches who would make ideal broadcasters, and Manning ranks near the top of every one, based on his comfort in front of the camera, his ease in discussing X's and O's, and his sense of humor. Brady does radio in Boston and has a guest spot on Westwood One's Monday Night Football pregame. He's engaging and occasionally sneaky-funny—but Manning's on another level.
"The market for either would be very hot," adds NBC Football Night in America producer Fred Gaudelli. "They share a few traits that portend success: Both are highly intelligent and keenly observant of their surroundings, both enjoy the daily grind of doing what it takes to be better and, most important, both are extremely passionate about football."
Gaudelli imagines Brady and Manning excelling as analysts or in studio roles, though the latter would demand firing off opinion after opinion. "And I don't think either one wants to be that guy," he says. "What I would love more than anything else: both in the booth together. Now that would be must-see TV."
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY DARROW