John Lynch was one of the hardest hitters in Bucs history. A third-round draft pick in 1993 out of Stanford, Lynch spent 11 seasons with the Bucs. The safety earned five trips to the Pro Bowl and helped the Bucs to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. He then moved to Denver, playing in four more Pro Bowls before leaving the game in 2008.
He traded in his helmet and pads for headphones and a microphone. Since the end of the 2008 season, Lynch, 39, has worked for Fox as an NFL game analyst. He will call today's Bucs-Vikings game along with broadcast partner Dick Stockton.
Lynch spoke on the phone from his suburban Denver home last week on everything from breaking down his work week to ex-Bucs in the booth:
How much have you enjoyed broadcasting?
I've really enjoyed it. My last year in the league (in 2008), I was with Denver, and then I went to camp with New England; I didn't jump into (broadcasting) full throttle. I wanted to make sure playing was out of my system first. I love the game, and I love to share my passion for the game and the knowledge I've accrued over 15 years. But, you know, every time I'm in the booth, I still wish I could be on the field.
Is announcing harder than you thought or easier?
Much harder. My first time up in the booth, I wasn't sure what to look at. Do I look at the field? Do I look at the monitor? … I adapted fairly quickly. (Fox NFL producer) Ed Goren said he believes being an analyst for the NFL and football is the toughest job in sports. You have 14, 15 seconds to make a strong point, talk about what just happened or what is about to happen. You have to be concise because the next play is starting.
You played for a long time. Is it difficult to be critical, especially because there are some guys still playing whom you used to play with?
I haven't really struggled with that. I sometimes had a problem when I played with something an announcer said, but the only time it bothered me was when the guy hadn't done his prep and was completely wrong. That's why I take on this job responsibly. I study hard and make informed, educated comments. There are certain things I won't hesitate to criticize, such as lack of effort. There are guys who dream of playing in this league, and if you're fortunate enough to make it and you don't put in the effort? That's unacceptable.
What's your typical week like?
Early on, I didn't like watching myself on TV. Then Ed Goren said, "Hey, you watched game film from the previous game when you played, right?" I said, "Yeah." And he said, "Why don't you watch your games now then?" So flying back home Sunday night, I now watch the game I just called and listen to how I did. On Monday, I get the game films from the teams I'm going to call the next week, and I study those. I still have lots of connections in the league, so during the week, I talk to a lot of people. Then we arrive in the town of the game we're calling on Friday, go to practice, talk to people there. Saturday, the visiting team comes in and we meet with them, and then Sunday, it's game time. Then it starts all over again. … I probably look at more game film now than when I was a player.
Yeah. When I played, I just look at the other team's offense and our defense. But now I'm looking at four sides — both teams' offenses and defenses.
What are you looking for?
I'm looking, mostly, at how I would attack these guys. What do they like to do in certain situations? What works? What doesn't work?
How exciting is it when you see something on film and then it happens in a game that you're calling?
That's the thing that is so gratifying — seeing something come to fruition. It's great when a team is running the ball and you see the other team's safety cheating and you say, "Don't be surprised if they throw the ball over the top here." And then it happens. That's the best.
So there's you and Jon Gruden and Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson and Trent Dilfer. What is it with all the former Bucs in broadcasting?
(Laughs) I know, it's unbelievable. And there's Herm Edwards and Tony Dungy. Hey, we had a smart, entertaining group that was never really quiet. We still debate football all the time.
You call Bucs preseason games, so you follow them. Did you see a 10-win season coming last year?
I think most people were saying two or three wins. I thought it was an eight-win team. So I can't say I saw 10 wins coming, but I thought they were getting better. I think Raheem Morris did a marvelous job of coaching. … I will toot my own horn and say that I saw the value of Josh Freeman. I said all along this was a big-time quarterback. He got the chance and proved he was a franchise quarterback.
What did you see in him?
What didn't I see? I remember some people questioning the Bucs taking him in the draft. But not me. First off, he walks into a room and he looks like a defensive lineman. But aside from the physical traits, he has a maturity about him. He's an intelligent kid. You can feel his presence. You can sense how important the game is to him, and it shows in his work habits. He's a special player.
What were your thoughts on the Bucs' opening-game loss?
Well, I think this is a team that sorely needed an offseason. Week 1, they looked like a young football team that needed all the reps they can get. The preseason wasn't as impressive as you would like to have seen, and it carried over to Week 1. This is a team that is not clicking on all cylinders. They didn't run the ball effectively, and Josh didn't seem sharp. You can't ease into this thing.
How much of a concern should that loss be?
Well, a lot of teams are going through this. A lot of teams missed not working out in the offseason. Then you take a veteran team like New England. Those guys have been together for years, playing the same system, and they look great. Younger teams need to adjust still. That's what the Bucs need to do.