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The Hosts of ‘Fox NFL Sunday’ Share Their Secrets to Success

How they foster success and camaraderie both on- and off-screen

by Bill Kearney

November 1, 2023

From left: Jay Glazer, Michael Strahan, Howie Long, Curt Menefee, Jimmy Johnson and Terry Bradshaw / Photo: Courtesy of John Russo

It was an Intergenerational comedic moment that could have happened in any living room in America: a Gen Xer explaining online “catfishing” hoaxes to a perplexed Baby Boomer. Except the Gen Xer was beloved Super Bowl winner Michael Strahan and the Boomer was football deity and four-time Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw. The 75-year-old Bradshaw’s only knowledge of catfishing was catching ’em and frying ’em up. As Strahan explained, Bradshaw furrowed his brow at how absurd the 21st century can be. It was damn good television. And that this intergenerational banter happened on a show about football is an example of what makes Fox NFL Sunday so special.

Some 4.5 million Americans agree. Every fall Sunday at noon Eastern time, before the slate of games kicks off, Fox NFL Sunday unleashes gridiron legends Bradshaw, Strahan, Jimmy Johnson and Howie Long into America’s living rooms, along with the show’s “point guard,” Curt Menefee, and dogged scoop reporter Jay Glazer. The show strikes a delicate but often raucous balance between hard-earned NFL insights and entertainment.

“We’re not a sports show. We’re an entertainment show about sports,” says executive producer Bill Richards. “To me, if you were to go with those guys to a bar and watch the Chiefs game, and say, ‘Hey, let’s get there an hour early and just catch up,’ that’s what the show is. It’s that hour before the game, hanging with the guys.”

The result is an unbridled success: This is Fox NFL Sunday’s 30th season, and its 29th as the nation’s top-rated Sunday pregame show. Three of the guys—Bradshaw, Long and Johnson—are original cast members, though Johnson took a four-year hiatus to coach the Miami Dolphins. Glazer joined the team in 2004, Menefee in 2007, and Strahan in 2008.

Strahan (standing) enthuses over a play as Menefee, Bradshaw, Long and Johnson look on / Photo: Courtesy of Lily Ro Photography for Fox Sports

Go Time

It’s a minute before going live. The guys walk to their seats at the big desk, glance through their notes one last time. Each man looks dapper—Long and Strahan slimmer than when they played, still agile; Bradshaw square-jawed and flush with adrenaline, ready to rumble; Johnson, age 80, with perfect posture and hair as sculpted as a cruise ship’s bow. Menefee, the smooth operator, is a deep well of calm before he starts the show off, while Glazer is offstage working his connections for scoops.

We’re live. Menefee drives up court, so to speak, teasing big games of the day—something magical could happen in those stadiums today, and the guys are excited. Strahan works in a joke about Bradshaw playing before anyone wore helmets, Long analyzes what a nasty defense will do to a beleaguered quarterback, Bradshaw sticks up for said beleaguered quarterback. There’s no script per se, but everyone knows what topics they’re expected to riff on or dissect, and they’re each looking for moments to agree, disagree, rib, cajole.

When it works right, it’s an uncanny balance of information, camaraderie and the sense that you’re hanging out with football icons. There’s enough mayhem to add energy, but not so much that they’re stepping on each other’s toes.

“You have to have a group that can do that,” says Long. “Part of that is the nuance of understanding the rhythm of someone’s conversation. You understand, when you’re cutting in on Terry or something, you know when to do it.”

That jazz, that ability to scramble, requires preparation. On Thursday of any given week, Richards gives the guys a list of games and subjects the producers are keen on. “I’m really big on never telling them what to say. I’m a TV guy, they’re all NFL guys, they’re all in Canton [the Pro Football Hall of Fame]. So I’m not going to tell them anything about football.” It’s then up to each cohost to study up and deliver something only they can.

“All my guys do their homework,” says Menefee, a man of vast curiosity who knows about studying—he earned a master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University during the Covid pandemic. “They do it on a different level in different ways. But by doing their homework, they’re able to bring something to the table on Sundays.”

They each have supreme gridiron cred: Long spent 13 seasons with the notoriously rough Raiders, first in Oakland and then in Los Angeles, and won a lopsided Super Bowl against the Washington Redskins in 1984. Johnson won a college national championship as a defensive lineman for the University of Arkansas in 1964, coached the University of Miami Hurricanes to an undefeated season and a college national championship in 1987, and won back-to-back Super Bowls as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 1993 and 1994. Bradshaw chucked the rock for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was the keystone to their 1970s dynasty, resulting in four Super Bowl wins. Strahan won a Super Bowl when his New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in 2007, and he still holds the NFL single-season sack record with 22.5 sacks.

Johnson prepares for a segment / Photo: Courtesy of Lily Ro Photography for Fox Sports

The Brotherhood

When asked about the secret to the show’s success, to a man, the cast members say it’s the camaraderie. And their connections reach far beyond the show.

Glazer first met Strahan back in the 1990s when Glazer was a young, broke-beat reporter covering the New York Giants. “Michael was my first friend in the league. We just latched on to each other, and thank God, because I wouldn’t be where I am without him. I didn’t have enough money to take a subway and a bus to Giants Stadium and back every day. Strahan ended up driving me back into the city every single day from ’94 to ’99, so I owe him, like, 26 grand in Lincoln Tunnel fare.”

Today, Glazer is godfather to one of Strahan’s twins. Glazer also says he has learned how to be a father from Long. “I adopted my son, Sammy, and I really learned from Howie how to be a dad—just some of the responsibilities you have as a dad, like where you draw a line with tough love. I didn’t know what I was doing, but Howie, he’s such an amazing father.”

Back in the 1960s, Johnson recruited Bradshaw out of high school and later recruited Strahan out of college to play for the Cowboys, but he never coached them. These days, everyone’s welcome at Johnson’s home in the Florida Keys. He likes to tell the tale of how Bradshaw, as courageous as he was in the pocket, is afraid to even dip a toe in the ocean.

“No, no, I don’t get in the ocean!” says Bradshaw. “I’m scared of sharks. My wife makes me watch Shark Week and that has ruined me.”

The two elder statesmen of the show, Johnson and Bradshaw, watch college football together most Saturdays, to the point where Bradshaw has customized his Los Angeles hotel room with two recliners. Long, who sometimes pays them a visit, says, “Those Saturday afternoons may be as much about nachos and beer as about football.”

“We don’t just show up on Sunday and pretend that we’re buddies,” says Menefee. “There’s a camaraderie that exists when we’re not on the air—the text chains that we have go on year-round.” He sees a deeper meaning to the show’s appeal. “There are so few places where people feel unified in this country right now, or where they have common ground. Football is certainly one of them, and our pregame show is, too. People feel familiar with those guys—they’re embedded in the lives and the fabric of most Americans.”

Bradshaw is elated about an upcoming game / Photo: Courtesy of Lily Ro Photography for Fox Sports

Conflict and Vulnerability

It’s not always peace, love and understanding, however. “There are six of us on the show,” says Glazer. “There are 19 personalities and Bradshaw and I got 12 of them. We’re all high-testosterone brothers, so we’re gonna fight. Every one of us has gotten in fights, especially me and Stray, but we hash it out like brothers.”

Bradshaw relays a story of hashing it out over a conflict that he says was his fault. In an attempt to tease the younger Strahan and Long a few years ago, he joked that they didn’t have the steroids out of their systems. “Michael laughed. Howie was not happy with me at all,” he says. “So we go to commercial break, and Howie said, ‘Really, was that necessary?’ And you know what? It wasn’t. Howie is a dear friend that I love like a brother and I hurt him. I mean, I could see it, and it just killed me. So I didn’t tell anybody what I was going to do. I just said, ‘Put the camera on me coming out of commercial break.’ And they gave me 10 seconds, and I apologized on national TV, because my relationship with him goes way past the show.

“I don’t like people to be upset with me,” Bradshaw continues. “I like people to like me.” That’s not the kind of vulnerability you’d expect from a hardened football legend, but both he and Glazer have been very public about their struggles with mental health. Bradshaw was diagnosed with clinical depression in 1999, and Glazer penned the 2022 book Unbreakable: How I Turned My Depression and Anxiety Into Motivation and You Can Too.

“The depression thing for a man is very difficult because society has, in the past—not necessarily now—looked upon it as a weakness in who you are,” says Bradshaw. “I went through three years of therapy and learned a whole lot about depression and a whole lot about me and I was able to handle whatever the public threw at me.”

Part of handling criticism, for Bradshaw, has been finding a sanctuary within himself, from which to emerge strong. He feels for some of the players today. “Sometimes I can see these young quarterbacks playing, and you can tell they’re just wonderful guys. And I say to myself, All that guy needs to do is find out where he can get to that fuck-you, that place where they can’t hurt you, and then come out strong mentally, strong emotionally.”

Glazer says his proudest Fox NFL Sunday moment isn’t a scoop, but rather a candid conversation. “We’re in a hotel together—me, Howie, Terry, Curt. Terry comes in and says, ‘I want to tell you, as someone who understands it, that I’m just having one of those bad days between the ears.’ And I said, ‘I got you, bro.’ He said, ‘I just want to tell you because you understand.’ You want to talk about brotherhood—that was better than any scoop at Fox. That was my finest moment at Fox, being able to help my brother.”

Side Gigs

All of the guys are busy outside the show, but some are more entrepreneurial than others. Johnson has Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill restaurant in Key Largo, and Glazer has a private gym tucked away in West Hollywood, Unbreakable, where L.A.’s elite and celebs train in small teams that blend fitness and mixed-martial-arts skills. Glazer himself has taught plenty of NFL players how to throw a punch combo or arm bar.

Strahan, of course, is one of the co-anchors of ABC’s Good Morning America and hosts The $100,000 Pyramid, but he’s also an entertainment entrepreneur as a partner in SMAC Entertainment, which manages talent such as Deion Sanders, Tony Gonzalez and Wiz Khalifa. He’s also the executive producer of BS High, the HBO documentary about a football team formed around a seemingly fake high school. Then there’s a clothing line at JCPenney and Men’s Wearhouse, and a men’s skincare line. “Part of me thinks that I’m crazy,” he says. “The other part thinks that, you know, I don’t know how to retire.”

And then there’s Bradshaw. He has created businesses out of what he enjoys in life. Bradshaw Bourbon has won gold medals at competitions and accolades from the very picky bourbon critic Fred Minnick. Bradshaw Ranch Think N Juicy is his frozen burger company. He also likes to sing and tell stories, so he performs a one-man show in Branson, Missouri. He loves horses, too, and breeds quarter horses. “I’ve got a full slate,” he says, “and I love it. I don’t have a problem workin’. Workin’ is gooooood.

It would not be far-fetched to think that Johnson might retire from the show next year. But it also wouldn’t be far-fetched for him to keep on keepin’ on.

“Listen, we all have seasons to our lives,” says Long. “And Jimmy’s 80 years old. Jimmy appreciates the good moments more now than he ever has.”

Johnson spends most of his days down in the Florida Keys, in Islamorada, where, as often as he can, he runs his fishing boat out beyond sight of land to the deep currents of the Gulf Stream (he’s particularly proud of the five blue marlin he caught this year). “My wife’s not real happy with it, but I’d say about 50 percent of the time I go out by myself. I’ll go out before daylight. And sometimes I don’t even put a hook in the water. I get up in the tower and you know, if it’s real flat, I’ll ride around. Look at stuff. It’s just so peaceful for me. After the stress that I went through for about 30 or 40 years, I needed some peaceful time.”

Hopping on flights to Los Angeles to shoot the show disrupts the peace, but Johnson says it’s worth it. “I used to say the most fun time of my life was my five years at the University of Miami—we were so good, we were just kicking everybody’s ass. But really I think the most fun time of my life is right now. And it’s because of Fox NFL Sunday.”