The Quad-box King himself speaks with Boardroom about what it takes to put on seven straight hours of nonstop, whiparound NFL programming every Sunday.
The NFL is like a great action film — you aren’t going to get an explosion every second of a two-hour movie, but if it’s good, it should always make you feel like the next great moment is right around the corner.
That’s how NFL RedZone host Scott Hanson feels about his job. He just so happens to be the narrator of these great action films we call Sunday afternoon football.
“Hopefully, we’ve developed a rapport with the audience where they know, okay, this is going on right now, whatever the case may be. And it might not be super exciting, but the next jaw-dropping, thrilling moment is just seconds away because it’s NFL RedZone and they’re watching everything,” Hanson told Boardroom in September. “They’re gonna show me something from another stadium five seconds from now that I absolutely cannot miss.”
Hanson can’t miss it, either. He sets up behind his desk for seven straight hours on every NFL Sunday calling two different windows of games. He quite literally can’t move from his spot. After all, who else is going to call all this live action on NFL Network’s dedicated channel?
“The truth of the matter is I do not eat or go to the bathroom during the seven-hour show. I have a massive breakfast in the morning. The chefs at the network make me the same dense protein, salty breakfast, so I can retain water.
“And get this — my bladder is so used to Sundays that when I get done with the show, I don’t run to the bathroom. I get into my car, drive home, turn on Sunday Night Football, get a beverage, relax on my couch and I’ll be like, ‘oh yeah, I should probably go to the bathroom.’ It’s a crazy thing, but hey, it works for me.”
With that in mind, yes, there’s some comedic relief that goes along with how Hanson goes about his business, but his work is a testament to his hard work and steadfast commitment above all else. And contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only one day of work — NFL RedZone calls for a full week of preparation.
“As I’m talking to you right now, I’m sitting at my computer with about five different windows opened up, getting ready to put my spreadsheets together. What I like to do is pare down about 200-300 pages of notes into about 20 pages. I make my own spreadsheets, quarterback stats, kicker stats, wide receiver, running back stats, tight ends, defensive stats, turnovers, plus-minus — every type of conceivable stat that I might be able to use on RedZone.”
His love and passion for the game is what drives this bus; perhaps a more apt metaphor is one of leading his team up and down the field like a QB. That’s what makes the show so special in his eyes. And though he’s hosted the show for 13 years and come to own his status as its face, he couldn’t do any of this without his “coaches.”
“Put it in football terms. I might be the quarterback who’s the face of the team and gets the credit when the show is great, and of course, the blame when the show doesn’t go well,” Hanson said.
So, with an infinite number of possible scenarios and so many different experts required to deliver seven hours of anything and everything around the NFL, how does this team do it?
“It’s like an orchestra playing jazz music. We all know how to play our instruments, and hopefully, we’re tuned and doing well. But it’s jazz insofar as we have to react to whatever the football on the field provides us to cover. There’s probably nothing like it in sports television.”
As he explains the process, I feel like I’m sitting on my couch and listening to him call games. He’s rolling through different scenarios, different teams, different players. I tell him it’s nearly perfect.
And yes, Scott sees quality in the foundation of the show, but he’s always looking at ways to grow.
“We’ve integrated social media into it a little bit. The Bengals‘ social media accounts changed their bio line to ‘what are they even stealing?’ spelled out like S-T-E-E-L- I-N-G [laughs]. The Steelers social media account noticed that, and then Joe Burrow threw his fourth interception,” Hanson said. “So, the Steeler social media account posted a football as a response to the Bengals and it was beautiful. It happened to coincide with what was actually happening in the game with the Bengals turning the ball over five times, so we’re trying to incorporate those types of things into RedZone. Ultimately, what we want is not only every touchdown from every game, but every moment that people will be talking about on Monday.”
“They need to see it live or seconds after it happens on Sunday and sometimes that’s not a touchdown. Sometimes it’s a fantastic catch or a big hit or a boneheaded coaching decision. We wanna stay on top of it. We want everyone to come away from watching the show saying ‘I saw everything that there is to talk about in the NFL,” he said.
One of the biggest parts of becoming a successful broadcaster is the preparation process. Who, what, when, where, and why. But for NFL RedZone, it’s a little more. I suggest that it’s a blend of strategic planning and improv.
“Yeah, exactly,” Hanson said. “We’ve gone in sometimes and said, ‘hey, best-laid plan?’ We always joke. What game looks like a rough game? And then the next thing you know, there’s a game-winning touchdown as the clock hits zero. It never fails. The NFL always zigs when you think it’s gonna zag, so you always gotta go in and have a plan, but you gotta hold it loosely in your hands, because whatever happens is more important than whatever you think is gonna happen.”
Case in point: There were three improbable comebacks in Week 2: The Dolphins came back down 35-14 against the Ravens, the Cardinals erased a 20-0 halftime deficit, and the Jets came back from down 13 with less than two minutes left.
In those times, it all back to what he said about RedZone being like a great action movie.
“We have a game schedule board and I circle the winners. If the Panthers go up 35-0 in the third quarter, I’ll turn to my guys in the studio and I’ll ask, should I circle? I’m using an ink pen, so when I circle someone that means the game is over. The goal by the end of the year is that I will have never circled a team that actually lost the game. I’m learning my lesson more and more. It’s like, man, you have to wait until that final nail is on the coffin before you call it and say, ‘well that game’s over.’”
Like the best of action cinema, you still never know what to expect right up until the end credits roll.
During Week 1, Hanson and the crew showed a dropped pass off a beautifully thrown ball from Aaron Rodgers. As that replay cut out, they showed a catch from former Packer Davante Adams. Hanson seamlessly transitioned to the Raiders game and said, “Meanwhile, the man who probably would’ve caught that for Green Bay…”
“It’s a little bit like an NFL team’s game plan,” he said. “You go in with an idea, you go in with thoughts, you think this is what’s gonna be good for this situation, but when you’re live in the moment you roll with the reality, don’t get married to the idea. You can prepare as much as possible, but you roll with the punches and lock into the football storylines that are developing before our eyes, because that’s what the audience will want to see and deserves to see.”
Of course, we can’t wrap without discussing the “Witching Hour,” that mythical window within witch most NFL games are won and lost. I counter Scott’s now analogies with my own, suggesting that it’s like a climax in a movie — specifically when Andy Defresne finally escapes from prison in The Shawshank Redemption.
“Yeah, that’s me at the end of the show. Sometimes, when I’m so fried from all that stimulus and input, I’m up in the rain going, ‘ah… freedom!’”
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