12 Years Later, Rich Eisen Doesn’t Regret Leaving ESPN for the NFL Network

By Brian Flood 

The 2015 NFL season kicks off tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the New England Patriots. To help get you in the mood, we caught up with NFL Network anchor Rich Eisen to discuss his show, leaving ESPN and why he runs the 40-yard dash in a suit. Eisen also tells us his favorite meals, TV shows and admits his love for Jon Stewart.

In addition to being the face of the NFL Network, Eisen hosts The Rich Eisen Show weekdays from noon-3 p.m. ET on DirecTV channel 229. The show is also syndicated via Premiere Radio Networks, airs on Fox Sports Radio and is available on the NFL Now app.

TVNewser: You are getting ready to celebrate the first anniversary of The Rich Eisen Show. How’s the show doing these days?

Eisen: The show is doing great. The lights still work. And apparently, with the phone lines lighting up every day, so do the microphones. Our affiliate group is over 190 strong and now includes Sirius/XM Radio with the guest list getting more and more diverse by the day. For instance, on the very first day of the first NFL week of the season, we had both the Captain of the New York Giants Eli Manning and Captain America himself Chris Evans call in to the program. With us launching in the first week of October last year, I can’t wait to be in the chair every single day of the NFL season to take fans along for the ride.

TVNewser: You were the first anchor added to the NFL Network staff when it launched in 2003. Was it a tough decision to leave ESPN for a start-up network?

Eisen: Not really. By the time I left ESPN in 2003, SportsCenter had become a far different show than the one I initially joined in 1996. Thanks to the proliferation of information being consumed on mobile devices and the internet, management changed SportsCenter from being a show where highlights and storytelling ruled the day to a show where analysts ruled the day. In other words, with the growing assumption that people tuning into the show had already seen the highlights, SportsCenter went from a show about WHAT happened to a show about WHY something happened, with a debate between analysts attached. The role of host had changed entirely, so I asked to do other things in addition to SportsCenter. When that was mostly refused by management in charge at the time, moving out to Los Angeles to be the tip of the spear of a new channel devoted to the NFL became a no-brainer.

TVNewser: You famously run the 40-yard dash every year at the NFL Scouting Combine. It’s impressive, but why do you wear a suit?

Eisen: I wear a suit for two reasons. One, it’s my uniform. The Combine athletes run in theirs and I run in mine. Secondly, no one should be subjected to me wearing spandex. Heck, I should never subject myself to that.

TVNewser: You and ESPN’s Adam Schefter both went to Michigan for undergrad and then Northwestern for a master’s degree. So, if a young person out there wants to be an NFL broadcaster… is UM followed by Northwestern basically the road map to success?

Eisen: It’s not a bad roadmap whatsoever. That said, the number of ways to create content and distribute it these day are far greater than the time when Adam and I ran that journalism gauntlet in Ann Arbor and Evanston at the time. I’m sure if Adam had a website on which to blog and I had a YouTube account through which to post my broadcasts and stories on-line back in the day, we would have jumped at those chances. Thankfully it all worked out.

TVNewser: Ok, what’s your favorite meal in the country. Exact restaurant and order, please.

Eisen: On the East Coast: Rao’s. Meatballs, peas and prosciutto. Chicken parm. And toss in a slice of steak to boot. On the West Coast: Craig’s Restaurant in Los Angeles, whitefish grilled with olive oil, sauteed spinach with a cup of marinara sauce on the side.

TVNewser: What non-sports TV show are you currently watching?

Eisen: With Game of Thrones on a break, my wife, Suzy, and I have started re-watching Deadwood on HBO on Demand. It’s truly one of the greatest shows of all time. We hope the rumored movie reboot of the show is actually happening. I also already desperately miss Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Watched him every night. He’s a genius.