One of the strongest, more insightful voices in the Saints’ locker room over the past dozen years should soon be serving as the soundtrack for future games. Anyone else besides Zach Strief would feel like an upset at this point.
It's not a done deal. There are still other candidates, some of whom are more than qualified to replace Jim Henderson as the Saints’ play-by-play announcer on WWL broadcasts, but there are few who have the upside, stature and star power that Strief can bring to the booth. That’s why it is starting to feel more and more like he will be announced as the pick before training camp starts, even if Mike Hoss, Sean Kelley and Joel Meyers all would be worthy replacements. Kristian Garic would have been another one, but it sounds like he will be moving from the sidelines to host the pregame and postgame shows.
Zach Strief got a call from Max Unger on Sunday.
The other candidates just happened to come up against a former player who might actually have the chops to pull off a challenging assignment, and a radio station that seems willing to give him the rope needed to settle into Henderson’s old role. Let’s face it: There are no smooth transitions when replacing icons, and none of the other guys has the upside Strief brings to the table.
Listeners are going to long for Henderson, regardless of who takes the seat next to analyst Deuce McAllister. It won’t matter whether it is someone as polished as Meyers or a rookie like Strief. Every mispronounced name, cadence issue or awkward moment will stand out for a few years until the new voice settles into the role and becomes as familiar as the old one.
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No offense to a strong cast of voices which reached the final round and went through auditions last week, but if that period is going to exist, it might make more sense to go with the guy who allows you to tout that you have two decades of playing experience in your booth. That’s a unique opportunity that probably won’t ever materialize again. It's just a bad year to have climbed the ranks the traditional way.
Still, Strief isn’t your typical former player. A lot of guys aren’t cut out for the play-by-play job. It’s not an easy task; just knowing the game and being able to break down a moment isn’t enough. The former Saints right tackle knows this and has been preparing for the opportunity like he would prepare for an opponent. He called more than 100 mock games, studied his tape and then sent it out for critiques.
Zach Strief's retirement hasn't exactly been a goodbye so far.
“I kind of tried to reach out to any resource I could that had experience in it,” Strief said during a recent interview. “Obviously, it’s a difficult job. I have a ton of respect for the people that do it, and you quickly become enamored with a few guys that you listen to. It’s something that I’d certainly have to grow into.”
What Strief quickly learned is that the hosting aspect of the job is perhaps the hardest part. That’s an area where the former Saint knows he needs work. The best play-by-play guys eventually sound like a friend. This is an area where Henderson excelled.
In time, if he’s given the opportunity, Strief could eventually reach that level. It will take time for anyone to get there, experienced or not. As this process nears its conclusion, it seems there is an obvious choice for a radio station that had the vision to include a recently retired player in the process.