The New Orleans Saints need to find their voice.
The broadcast booth emptied when long-time play-by-play man Jim Henderson relinquished the post earlier this year, leaving a massive hole for WWL to fill before the start of next season. The radio station is taking a measured approach, recently posting the vacancy, and are working to comb through candidates.
It will be impossible to find someone who possesses the grace and connection with fans Henderson built during his decades on the job. He casts a long shadow, one that will remain for years until whoever replaces him settles in, becomes a familiar voice and builds the same kind of bond with color analyst Deuce McAllister that Henderson shared with the late Hokie Gajan.
While the station won’t close itself off to the right candidates from outside the market, WWL and its parent company, Entercom, typically like to look inside its walls and then within the market when making hires. That criteria could make someone like Kristian Garic, who recently replaced Deke Bellavia on its flagship show, “Sports Talk,” a top candidate for the position.
While the station isn't tipping its hand on who is in the running for the job, it's not hard to come up with a list of candidates when considering that criteria.
Other locals who should be in the mix are Mike Hoss, Joel Meyers and Sean Kelley. The station might also want to see if someone like Tim Brando, who is from the area, would be interested in coming home after serving as a national broadcaster for the last several years. Or maybe someone from outside the market, like Panthers color analyst Jim Szoke, might be itching to serve as the voice of a franchise.
But before locking in on anyone, WWL might want to see if there are any “wild cards” out there. It might sound like a wacky idea, but perhaps former Saints offensive lineman Zach Strief is looking for a way to remain involved in the game. He recently filled in alongside Garic on “Sports Talk” and will be part of the station’s draft coverage. Maybe he’ll get bit by the bug during those appearances.
Strief might have zero experience as a broadcaster, which matters considering how big this job is, but think about it: Henderson is not going to be easy to replace. Whoever steps in will draw critical ears from those used to hearing the legendary broadcaster. There will certainly be some rough moments as that person builds chemistry with McAllister. Strief would be granted more leniency with listeners than anyone else mentioned.
If you’re going to endure growing pains, why not do it with someone who has the upside of Strief? Just imagine the possibilities of having two people in the booth with 20 years of NFL experience between them. If he were to approach his broadcasting career with the same level of dedication and preparation he put into his playing career, the learning curve might not be as steep as it seems on its face.
Read more about this at TheAdvocate.com.
Potential local candidates
Kristian Garic, co-host of WWL’s “Sports Talk”
Garic is local, knows the team and is established as a key voice at WWL. He has worked as the sideline reporter and filled in for Henderson during a 2016 game when the Saints played the Cardinals. His chemistry with McAllister should be also be a consideration.
Mike Hoss, sideline host for Saints games
Saints fans who attend games are familiar with Hoss, who works as the in-game host at Saints games. He has a lot of experience working as a broadcaster and owns his own media company, Hoss Communications.
Joel Meyers, play-by-play announcer on Pelicans TV broadcasts
Meyers’ voice is familiar to local sports fans, as he currently serves as the play-by-play man on TV broadcasts. He also calls Saints preseason games on TV. It would be an easy transition for him.
Sean Kelley, play-by-play announcer on Pelicans radio broadcasts
Kelley calls Pelicans games on the radio and has served as the color analyst on Saints' preseason games. He has plenty of experience and a pre-existing relationship with Saints fans as the host of the “Black and Blue” podcast.
Tim Brando, broadcaster for Fox Sports and Raycom Sports
Brando serves as the play-by-play voice for college football and college basketball games on Fox and Fox Sports 1. Perhaps the Shreveport native is ready to return home to end his long and illustrious career.
Zach Strief, the wild-card candidate
Strief has no experience as a broadcaster, but he was one of the more well-spoken members of the Saints during his 12-year career. While there would be a learning curve, he would make the broadcasts a must-listen experience every week.