Asked for his thoughts this week about how the Bears handled the Roquan Smith situation, Alex Brown thought back to his playing days with the team.
“That particular system, when we saw [linebacker] Lance Briggs come in at 230, 235 pounds, you knew he was going to be an All-Pro that year,” said Brown, a defensive end in 2002-09. “When he came in at 245, 248, you knew it was going to be a struggle all year trying to get him down so he can be that player.
“Roquan could fit in this system if he got his body right. He needed to lose 10 pounds, 12 pounds maybe to be a superstar in this defense. He’s a tackling machine, and this is what the ‘Will’ linebacker is, make tackles in space. Absolutely Roquan can do that. He is a phenomenal player.”
But he won’t be for the Bears after general manager Ryan Poles traded him to the Ravens this week. Still, Brown said the Bears handled the situation correctly.
“When you look at Roquan, coming in as a rookie, he held out. This year, held out,” Brown said. “If you don’t think your close on a contract, you franchise him, you can bet your butt that he’s going to hold out and not come play until he absolutely has to. Do you want to go through that, or is it better for the team to get a second- and a fifth-[round draft pick] and move on from that big contract?”
That’s the kind of commentary viewers of NBC Sports Chicago’s “Football Aftershow” have come to expect from Brown, who has been a part of the network’s Bears postgame coverage since 2016. But he’s standing out this season after Olin Kreutz’s departure from the show.
Kreutz had become the de facto lead analyst for his biting commentary, but an incident in May at CHGO Sports prompted NBCSCH to remove him from the cast. The show goes on with host David Kaplan, former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt, Briggs and Brown.
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Brown leans on his playing experience to put the current Bears in perspective. His career ran the gamut, from playing for a four-win team in 2002 to playing in Super Bowl XLI. He endured a rebuild, as well, when then-GM Jerry Angelo hired Lovie Smith to coach in 2004.
Brown lives in Atlanta and is an executive sales representative for Traffic Tech, a logistics company based in Chicago. He follows the Bears throughout the week and flies in the day before a game. The arrangement allows him to spend time with his wife, son and three daughters.
When he played, Brown respected those who worked in the media, calling them the bridge between players and fans. He said he knew he wanted to join them after his career.
“I love taking to people, and I love football,” Brown said. “If somehow I could convince someone to pay me to talk about football, it’d be awesome. That led me down that path.”
Brown had a stint at 120 Sports, which morphed into Stadium, and he appeared on radio shows. He hasn’t had any broadcast training, but he had plenty of practice answering questions as an athlete.
“At about 14-15 years old, I was starting to get interviewed after football games and basketball games, and you start to understand,” Brown said. “You hear the question, you think about it briefly but quickly and then you give an answer that you won’t mind hearing two, three hours later.”
Brown said the hardest part of starting out as an analyst was speaking critically of former teammates who were still playing.
“You have to be honest and evaluate them,” he said. “When they didn’t play well, you have to say that. And then you’re going to dinner with them afterward and they’re looking at you funny. But now that all those guys are gone, you can truly be as unbiased as you can without piling on.”
As much as he enjoys his job at NBCSCH, Brown has other aspirations. Remember, he’s from Florida, and he played at the University of Florida.
“I like talking about teams that I love. I love the Bears, and I love my Florida Gators,” Brown said. “I love the SEC. I’d love to do the Bears or the SEC Network. That’s the only way I would ever stop everything and go down to the SEC Network if they called me. That would be my dream job.”
If Brown keeps this up, he just might live that dream.