Patrick, with multiple roles, proves there’s life after ESPN

As A-list talent left ESPN this summer — Bill Simmons, followed by Keith Olbermann, followed by Colin Cowherd— I often heard people bring up Dan Patrick as the person who created a blueprint for a successful life after Bristol.

Rather than signing with a single company when he left ESPN in 2007, Patrick has spread his services around to several outlets: hosting a radio show with DirecTV, writing a Sports Illustrated column, and anchoring NBC Sportsstudio shows.

For the past year, he also has hosted “Sports Jeopardy” on Crackle, a Sony-owned digital network. Patrick, who is represented by Playbook Inc.’s Reed Bergman, has signed a one-year extension with Sony that will keep him with the game show through next fall — a deal that will be announced formally this week.

I talked to Patrick recently and asked him about the big names that have left ESPN this year. I wanted to find out about his thought process eight years ago, when he gave up the security of a full-time ESPN gig for an uncertain future.

“I lived under the umbrella of ESPN for 18 years. I had one boss at one place, but there were other things that I wanted to do,” he said. “I realized that if I wanted to do other things — be in print, be in radio, be elsewhere on TV — I was going to have multiple bosses.”

Patrick is so successful now — hosting the Olympics, “Sunday Night Football” and a popular national radio show — that his post-ESPN decisions almost seem obvious today. Why wouldn’t he leave Bristol to produce a radio show from his house and host the Olympics from Rio?

But Patrick recalls having a few doubts early on.

“Looking back, there were times when I don’t know how I didn’t give up,” he said. “I got home, and it’s six weeks in, and I’m sitting with the dog on the front porch and I go, ‘What did I just do?’”

Patrick knew he would do a radio show, so he started with that. He reached out to his friend, executive producer Paul Pabst. They wound up putting together the “Dannettes” — Todd FritzPatrick O’Connor and Andrew Perloff— and began producing a radio show from the attic in Patrick’s Connecticut home.

“I never had more fun and I was doing a national radio show from my house,” Patrick said. “My wife would be there in a bathrobe, cooking breakfast and getting kids off to school. There are animals all over, dogs and cats. It was ‘Welcome to Mayberry.’”

The early doubts ended, Patrick said, during the first shows, when the Dannettes clicked immediately.

“I didn’t know who was going to consume the show,” Patrick said. “But we felt it, whether it was overtly or covertly. We were doing something fun and different, and I was enjoying myself.”

That theme of enjoying himself is something that Patrick says has guided all of his post-ESPN decisions. It is a reason why he started hosting “Sports Jeopardy.” He has said that “Jeopardy” is the one show that he would leave sports to do. It’s a main reason why he extended the deal.

“It was a new challenge, something different,” Patrick said of the weekly 30-minute show, with 52 episodes available annually. “We just started the second season and had a ball. It’s really one of those nice little outlets that I look forward to.”

When he left ESPN, Patrick said he had a bucket list that didn’t have a lot of items. He wanted to work an Olympics, and he wanted to work with former NBC Sports head Dick Ebersol. He accomplished both of those and said he does not have a wish list for future jobs.

“I don’t have an exit strategy with any of it,” Patrick said. “My approach is to see if it fits into my schedule, see if it fits into my family’s schedule, and then I approach it from that angle.”

Of the recent ESPN defections, only Simmons appears situated to follow Patrick’s lead, having signed a TV deal with HBO that allows him to work for other outlets. Cowherd signed a deal with Fox Sports; it’s not clear what Olbermann has planned.

“I think people have looked at the circle that I did, which allows you to not feel like you have to go all-in on something or half-ass something,” Patrick said. “I wouldn’t say it’s HBO and that’s it for him. Knowing him, he’ll have a lot of other opportunities to do a lot of other things.”

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter@Ourand_SBJ.