Lions' Brandstatter 'blindsided' by firing as broadcaster
Jim Brandstatter’s run of 31 years as Detroit Lions radio analyst came to an abrupt and surprising end on Tuesday when WJR-AM notified him of his termination with three years remaining on his contract.
Brandstatter, who broke the news on Twitter, returned a call to WJR (760) station executives Tuesday morning and was blindsided by the decision.
“Thirty-one years I’ve been doing the games and WJR decided they wanted to go in a different direction,” Brandstatter told The Detroit News. “Why? I don’t know.”
Former Lions player Lomas Brown will replace Brandstatter. Dan Miller remains as the play-by-play broadcaster. Brandstatter, 68, also calls play-by-play for Michigan football radio broadcasts.
Brandstatter said the WJR station executives were meeting in general manager Tom O’Brien’s office and had a conversation with them over speakerphone.
“They said, ‘We want to talk about your contract,’ and I said, ‘OK, I’ve got it right here. You want to re-up, just send me a new one,’” Brandstatter said. “They said, ‘’No, we’ve decided we want to go in a different direction,’ and I said, ‘You’re firing me? You’re not going to renew? Am I done?’ They said, ‘Yeah.’ You’re expecting a little more than that. I’ve been doing this for 31 years.”
O’Brien told The News that Brandstatter had done “an excellent job” calling Lions games.
“We talked to Jim this morning,” O’Brien said. “His contract is up at the end of this month, and we told him we’re not going to renew it, and we’re going to have Lomas Brown as our new color commentator.”
WJR likes the option of Brown, who had a lengthy NFL career and lives locally.
“We just thought with Lomas available — an 18-year veteran and a seven-time Pro Bowler — and a well-respected Detroit Lions guy who still lives here and is still involved in this community, we thought he would bring a great perspective," O'Brien said. "We’re pretty excited to have him on board.”
There are no hard feelings for Brandstatter regarding his replacement.
“I love Lomas like a brother,” he said.
Brandstatter said he had signed a contract for five years, and at the end of two years there was a renewal clause. This was the end of the second year.
“From my perspective, I was going to do the five years figuring they were going to continue (with the contract),” Brandstatter said. “They chose not to. I was going to retire after the five years.”
After the phone call, Brandstatter decided to call WJR program director Mike Wheeler to apologize for being abrupt.
“I felt like I was being short,” Brandstatter said. “I apologized and told him, ‘You took me by surprise.’
“What worries you is you wonder, ‘Are you losing your game?’ I didn’t think I was. I felt I was pretty good. I was on top of stuff. I didn’t feel l was losing anything in regard to the professional side, the nuts and bolts, the X’s and O’s as a color analyst. I don’t think that was the case. That’s comforting to know from my perspective, it’s not me, it’s them.”
Brandstatter said he was initially hurt by the decision.
“At the beginning, yeah, but not now," he said. “I’ve got December back. I’ve got August back and some of the traveling, going from Michigan to Lions games was problematic. Thirty-one years, that was a pretty good run.”
The Lions thanked Brandstatter in a statement for his help bringing "together Lions fans everywhere."
"His unwavering passion and knowledge for the game of football, both as a broadcaster and former player, were instrumental to our radio broadcasts," the statement read. "We sincerely thank Jim for his countless contributions to our team over the years and for the positive impact he’ll continue to make in the football community."