Earlier this week we got word that Peyton Manning has again turned down the opportunity to enter the broadcast booth, this time spurning a reported record offer from ESPN to work “Monday Night Football.”
CBS had also reportedly reached out to Manning to gauge his interest before re-signing Tony Romo.
It’s clear that for now Manning is content working on his terms, and who can blame him? Many of us dream of being secure enough to retire at a young age. Manning’s twins are still quite young — they’ll turn 9 next week — and he does do some work for ESPN, namely his “Peyton’s Places” and “Detail” shows on ESPN+.
ESPN seems to have heard the largely negative feedback about last year’s pairing of Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland, as they also tried to acquire legendary play-by-play voice Al Michaels from NBC for a dream pairing with Manning.
McFarland last year said blatantly obvious things far too often — “Your playmakers have to make plays” was one from a wild card game in January — and Tessitore was on 10 all the time, which can be a lot. It’s not an easy job, and few people can move as seamlessly into the high-profile gig as Romo has done for CBS.
So what now? ESPN didn’t ask us, but we wanted to help, so here’s our unsolicited but completely amazing list of candidates (If you pick one, ESPN, we’d like a little helper’s fee).
Hasselbeck called the Pro Bowl two years ago when he was considered one of the front-runners for the MNF opening created by Jon Gruden’s return to coaching, and last fall he got a longer look in the booth as part of ESPN’s team on Thursday nights for college football. A three-time Pro Bowler with the Seattle Seahawks (he also played with the Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts during his 18-year career), if MNF is looking for a quarterback-turned-analyst, Hasselbeck fits the bill.
McAfee certainly seems to want the gig. On Monday when it was reported that Manning turned down ESPN’s MNF offer, he tweeted “OH IS THAT RIGHT?!?!” An All-Pro punter with the Colts, McAfee would certainly bring a lot of personality to the booth. He also was part of ESPN’s Thursday night primetime college booth last fall as an analyst and also called an NFL game with Fox in the 2018 regular-season finale (he was really fond of Detroit Lions kicker Matt Prater’s fake field goal in that game). If ESPN wanted to re-retry a three-man set-up, McAfee and Hasselbeck haven’t just worked together doing college games, they were also teammates in Indianapolis.
Riddick is like the backup quarterback on a struggling team: Everyone sees him as a natural fit for just about every job where the person currently in charge isn’t getting the job done. A career backup with three NFL teams who moved into front office work after his playing days, Riddick served as director of pro personnel for the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles before beginning his TV career, and has interviewed with the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants in recent years when they had general manager openings. His role at ESPN has expanded beyond studio analyst and color commentator to include being in the booth for college games and the second half of the season-opening MNF doubleheader last year after the network went with McFarland over him. But Riddick told The Athletic last September that broadcasting primetime NFL games is his “ultimate goal.”
An incredibly well-respected journalist, Kremer might not be the first name that comes to mind but she deserves consideration. If you took the time to find the Thursday Night Football broadcasts on Amazon Prime featuring Kramer and Hannah Storm (admittedly it wasn’t easy), you heard how great Kremer, in particular, was. She’s deeply knowledgeable about the game and well-liked throughout the league due to her work at NFL Films, ESPN, with HBO’s “Real Sports”, with “Sunday Night Football” and with NFL Network. In 2018, she became the first woman to receive the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for her longtime contributions to the sport as a member of the media.
No, Moss has no experience in the booth. And fair or not, he would probably need some voice coaching for his West Virginia twang. But Bill Belichick has called Moss one of the smartest players he ever coached, and an engaged Moss is a wonderful thing. He has a huge name, and an everyman appeal despite his otherworldly talent (his Instagram feed features tons of images of him fishing). Plus, current players revere him after growing up playing as Moss on “Madden” and trying to “Moss” cornerbacks in Pee Wee football.
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