ESPN has swung and missed with its attempts to bring in several high-profile replacements for its “Monday Night Football” broadcast team, and the network may be giving up on making a huge splash before the 2020 season.
ESPN has begun looking “almost exclusively” at media personalities who currently work for the network as potential replacements for analyst Booger McFarland and play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore, Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports. The top internal candidates include Louis Riddick, Dan Orlovsky, Steve Levy and Pat McAfee.
McCarthy says decreasing revenues for both ESPN and parent company Disney amid the current circumstances have factored into the new “Monday Night Football” plan. While ESPN has missed out on Tony Romo, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, other big-name candidates like Kurt Warner were previously believed to be in the running. However, ESPN has had to ask some of its top executives to take pay cuts, which could result in bad optics if the network were to hire someone like Warner.
“When you’re asking your top 100 people to take a haircut, how can you go out and pay Kurt Warner $5 million? That would be a very tough sell,” one source told McCarthy.
Orlovsky has gained national attention for his in-depth football analysis on ESPN’s “Get Up!” He has experience playing in the NFL as a former quarterback, which may make him appealing to the same ESPN executives who wanted to sign Manning, Romo and Brees.
Manning, Romo and Brees are all said to have turned down massive amounts of money from ESPN, which has been the story for the network for several years now. For whatever reason, they just can’t seem to land one of their preferred candidates for “Monday Night Football.” That has been the case since Jon Gruden left the booth to return to coaching in the NFL.
Dan Le Batard has had one of the most popular shows with ESPN for several years now, but the longtime media personality may end up being pushed out at the network as part of a big shakeup.
Le Batard has more than a year remaining on his current contract with ESPN, but Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that there is a feeling at the network that Le Batard’s program does not mesh with ESPN executive vice president Norby Williamson’s tastes. ESPN may want Le Batard to focus more on sports with “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz,” whereas the program often touches on pop culture and other subjects.
Marchand notes that it is possible Le Batard’s show could continue to be aired on TV even if ESPN pulls him off the radio. Le Batard makes an estimated $3.5 million per year.
There also could be plans in the works to move Mike Greenberg back to a radio spot, possibly the 1-3 p.m. time slow that is currently held by Jason Fitz. Greenberg is expected to continue as the host of the TV show “Get Up!” either way.
Le Batard found himself in hot water last summer when he openly challenged ESPN’s no-politics policy and ripped Donald Trump. He has largely avoided political controversy since.
Drew Brees is planning to launch a career in broadcasting once he is done playing football, and he is the latest big name that ESPN missed out on.
Brees has chosen to sign with NBC Sports over ESPN, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported on Friday. Brees has agreed to a contract with NBC that will begin once he is done playing for the New Orleans Saints, at which point the network could groom him as a potential replacement for “Sunday Night Football” analyst Cris Collinsworth.
“Like all NFL fans, we look forward to watching Drew continue his Hall of Fame career this fall, and we are confident his post-playing career will be just as successful,” NBC Sports spokesman Greg Hughes told the New York Post.
Brees is expected to begin with NBC as a game analyst for Notre Dame football and a studio analyst on “Football Night in America.” NBC is reportedly planning to have Mike Tirico take over for Al Michaels as its play-by-play announcer following the Super Bowl in 2022, and Brees could partner with Tirico at that point. It’s also possible that Brees and Collinsworth could both be color analysts for NBC if the network adds a second NFL package in the next phase of TV negotiations with the NFL.
Obviously, ESPN appears to once again be the biggest loser in all of this. The network has desperately been looking for a big name to add to its “Monday Night Football” broadcast, and they reportedly made a massive offer to Brees. Marchand reports that ESPN’s offer was in the $6 million range, and Brees gave a counter-offer that ESPN declined. ESPN executives felt the price was too steep and wanted to move forward with a plan that will have a more immediate impact.
ESPN tried to lure Tony Romo away from CBS before the former Dallas Cowboys star signed an extension, and they also made a mammoth offer to Peyton Manning.
There was talk that ESPN could get creative in an attempt to lure Michaels away from NBC, but it is highly unlikely anything will come of that. They will now have to move on to Plan D.
ESPN and NFL Network traditionally do competing telecasts of the NFL Draft, but like many things about the event, it sounds like that will be different this year.
According to Peter King’s Football Morning in America column, there is a growing likelihood that the two networks will combine to do one draft telecast that will be simulcast on both networks. ESPN’s studio is likely to host the telecast, with key NFL Network talent contributing to it.
The reason is, as with everything else, due to the coronavirus pandemic. It would be viewed as socially responsible to cut down and do one broadcast. In addition, NFL Network’s studios in California and New Jersey will be shut down due to state orders.
Things are still in the planning stages and nothing is final. It’s one of many ways this year’s NFL Draft will be unlike any other, though not by choice.
ESPN is coming through for the people.
The network has bumped up the release date for “The Last Dance” to April 19, the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reported on Monday night. “The Last Dance” is a 10-part documentary series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Marchand says the announcement will be made official on “GMA” Tuesday.
The documentary was originally set to be released in June, but there have been calls across social media for ESPN to bump up the release date to help satisfy the needs of sports fans.
This is welcome programming for sports fans, but I do have one complaint: why do it during the same time as the NFL Draft, which is April 23-25? Why not before or after? Hopefully they will stagger the schedule around the draft and spread things around for fans.
ESPN is desperate to make a major addition to its “Monday Night Football” broadcast, but there appear to be no options remaining for the 2020 season. As a result, the network is shifting its focus further down the road. How far down the road may depend upon how much longer Drew Brees intends to play.
Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage reported on Sunday that ESPN has made an eight-figure offer to Brees to make him the lead analyst for “Monday Night Football.” ESPN is said to be willing to strike an agreement now with Brees that would assure his spot in the booth when he is done playing. Network executives hope such an arrangement would allow them to avoid a potential bidding war with NBC, which might also be interested in Brees.
Brees recently signed a new two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, though it is unclear if he plans to play in 2021. ESPN could probably stick with Booger McFarland and Joe Tessitore for another season, but the network seems intent on replacing the duo. If Brees is going to play two more seasons, that would complicate ESPN’s plan.
ESPN tried to lure Tony Romo away from CBS before the former Dallas Cowboys star signed an extension, and they also made a mammoth offer to Peyton Manning. The fact that they are trying to strike a deal with Brees when he is still playing in the NFL says a lot about how their search has gone.
ESPN is looking to add a huge name to its “Monday Night Football” broadcast for next season, but that big hire is not going to be Peyton Manning.
Manning has officially turned down ESPN’s massive offer, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports. The former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback is not yet ready to commit to the weekly schedule of the NFL season as an analyst, and it remains unclear if he ever will be.
Manning has now turned down ESPN and other major networks on multiple occasions. While he has done two shows — “Peyton Places” and “Detail” — for ESPN+, working as a broadcaster would involve a much more demanding schedule, and Manning appears to be enjoying retirement with his family.
Marchand previously reported that ESPN’s dream scenario was to lure Al Michaels away from NBC and pair him with Manning. The only way ESPN could hire Michaels would be via a trade with NBC, and it doesn’t sound like the rival network has any interest in a scenario like that.
ESPN made a run at Tony Romo before Romo signed a massive contract extension with CBS, and there were reports that executives at ESPN were prepared to make Manning an unprecedented offer. However, it seems like there is no amount of money that could rope Manning into broadcasting just yet.
Those holding out hope for an expedited release of ESPN’s upcoming Chicago Bulls documentary are probably out of luck.
In an interview this week with Front Row, Burke Magnus, the executive vice president of programming acquisitions and scheduling for the network, indicated that an early release for “The Last Dance” is unlikely.
“Overall, any original content project that we can conceivably move up, we are obviously considering that, including films,” said Magnus. “I know some have asked about ‘The Last Dance’ and the reality is that the production of that film has not yet been completed, so we are limited there at the moment. Obviously, you can’t air it until it’s done.”
Rumors of an early release for the documentary, which is set to give an in-depth look at the 1997-98 Bulls season, began swirling in recent days amid the coronavirus pandemic. Notably, ESPN began advertising the documentary as “coming soon” instead of the June 2020 release date previously announced.
While excited viewers may have to sit tight for a bit longer, rest assured there is still plenty of newfound sports content for those at home in quarantine.
ESPN is looking to make some major upgrades to its NFL broadcasting before next season, but the chances of Al Michaels being a part of those changes looks very slim.
Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported last week that ESPN executives have dreams of hiring Michaels away from NBC and pairing him with Peyton Manning on “Monday Night Football.” Since Michaels is still under contract with NBC, the only way ESPN would be able to hire him is by offering NBC some sort of compensation. According to a new report from Marchand, NBC is not interested in a trade for its legendary play-by-play man.
ESPN reportedly approached NBC with the idea of talking about a trade package for Michaels, but NBC declined.
“We look forward to Al completing his contract and calling ‘Sunday Night Football’ games on NBC,” NBC Sports spokesman Greg Hughes told the New York Post.
Michaels, 75, is under contract with NBC through 2022. There’s a good chance Mike Tirico will take over as the lead man on the “Sunday Night Football” broadcast once Michaels’ contract expires, and Tirico could even call some games beginning next season. It’s possible that ESPN could convince NBC to talk trade at some point before then, and Michaels may also choose to sign with ESPN if he becomes a “free agent” in two years and does not want to retire.
While the idea of a trade involving a play-by-play broadcaster seems unusual, it is not unprecedented. When John Madden left ABC’s “Monday Night Football” for NBC in 2006, Michaels informed ABC parent company ESPN that he wanted out of his deal. ESPN released Michaels from his contract, but NBC had to send the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to ESPN as part of the deal. Oswald was the precursor to the creation of Mickey Mouse, and the rights to the character were then owned by NBC’s parent company Universal. The Disney family wanted Oswald back, so the rabbit was included as part of a deal for Michaels.
Even without Michaels, ESPN is not going to give up on pursuing Manning. It’s unclear if Manning has any interest in a career in broadcasting, but he is reportedly being offered an insane amount of money from ESPN.
ESPN is not messing around in its pursuit of an upgrade to the “Monday Night Football” booth.
ESPN made a run at Tony Romo, who ended up re-signing with CBS for a reported $17 million per year. In response, ESPN is said to be dreaming of an Al Michaels/Peyton Manning duo for “Monday Night Football.”
Manning has turned ESPN down twice in the past, but Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy says the network is now prepared to top the Romo deal and offer Manning $18-$20 million.
Manning has an existing relationship with ESPN, hosting “Peyton’s Places” for ESPN+, which could help their efforts to sign him. Manning reportedly had more interest in potentially running or owning a team, but this type of money might persuade him to go into broadcasting.
Not only would Manning likely improve the quality of the MNF telecast, but he would also help bring more credibility for ESPN’s product. That’s a big factor considering ESPN’s contract with the league is ending after 2021, and the network is hoping to position itself for potentially more attractive games, and perhaps a Super Bowl.