Two of the NFL’s prime-time franchises will sound a lot different in 2018.
With Fox landing the rights to “Thursday Night Football” and ESPN facing a major change with Jon Gruden leaving “Monday Night Football” to coach the Oakland Raiders, both networks are looking into how to shape their broadcast booths according to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand. The Post said the top target for both networks is Peyton Manning.
It’s no surprise that both networks are making a run at Manning. He’s engaging, instantly recognizable to hardcore football fans and casual fans alike due to his commercials, and his oft-noted preparation from his playing days should suit him well as a color analyst. But since retiring two years ago Manning hasn’t wanted to become a broadcaster, and hasn’t really landed on any post-playing career. Both Fox and ESPN see Manning as a great centerpiece for their prime-time broadcasts, and the New York Post said ESPN is willing to “back up the truck” for Manning. Manning has said he eventually wants to have partial ownership in a team with control of football operations, but the Post said he hasn’t ruled out television while waiting for that opportunity to open up.
Nobody Fox or ESPN could hire would have the impact Manning would. Tony Romo was the biggest analyst hire in many, many years for any network, and Manning would eclipse him as far as interest is concerned. No matter where Manning goes, or if he turns down both networks, there will still be big changes.
Starting with ESPN, the New York Post said it’s considering retooling the entire “MNF” broadcast. That would include a change at the play-by-play spot, which was manned by Sean McDonough last season to mixed reviews. Joe Tessitore, Steve Levy and Dave Pasch were three names the Post said could be candidates if ESPN makes a change from McDonough. Without Gruden, a staple on ESPN’s Monday night broadcasts for many years, the network can take a look at revamping the whole broadcast. If Manning doesn’t take the job, ESPN would look at plenty of options. Matt Hasselbeck, who got to broadcast the Pro Bowl as a tryout for the “MNF” gig, would be one of the candidates.
Fox’s 11 Thursday night games will have a different feel from Sunday’s games too. The possibility of using No. 1 team Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on Thursday nights was shot down quickly, because it’s tough for one team to do Thursday and Sunday night games. The New York Post said Fox would prefer to set its “TNF” analyst first, then figure out which play-by-play announcer to pair with the analyst. Gus Johnson, the famously excitable Fox college football and basketball announcer, was mentioned by the Post as a candidate to do play by play for the Thursday night games.
The moving parts are interesting, and it starts with Manning and whether he’d want to do color commentary. No matter what happens, the prime-time landscape in the NFL will have a much different feel in 2018.
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