Peyton Manning has long been the White Whale of NFL broadcasting. Seemingly every network has made a run at the former Colts and Broncos quarterback, some of them more than once.
To date, Manning has never relented. Whatever the money offered, it just hasn't been worth it to trade away the freedom he now enjoys to tie himself down to a weekly schedule for the fall and winter.
ESPN announced Monday that Peyton and Eli will join the network's Monday Night Football roster, in a way.
The pair will headline a MegaCast broadcast for 10 games a year. We're all familiar with the format by now -- it's ESPN's best attempt to recreate the living room experience of watching a football game.
So we know right there that the casual format and the schedule appealed to Peyton, two other items also helped seal this deal. For one, the ManningCast will air from a remote location, so Peyton and Eli can broadcast from home or wherever they happen to be that week. Also, Peyton will have a financial stake in the broadcast -- the ManningCast will be a joint venture between ESPN and Omaha Productions. This continues a partnership that already saw ESPN+ air Peyton's travel show, Peyton's Places.
(Working with Eli could be a plus or a minus in Peyton's view.)
From ESPN's perspective, this arrangement is a win/win.
Perhaps it stokes Peyton (and/or Eli's) fire to work in television full-time, at which point the company would be more than happy to make a place for him in the traditional MNF booth. This would happen just as ESPN/ABC re-joins the Super Bowl rotation; the Big Game will be Disney property in the 2026 and 2030 seasons, breaking a 20-year drought.
And if this is as close as Peyton (and Eli) ever wants to get to becoming a broadcaster, that's okay, too. At least he's working part-time for ESPN and not CBS, NBC or Amazon.
“Offering multiple Monday Night Football viewing options for the next three seasons continues our innovation efforts and provides additional value for our fans,” said ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “Peyton and Eli will bring a different approach, delving into conversation about broader, big-picture topics while also honing in on the game, much like fans do when watching with their family and friends.”