ESPN has wandered through the desert for years in search of a cure for its “Monday Night Football” product, and for years the oasis on the end of that horizon has been Peyton Manning.
And no matter how far the Worldwide Leader wanders, that oasis never gets any closer.
After swinging and whiffing at prying Tony Romo away from CBS — only to see him sign a market-busting $180 million annual contract — ESPN made yet another run at Manning as part of a dream team that would pair him with Al Michaels.
NBC declined to make Michaels available, and now Manning has turned down ESPN, according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, who has been on the forefront of the entire story.
Manning has maintained an informal relationship with ESPN since retiring after the 2015 season, hosting a pair of ESPN+ shows for the company, but Marchand reports Manning is not interested in committing himself to a weekly schedule from August through January.
In the meantime, Marchand reports ESPN is wide open as to what to do with its “MNF” booth, with the following considered options: promoting its No. 3 college football team of Steve Levy, Brian Griese (with Louis Riddick) to Monday Night, promoting Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, promoting CFB/NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky to become a second analyst, replacing Joe Tessitore with lead NBA voice Mike Breen or lead MLB/college basketball voice Dan Shulman, or retaining Tess and Boog while making run at free-agents-to-be at other networks in 2021.
All in all, it seems ESPN is in the same place with “MNF” that it’s been ever since its team of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden broke up after the 2015 season: over-thinking its way to another season of over-produced broadcasts.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.