Jon Gruden made major headlines, when he opted to leave the Monday Night Football broadcast booth and take over the head coaching job for the Oakland Raiders.
That move also created a major vacancy and left open the question: Who would replace Gruden in the booth?
After an interview between ESPN executives and Sports Illustrated, we have our first real clue.
SI’s Richard Deitsch, asked ESPN Senior Vice President of Event and Studio Production Stephanie Druley, whether the network would consider hiring retired NFL great Peyton Manning.
Druley did not hesitate. She said, “We like Peyton Manning. And we would be foolish not to talk him.”
This is a far cry from offering Manning a contract, or anything like that. However, as Druley lists the attributes she would look for in Gruden’s replacement, it’s hard to ignore the fact that she pretty much describes Peyton Manning.
“We want someone who loves the game, who is a student of the game but who has a personality as well,” Druley told Deitsch. the network’s . “We want them to have interests outside of football and the ability to connect with the viewers. We talk often about how a broadcast should personalize and analyze—and I think we need to do more of that in the MNF booth.”
Druley also said that the network would consider current ESPN analyst Matt Hasselbeck for the job.
“We are considering Matt, for sure,” she said. “I would not consider the Pro Bowl an audition per se. When we hired Matt a few years ago there were other networks that wanted Matt as a game analyst. I expect Matt to be very good this and he will certainly be considered.”
Obviously, the question of whether Peyton Manning would even want the job, is important. Up until this point, Manning has shown no real passionate interest in landing a broadcast gig. Though, perhaps Manning has looked at all the fun Tony Romo is having over int he CBS booth and is open to changing his mind.
ESPN has the money to pay manning anything he wanted to do the job, but would they? ESPN has lost millions upon millions of subscribers over the last several years, forcing the company to layoff hundreds of employees. ESPN already pays too much for Monday Night Football as it is, the ratings for MNF have struggled mightily, and the rights fees are not likely to only go up.
Given the “King’s Ransom” a Peyton Manning broadcast contract would likely entail, does it make sense for ESPN to replace Gruden with another huge contract? Or, does it make more sense to replace Gruden with a far cheaper, in-house option like Hasselbeck? If ESPN plans on renewing their contract for MNF in 2021 and trying to make that franchise work, then a bold move for Manning makes sense. However, if they’re watching the bottom-line, or unsure of their future with MNF, Hasselbeck, or someone like him, will probably get the nod.